For example, if a project promises two different rates of return and managers are uncertain about which one of them might prevail, they would lose their confidence to go ahead with the proposal. Capital budgeting refers to the method that is used for evaluating projects or investments. There are various approaches for the selection of projects, such as net present value, payback period, internal rate of return, etc., for achieving the highest outputs from investments.

- In other words, unconventional cash flows have more than one cash outlay or investment, while conventional cash flows only have one.
- The project starts with a cash outlay of $10 million in year 0, which is the initial investment period of the project.
- Since this is negative, you can try a discount rate between 10% and 20%, such as 15%, and calculate the NPV as $6,732.

An unconventional cash flow could appear as (−, +, +, +, -, +) or alternatively, (+, −, −, +, −, −). This will indicate that the first set has a net inflow, and the second set has a net outflow of cash. If the first set represents cash flows in the first quarter and the second set represents cash flows in the second quarter, this would indicate an unconventional cash flow for the company. As illustrated in the examples above, a conventional cash flow involves a series of transactions in a single direction. It creates just one IRR, which makes it very easy to evaluate investments.

Based on the Pareto 80/20 principle, I learnt to extract the most essential bits from the curriculum enough to give me that 80% result to pass. Instead of reserving huge segments of time to study, I carved out pockets of time to learn and practise – accommodating to my full-time job. I managed to pass my Level II and Level III exams consecutively with considerably less effort and stress than when I did my level I. The rule of thumb is to approve any projects where the IRR is equal or higher than the hurdle rate. It was not until the middle of March 2014 that I realized I only had a little more than 2 months to the exam.

## Conventional vs. Unconventional Cash Flows

A third way to handle non-conventional cash flows in NPV analysis is to use the incremental cash flow approach, which is based on the principle of value additivity. This approach involves calculating the NPV of the difference between the cash flows of two mutually exclusive projects, and choosing the one that has a positive or higher NPV. The NPV of this incremental cash flow at a 10% discount rate is -$4,360, which means that project A is more valuable than project B. This would indicate the first set has a net inflow of cash and the second set has a net outflow of cash. It is represented by not just one, but many changes in the direction of the cash flow.

After then, it generates five consecutive cash flows of 3 million, 5 million, 7 million, 4 million and 2 million in year 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 respectively. Notice that the direction of cash flow is negative in year 0 which turns to positive in year 1 and continues to remain positive for the five year life of the project. In capital budgeting, conventional cash flow pattern is one with an initial outflow followed by a series of inflows. This type of inflows can also occur so that if the preliminary transaction is a cash inflow, it will be followed by a series of cash outflows. Accordingly, the mathematical notation would show the transaction as −, +, +, +, +, +, which denotes an initial outflow at the time period 0, and continued cash inflows over the next five periods.

## What Is Conventional Cash Flow?

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All materials are crafted in-house by founder and chief instructor Keith Tan, CFA. A PI greater than one means that the project is profitable and should be accepted. A PI less than one means that the project is unprofitable and should be rejected.

## Example 2

NPV and IRR can both be used to examine independent or dependent projects. Now, if a project was to be subjected to other cash outflows in the future, it will lead to two or more IRRs. The practice makes it challenging to evaluate the project and come up with a decision.

- Project B’s cash flow changes its direction thrice (in year 1, 3 and 4) over the life of the project.
- It is represented by not just one, but many changes in the direction of the cash flow.
- With DCF analysis, an investor uses either Net Present Value (NPV) or Internal Rate of Return (IRR) to evaluate the potential returns that a particular investment project can yield.
- Since this is positive, you can increase the discount rate to 20% and calculate the NPV as -$8,264.
- Based on the Pareto 80/20 principle, I learnt to extract the most essential bits from the curriculum enough to give me that 80% result to pass.
- It creates just one IRR, which makes it very easy to evaluate investments.

NPV is a way to determine the value of a series of future cash flows in present value and compare the obtained values to the return of an alternative investment. The return from conventional cash flows of a project over time, for example, should exceed the company’s minimum rate of return if it needs to be profitable. Conventional cash flow is a series of cash flows which, over time, go in one direction. It means that if the initial transaction is an outflow, then it will be followed by successive periods of inward cash flows. Although rare, conventional cash flow can also mean that if the first transaction is a cash inflow, it is followed by a series of cash outflows. Conversely, unconventional cash flows involve more than one change in cash flow direction and result in two rates of returns at different intervals.

The initial outflow is the capital that a company spends to finance the project. The cash inflows that follow represent the revenue and profits that the project yields. Conventional cash flow is a series of cash flows that go in one direction over time. If the initial flow is an outflow, then the next flows will be followed by successive periods of cash inflows. Cash flows are used to determine the net present value (NPV) in a discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis in capital budgeting. This analysis is used to help determine whether the initial cost of investment of a project will be worthwhile in comparison to the NPV of the future cash flows generated from the project.

## How do you handle non-conventional cash flows in NPV analysis?

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## Understanding an Unconventional Cash Flow

Conventional cash flow is the most recommended form as it leads to one IRR, which makes it easy to assess and decide the projects to undertake. Suppose a financial institution lends $300,000 to a homeowner or real estate investor at a fixed interest rate of 5% for 30 years. The lender then receives approximately $1,610 per month (or $19,325 annually) from the borrower towards mortgage principal repayment and interest. If annual cash flows are denoted by mathematical signs from the lender’s point of view, this would appear as an initial -, followed by + signs for the next 30 periods.

In real-life situations, examples of unconventional cash flows are abundant, especially in large projects where periodic maintenance may involve huge outlays of capital. A project with a conventional cash flow starts with a negative cash flow (investment period), where there is only one outflow of cash, the initial investment. This is followed by successive periods of positive cash flows where all the cash flows are inflows, which are the revenues from the project. A frequent application of conventional cash flow is net present value (NPV) analysis. NPV helps determine the value of a series of future cash flows in today’s dollars and compare those values to the return of an alternative investment. The return from a project’s conventional cash flows over time, for example, should exceed the company’s hurdle rate or minimum rate of return needed to be profitable.