Absolute Return in Mutual Funds – Meaning, Formula, Calculation Procedure

Explore the essence of absolute return mutual funds, including the meaning, formula, and calculation procedure. This article delves into how absolute returns provide a measure of investment performance without comparing it to a benchmark, offering in

In the world of investment, the term absolute return often surfaces, especially when dissecting the performance of mutual funds. Unlike the relative measures that pit investment returns against a benchmark, absolute return focuses solely on the gains or losses generated over a period, standing as a testament to an investment’s standalone performance. Absolute return mutual funds concept is particularly illuminating for investors navigating the open-end fund arena, offering a lens through which the raw financial prowess of their investments can be assessed. 

What Does Absolute Return in Mutual Funds Mean?

Absolute return in mutual fund means the total return an investment achieves over a specific period, without accounting for the investment period’s duration or comparing returns to a benchmark. This approach is beneficial for evaluating the straightforward performance of a mutual fund scheme, particularly useful for investments with a time horizon of less than a year. Here’s a closer examination:

  • Self-Contained Assessment: Absolute return assesses the success of an investment just on its own merits, without comparing it to more general market trends or particular indexes.
  • Clarity of Performance: It gives investors an open picture of the profitability of their investments, making it easier to evaluate financial choices directly.
  • Versatility in Timeframe: Unlike other metrics that may necessitate a predefined period for accurate assessment, the absolute return can apply to any investment duration, making it particularly useful for short-term evaluations.
  • Critical for Strategic Decisions: Understanding absolute returns is crucial for investors aiming to navigate their investments through volatile or uncertain market phases, providing a beacon for decision-making that is not reliant on market conformity.

The Formula and Calculation of Absolute Return

A simple formula is used to determine the absolute return on an investment, which captures the core of financial growth or regression over time.  The absolute return formula in mutual fund is: 

Absolute Return = {(Final Value – Initial Investment / Initial Investment} * 100

  • Final Value: The investment’s value at the conclusion of the time period used to compute the return.
  • Initial Investment: The investment’s value at the start of the time frame.

Using this formula, one can determine the percentage that indicates the overall return on investment—whether it is positive or negative. To get a practical understanding, consider the following example:

Suppose an investor purchases units in a mutual fund for ₹50,000, and the value of these units grows to ₹60,000 over a certain period. Using the formula, the absolute return is calculated as:

{(60,000 – 50,000 /50,000} * 100 =20% 

This indicates a 20% absolute return on the investment, underscoring a direct profit margin without referencing any external market movements or benchmarks.

Read More About How are Mutual Fund Returns Calculated?

How does Absolute Return work? 

Absolute return operates under a unique paradigm within the investment realm, focusing on the individual performance of assets. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  • Direct Profit/Loss Calculation: Absolute return directly measures the profit or loss made on an investment by comparing its initial and final values within a given period.
  • Timeframe Agnostic: It can be applied to any investment duration, from days to years, offering flexibility in performance assessment.
  • No Benchmark Comparison: Unlike other performance metrics, absolute return does not compare the investment’s performance against any external benchmark or index.
  • Utility in Short-Term Investments: Given its independence from time constraints, absolute return is particularly useful for assessing short-term investments, where the objective is to realise quick gains.
  • Risk Assessment Tool: By focusing on raw returns, investors can use absolute returns as a tool for risk assessment, gauging the effectiveness of their investment strategies in absolute terms.
  • Strategic Investment Decisions: Understanding absolute returns aids investors in making informed strategic decisions, especially in selecting mutual funds or other assets that aim for positive returns irrespective of market trends.

Absolute vs. Annualised Returns

Absolute returns calculate the whole profit or loss an investment experiences over a certain time frame without taking the length of the investment into account. It’s a simple statistic that is determined by contrasting the investment values at the beginning and end. Absolute returns provide a transparent picture of investment performance for investments made with a limited time horizon or for holding periods of less than a year.

By taking into account the compounding impact, annualised returns, also known as the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), provide a normalised measure of growth across several years. By displaying the average annual growth rate, this indicator is essential for comparing investments with varying maturities and enabling investors to evaluate the long-term success of their assets.   

The Strategic Use of Absolute and Annualised Returns

Making wise investing choices requires an understanding of both absolute and annualised returns. Regardless of the general direction of the market, absolute returns provide instantaneous insights into an investment’s success over a certain length of time. Because of this, they are especially useful for assessing the performance of short-term investments or tactics meant to produce profits under different market circumstances.

However, annualised returns are a great tool for long-term goal-setting and financial planning. They make it easier for investors to compare various investment alternatives and periods by assisting them in determining the average annual growth rate of their holdings. This makes it possible to clearly determine if an investment is on pace to accomplish key financial goals like retirement, paying for school, or wealth creation. It is particularly crucial when making these plans.

Concluding Thoughts

All things considered, investment strategy relies heavily on the distinction between absolute and annualised returns, each of which has a particular function in financial planning and portfolio management. While annualised returns provide a more comprehensive view of an investment’s development trajectory over time, absolute returns offer a clear, instantaneous image of investment success for a given period. 


Is there a reference period for calculating absolute return in mutual funds?

No, absolute return calculations do not require a reference period. It focuses on the gain or loss over the period the investment is held, without considering the duration explicitly​.

Can an absolute return be used to compare the performance of two investments?

Since absolute returns do not take the investment length into consideration, they are often not used to directly compare the performance of two investments, which makes them less appropriate for comparing investments across various time periods.

For what period is absolute return the most accurate representation of return on investment?

The absolute return provides the most precise statistics for investments held for less than a year. It’s ideal for short-term investments where the focus is on the raw gain or loss without annualizing the return​​.

In what terms are returns normally computed in mutual funds?

Returns in mutual funds, including absolute returns, are typically calculated in percentage terms. This standard allows for a straightforward understanding of how much an investment has gained or lost over a given period​.

Why should you look for CAGR over absolute return?

CAGR (Compounded yearly Growth Rate) considers an investment’s duration when calculating its average yearly growth rate. Unlike absolute return, which only analyses the investment’s beginning and ending values, CAGR gives a more accurate picture of an investment’s success by smoothing out the returns and making it simpler to compare different assets held for different periods of time. For investments over a year, CAGR provides a more accurate measure of growth and comparison.