Annual Return vs Absolute Return

Absolute Returns does not consider the investment time, whereas an annualised return takes this into consideration.
Absolute Return vs Annualised Returns
3 min

Absolute returns represent the actual percentage change in an investment's value during a defined period, disregarding compounding effects. On the other hand, annualised returns are the average yearly rate of return over a specific duration, factoring in the impact of compounding on investment yields.

What is an absolute return in mutual funds?

The real profit or loss produced by a mutual fund, regardless of market performance, is measured by its absolute return. It is computed by deducting the total amount invested at the beginning of the investment period from the total amount invested at the conclusion, taking into account all dividends and capital gains.

Absolute return only considers a fund's actual returns, as opposed to relative return, which assesses a fund's performance in relation to other funds or a benchmark index. This makes absolute return a valuable tool for investors who value capital preservation and consistent, positive returns over outperforming the market.

Formula for absolute return

The formula for absolute returns is given as:

Absolute Return = [(Final investment value – Initial investment) / Initial investment] x 100

Let’s try to understand it with an example. Assume for a moment that you start the year with a mutual fund investment of Rs. 10,000. The fund yields an 8% annual return that consists of dividends and capital gains over time. The value of your investment at year's end is Rs. 10,800.

Absolute return = [(10,800 – 10,000) / (10,000)] * 100

= 0.08*100 or 8%

In this instance, your mutual fund investment gives an absolute return of 8%. This indicates that, regardless of how the overall market performed over the investing period, you received a total return of Rs. 800 on your initial investment of Rs. 10,000.

Also read: What is SIP investment

What are mutual fund annualised returns?

The average rate of return produced by a mutual fund over a certain period is measured by the annualised return, commonly referred to as the compound annual growth rate (CAGR). Assuming that the rate of return stays constant throughout, it shows the annualised rate of increase that an investment has attained during the investment period.

Formula to calculate the annualised returns

A mutual fund's annualised return can be computed by taking the entire return of the fund and dividing it by the period over which the return was generated. This is how annualised returns are calculated.

Annualised Return = (1 + T) ^ (1 / N) – 1


T represents total returns

N represents years of investment (period)

For instance, the annualised return of a mutual fund with a three-year 20% total return would be determined as follows:

Annualised Return = (1 + 0.20) ^ (1 / 3) – 1 = 6.26%

This indicates that during the course of the three years, the fund produced an average yearly return of 6.26%.

When analysing annualised returns in mutual funds, bear the following points in mind:

  • The compounding effect of returns over time is considered in the annualised return calculation. This implies that over time, even minor variations in return can have a big impact on the fund's total performance.
  • While absolute return assesses the real profit or loss made by a fund, annualised return offers a more consistent performance metric that may be used to compare investments made over a range of time periods and methods.
  • The annualised return and the risk related to the fund's investing strategy should both be taken into account when assessing the performance of mutual funds.

Difference between absolute return vs annualised return

The principal difference between absolute vs annualised returns is that the former denotes the net percentage change in the investment’s value over a predefined period. Conversely, annualised return is the average return rate per annum over the same period after considering the concept of compounding.

More distinctions between annual returns vs absolute returns:

  • Volatility: Absolute return has no relation to the investment’s volatility over a certain period. The annual return is calculated after considering the investment’s volatility since it is calculable on an annual basis.
  • Compounding: Absolute returns do not take into account the effects of compounding. Annual returns consider the effects of compounding on an investment’s returns.
  • Time period: The absolute return gauges the change in investment value in percentages over a pre-defined period. The annual return is calculated based on the average return rate per year during the same period.
  • Comparison: Absolute returns are useful for comparing the returns from separate investments over a given period, whereas the annual return can be more useful for comparing the returns given by multiple investments over different periods.
  • Investment horizon: Absolute returns help measure an investment’s performance over short periods. On the other hand, annual returns are more suitable to evaluate an investment’s long-term performance.

High-return mutual fund categories for smart investing

Equity Mutual Funds Hybrid Mutual Funds Debt Mutual Funds
Tax Saving Mutual Funds NFO Mutual Funds Multi Cap Mutual Funds

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Example of absolute return vs annual return

To help you understand the distinction between absolute return and annualised return, consider the following example:

Let's say you put Rs. 10,000 into a mutual fund, and after three years, its value stood at Rs. 12,600.

This is how the investment's absolute return would be determined:

Absolute return = ((Final value - Initial value) / Initial value) x 100

((Rs. 12,600 – Rs. 10,000) / Rs. 10,000) x 100 = 26 %

This indicates that over the three years, the investment provided an absolute return (total return) of 26%.

