Discounted Cash Flow: Explained

What is it, how to calculate it, formula, why it's important

Hey there, fellow finance fanatics! Today we're going to tackle one of the core concepts in financial modeling: the discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis. But don't fret if you're not a finance guru. Even if you're just someone looking to invest in stocks, understanding how DCF works can help you make better investment decisions and impress your friends at parties (well, maybe not the second one). So grab your coffee and let's dive in!

What is DCF and Why is it Important?

DCF is a method used by financial analysts to estimate the value of an investment based on its future expected cash flows. This value is estimated by projecting the future cash flows a business is expected to generate, and then discounting them back to present value using a discount rate. The discount rate is based on the time value of money, which accounts for the fact that money received in the future is worth less than money received today.

DCF is an essential tool used in valuing companies, making investment decisions, and determining whether a company’s stock is overvalued or undervalued. By understanding the present value of a company's future cash flows, investors can decide whether to hold, sell, or buy its stock.

How Does DCF Work?

Let's say we want to estimate the value of a bakery business. We start by estimating the future cash flows the business is likely to generate. This includes looking at factors such as revenue growth, expenses, capital expenditures, depreciation, and taxes.

Next, we discount these future cash flows back to their present value. This requires the use of a discount rate, which is based on the risk associated with the investment. For example, a riskier investment would have a higher discount rate, which means that future cash flows are worth less today than a lower risk investment.

The formula for computing DCF is as follows:

DCF = (CF1/(1+r)1) + (CF2/(1+r)2) + ... + (CFn/(1+r)n)


  • DCF = Discounted Cash Flow
  • CF = Cash Flow
  • r = Discount rate
  • n = Number of periods in the forecast

DCF in Action

Let’s put DCF into action through an example. We're going to value a hypothetical company called ABC Enterprises.

First, we need to forecast ABC's expected cash flows for the next five years:

Year Expected Cash Flow (CF)
Year 1 $100,000
Year 2 $130,000
Year 3 $150,000
Year 4 $200,000
Year 5 $250,000

Next, we need to decide on a discount rate. In this case, let's assume our discount rate is 10% for ABC Enterprises. We'll use this rate to discount the cash flows back to their present value:

Year Expected Cash Flow (CF) Discount Factor Discounted Cash Flow (DCF)
Year 1 $100,000 0.909 $90,900
Year 2 $130,000 0.826 $107,380
Year 3 $150,000 0.751 $112,650
Year 4 $200,000 0.683 $136,600
Year 5 $250,000 0.621 $155,250
Total: $602,780

Finally, we add up the discounted cash flows to get the total enterprise value of ABC Enterprises. In this case, our DCF valuation is $602,780. If ABC Enterprises is currently trading in the stock market for a lower value, it may indicate that the stock is undervalued and could be a potential buying opportunity for investors.


Boom! That's DCF explained in a nutshell. While this is just a basic example, understanding DCF can allow you to gain a deeper insight into how businesses are valued and help you make better investment decision. Remember, the future is uncertain, and this model highly depends on assumptions made regarding cash flows and discount rates, so be sure to do your due diligence before making any investment decisions.

If you're a finance student or a professional in the investment industry, DCF should be the foundation of your decision-making process.

So, that's all for now, folks! I hope you found this article informative and engaging. Stay awesome and keep on learning!

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