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How to Calculate IRR in Excel: A Step-By-Step Guide

The internal rate of return (IRR) is a term primarily used in finance and investment banking as a way to roughly calculate an expected return on investments. This is vital for financial modeling and capital budgeting. Thanks to tools like Excel, you don’t need to be a financial expert to use this mathematical function. Mastering the application of IRR in practice is an essential aspect of money management and learning how to calculate IRR in Excel is easier than you might think.

In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to calculate the IRR in Excel and get a better understanding of your or your business’s monthly cash flow. We’ll also show you the benefits of learning how to calculate the IRR for a prospective or current investment project whether or not you’re a professional in the financial industry. 

What Is IRR in Excel?

The IRR is one of many financial functions in Excel. In finance, the internal rate of return is a mathematical metric used to evaluate the viability of investment decisions. The internal rate of return is used to identify a discount rate, which determines the present value of a project that is equal to the cost of its capital through a series of negative cash flows and positive cash flows. This is an essential financial function that provides key insights into a potential investment decision. 

Why Learning How to Calculate IRR in Excel Is Useful

  • Excel makes it easy to build a complex financial model. If you want to better understand financial management and investment concepts, you’ll need to learn how to calculate expected returns from investments. Doing so with just a calculator is time-consuming and difficult, especially if you don’t have a strong background in math. Excel makes it easier to calculate an IRR even when the interim cash flow values are complex. 
  • Most companies and corporate professionals use Excel to calculate IRR. Learning how to calculate IRR in Excel makes it easier to land a job in corporate finance or accounting. Most firms and professionals in the financial industry rely on Excel for many of their internal financial computations and hiring managers give preference to candidates who already have experience with financial functions in Excel. 
  • Excel allows trial and error. If you’re just starting to learn how to use Excel, one of the first things you’ll notice is how easy it is to review, correct, delete, and restore files. You don’t have to worry about the risk of errors because Excel helps you identify and correct them. Additionally, you can easily teach yourself Excel or learn through online Excel courses

How to Calculate IRR in Excel: A Step-By-Step Guide

Step 1: Review the IRR Methods in Excel

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Before calculating the IRR in Excel, you’ll want to review its rules of application. Generally, the internal rate of return is only used when there are no variations in the reinvestment borrowing rates or irregular cash flow amounts. The IRR rule helps you ascertain if the internal rate of return is greater than the minimum rate of return or hurdle rate.

Step 2: Review Your Hypothetical Question 

For this example, let’s pretend that you want to calculate the IRR after five years from an initial capital of $20,000 and a five-year cash flow series of $7,500 at regular intervals. In the real world, future cash flow generated from a capital investment will vary, in which case, you’ll use the internal rate of return at different points in time (XIRR) function in Excel.

Step 3: Review Your Syntax

The IRR formula in Excel is represented by the formula syntax “=IRR(values, [guess])”. As you already know, the IRR stands for internal rate of return. “Values” represents both the negative cash flow and positive cash flow for the investment period. In Excel, cash flow amounts are written in a cell reference. The “guess” is an optional argument and is the guessed rate of return.

Step 4: Input Your Values in an Excel Worksheet

Next, open your Excel worksheet and input your values in a range of cells. In column A, write the initial capital (A1) and the cash series from the A2 to A6 cell ranges. In column B, input the income values. B1 should be written as (20,000) as it is an outgoing payment. By doing so, Excel can convert the value to a negative sign. Cell B2:B6 should contain the logical values of 7500, which are all positive values.

Step 5: IRR Calculation

Next, go to the “insert function” option which is written as “fx” in the worksheet. Click on it to open up a dialogue box. In it, search for the IRR function. Once you open that, another dialogue box tagged “function argument” will open up. In the Values Argument, input B1:B6. Let’s use 10 percent, which you’ll write as [0.1], as our guess rate for the Guess Argument. Click “ok” and it will give you an estimated IRR value of 25 percent.

Step 6: Summary of Calculation 

The 25 percent value indicates the rate of return calculated by the formula. Keep in mind that the IRR function doesn’t offer a compound return for all investment incomes and will project earnings based on an annual percentage return. If your values are not well written in the formula syntax, Excel will not be able to calculate the IRR rate. Keep in mind that, you don’t need to always input a guess rate as Excel can substitute it for you.

How to Calculate IRR in Excel at Once

When calculating IRR in Excel, you have to follow the rules of computations unless you’ve arrived at a negative value. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to calculating an IRR. However, if you’re somewhat familiar with Excel and calculating other kinds of functions, you can easily skip to the fourth step of our guide. The last steps of our guide are the ones that matter most when calculating the internal rate of return in Excel.

Benefits of Calculating IRR in Excel

  • Excel offers multiple ways to calculate IRR for accurate results. There are three additional methods for calculating the IRR using Excel which you can use for an investment project to avoid a false solution or in a different scenario entirely. Aside from the IRR function, you can use the MIRR to calculate a reinvestment rate and the XIRR function to calculate periodic cash flows.
  • You can access your data offline. Excel makes it easy to access your files offline by letting you save your files onto your computer. This makes Excel ideal for students and finance professionals who need it for school or work. Excel helps minimize errors when calculating an IRR by telling you if your figures are incorrectly placed. You’ll get an error message along with a suggestion on how to correct the errors.
  • You can easily collaborate with teammates. You can work on an Excel project with your colleagues by sharing your file through the cloud. Everyone with the project link can access the file. You can also impose security measures on your file by using a password or restricting the actions that others can perform on it. You can also leave comments your colleagues can see.

Importance of Learning How to Use Excel Sheets

Excel contains basic and advanced tools for data analysis and visualization. If you’re interested in working in an accounting or finance position at a company, you’ll need to know how to use Excel as it comes with most of the financial functions needed for complex computations. 

With advanced Excel skills, you can become a valuable asset in any corporate setting as most hiring managers prioritize candidates with such skills. Professions that use Microsoft Excel as their primary tool earn an average annual salary of around $53,534

How to Calculate IRR in Excel FAQ

What is a good IRR rate?

A good IRR rate is any rate that is higher than the minimum rate of return from a given investment. A good IRR rate needs to be a positive figure. If a bank’s interest rate is five percent annually and, based upon your computations, you can invest in a venture yielding 12 percent for the time period, the return rate of that investment is good. 

Is IRR the same as CAGR?

No, IRR is not the same as CAGR. IRR stands for internal rate of return, which can be seen as the annual rate of return you can expect from capital investment. CAGR, which stands for compound annual growth rate, is the mean return on investment from a total investment. The compound growth rate only takes the beginning and ending values from constant cash flow to find the rate.

Is IRR a compound return?

In a way, an IRR is a compound return. An IRR doesn’t give you a compound return on all your investment though. Rather, it gives you the expected compound return for each invested year. If there are uneven cash flows, you can still use the XIRR function to identify individual cash flow return rates for each period.

Which is better IRR or ROI?

Calculating the IRR is better than calculating the ROI when you’re dealing with a series of cash flows and trying to identify your expected growth rate for each year of investment. With ROI, you get the profitability ratio of your investment which is calculated by dividing the profit expected by the cost of capital.

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