The following formula can then be used to determine this investment's yearly return:

Annualised return = (1 + T) ^ (1 / N) – 1

Return on annualised capital = [(1 + 0.26) ^ (1 / 3)] – 1 = 8%

This indicates that during the course of the three years, the investment yielded an average yearly return of 8%.

Which is better - Absolute return vs annual return?

Depending on your objectives, there are several metrics to choose from. Absolute return is a useful indicator to utilise if you are worried about the overall growth of your investment. However, the yearly return is a more useful indicator for examining how your investment is doing in relation to other assets.

As an illustration

Assume you are competing in a race. Regardless of the time it takes you to run that distance, your absolute return is the distance you have covered. Your yearly return is a measurement of your pace over one year. In this case, which is more significant?

The answer depends on your objectives. If you hope to win the race, you must concentrate on your total return. However, if you wish to increase your running speed, you should concentrate on your annual return. When evaluating the performance of your investments, it's critical to consider both absolute return and yearly return. This can help you make smarter investing decisions by providing you with a comprehensive view of how your investments are doing.


Annual and absolute returns are essential metrics for evaluating the success of investments. Although absolute return represents the total returns on your investment, annualised return (also called CAGR) offers a standardised statistic for contrasting various investments, which makes it a more helpful tool for evaluating performance over the long run. Before making a decision, investors should weigh both metrics to have a thorough knowledge of an investment's performance and take into account variables like risk tolerance and investing objectives.

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Frequently asked questions

What is difference between absolute return and annualised return?
Absolute returns measure the net loss or profit that an investment generates over a predefined period. On the other hand, annualised returns calculate the average return rate per annum, enabling a standardised comparison over multiple time frames.

What is the difference between total return and annualised return?
The total return denotes the overall change in an investment’s value over a certain period, and includes all the sources of the said return, The annualised returns calculate the average return rate per annum, which accounts for compounding’s effect on the returns over a certain time period.

How do you calculate absolute return to Annualised return?
Calculation of an annualised return begins with converting the absolute return percentage to a decimal by dividing it by 100. Subsequently, 1 is added to this decimalised absolute return. Then the total number of years for which the investment is held is taken into account and this is followed by raising the result achieved from step 2 to the power of 1. 1 is then subtracted from the result achieved through step 4 The result achieved from step 5 needs to be multiplied by 100, which is the annualised returns and shows as a percentage.

Which is better, CAGR or absolute return?
Whether absolute return or CAGR is better depends on several factors like time horizon, investment objectives, the investment’s specific context, and risk tolerance. CAGR is known to offer a standard growth rate measure over time, finds use particularly in the evaluation of long-term investments. On the other hand, absolute returns are a straightforward calculation of the total losses or gains over a certain period. Moreover, they are preferable for direct investment performance comparisons or short-term strategies.

What are absolute returns in mutual funds?
Absolute returns, in the sphere of mutual funds, are the total profit or loss that a fund generates over a certain period, and is expressed typically as a percentage. Such returns are indicative of the overall changes in the value of the fund, and takes into account every return sources, which includes appreciation or depreciation of capital, interest income, dividends, and several other distributions.

What is 5 year annualised return?
This return measures the average annual return rate that an investment earns over a five-year period. Furthermore, it provides a standard way of comparing the investments’ performances over separate time frames, thereby enabling an investor to correctly evaluate the average growth rate annually of his investments.
Is annualised return the same as CAGR?
Yes, both essentially are similar and used interchangeably often in finance. Both terms denote the average annual rate of return that an investment earns over a pre-fixed period, after considering the concept of the effects of compounding on the returns.

How do you calculate annualised returns?
Calculation of annualised returns is done by first converting the total percentage of return to a decimal by dividing it by 100. Then 1 is added to this decimal figure and the total number of years for which the investment has been held is considered. The result obtained from the 2nd step is converted to the power of 1. Then 1 is subtracted from the figure achieved in the 5th step. Finally, this result is multiplied by 100 to get the annualised return in percentage form.

What Are The 3 Types Of Return?
The 3 types of return are total return, annualised return, and absolute return.

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The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute any financial advice. The content herein has been prepared by BFL on the basis of publicly available information, internal sources and other third-party sources believed to be reliable. However, BFL cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information, assure its completeness, or warrant such information will not be changed. 

This information should not be relied upon as the sole basis for any investment decisions. Hence, User is advised to independently exercise diligence by verifying complete information, including by consulting independent financial experts, if any, and the investor shall be the sole owner of the decision taken, if any, about suitability of the same.