Margin of Safety Formula, Calculation, Example, and FAQs

what is a margin of safety

An investor wants to see a large variance between the two figures (which is the margin of safety) before buying stock. This implies that there is substantial upside potential for the stock price – or at least, it means any error in deriving the intrinsic value must be a big one in order to erase the margin of safety. For example, if he were to determine that the intrinsic value of XYZ’s stock is $162, which is well below its share price of $192, he might apply a discount of 20% for a target purchase price of $130. In this example, he may feel XYZ has a fair value at $192 but he would not consider buying it above its intrinsic value of $162. In order to absolutely limit his downside risk, he sets his purchase price at $130. Using this model, he might not be able to purchase XYZ stock anytime in the foreseeable future.

In accounting, the margin of safety is calculated by subtracting the break-even point amount from the actual or budgeted sales and then dividing by sales; the result is expressed as a percentage. The margin of safety percentage can also be worked out using forecasted sales, for businesses strategizing for the future. The margin of safety formula can also be applied to different departments within a single company to define how risky they may be. Depending on the situation, a low margin of safety may be a risk a company is willing to take if they also predict future improvement for the selected product or department. The deep value investment method refers to purchasing stock in a critically undervalued market.

The machine’s costs will increase the operating expenses to $1,000,000 per year, and the sales output will likewise augment. A low percentage of margin of safety might cause a business to cut expenses, while a high spread of margin assures a company that it is protected from sales variability. Another way is to use what Expectations Investing authors Michael Maubossin and Alfred Rappaport call price implied expectations analysis. Instead of running a DCF with crazy numbers, you figure out what amount of growth is needed to justify the current stock price. Managers use it to determine how much budgeted security they have before the company would lose money.

Margin of safety isn’t everything

The margin of safety is the difference between the amount of expected profitability and the break-even point. The margin of safety formula is equal to current sales minus the breakeven point, divided by current sales. Let’s say you’re looking at a growth stock with a high P/E but 100% annualized earnings growth over the past five years.

After the machine was purchased, the company achieved a sales revenue of $4.2M, with a breakeven point of $3.95M, giving a margin of safety of 5.8%. The fair market price of the security must be known in order to use the discounted cash flow analysis method then to give an objective, fair value of a business. A stock with a 50% margin of safety will theoretically fall less than a stock with a slim margin of safety or none at all. If the intrinsic value is $10 per share and the current price is $7.50 per share, then there is a margin of safety of 25%. It is the sum of the subjective inputs and therefore could vary widely depending on the analyst.

The margin of safety acts as a built-in cushion that allows a few losses to be incurred but protects against major losses. Investors incorporate both qualitative and quantitative techniques to determine a safety margin that will discount the price target. The margin of safety is the difference between the actual sales volume and the break-even sales volume.

Sufficient Margin of Safety

Get instant access to video lessons taught by experienced investment bankers. Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts. For example, if a company expects revenue of $50 million but only needs $46 million to break even, we’d subtract the two to arrive at a margin of safety of $4 million. Our mission is to empower readers with the most factual and reliable financial information possible to help them make informed decisions for their individual needs. The margin of safety ratio is an ideal index that can be used to rank firms within an industry. Below is a short video tutorial that explains the components of the margin of safety formula, why the margin of safety is an important metric, and an example calculation.

Businesses can use this information to decide if they want to expand or reevaluate their inventory, it can also help them decide how secure they are moving forwards. Seasonal goods, for example, may need to keep any eye on this margin to guide them through off-peak sales periods. Keeping an eye on outgoings and profit margins is an everyday occurrence for businesses, but it’s important for company accountants to keep a close eye on the margin of safety, too. The growth at a reasonable price investment method applies a more balanced investment approach. The investor picks companies with positive growth trends and those trading below intrinsic fair value. The investor needs to have at least a 10% margin of safety before trading with the GARP approach.

  • The results projected through forecasting may often be higher than the current results.
  • A low percentage of margin of safety might cause a business to cut expenses, while a high spread of margin assures a company that it is protected from sales variability.
  • As shown above, the margin of safety can be expressed as an absolute amount (e.g., $58,325) or as a percentage of sales (e.g., 58.32%).
  • Coupled with a longer holding period, the investor can better withstand any volatility in market pricing.

It signals to the management the risk of loss that may happen as the business is subjected to changes in sales, especially when a significant amount of sales are at risk of decline or unprofitability. The margin of safety is an investment principle where the investor buys stocks when the market price is below their actual value. It is evaluated as the change between the price of a financial instrument and its basic value.


Subtract the break-even point from the actual or budgeted sales and then divide by the sales. The margin of safety can be used to compare the financial strength of different companies. This is because it will allow us to predict how much sales volume has to be reduced before a firm starts suffering losses. For example, if your margin of safety is around $10,000 but your selling price per unit is $5,000, that means you can only lose a sale of two units before your business is in serious trouble. So, while $10,000 may be a big buffer to some businesses, it may barely be enough for others.

He also recognized that the current valuation of $1 could be off, which means he would be subjecting himself to unnecessary risk. He concluded that if he could buy a stock at a discount to its intrinsic value, he would limit his losses substantially. Although there was no guarantee that the stock’s price would increase, the discount provided the margin of safety he needed to ensure that his losses would be minimal. Margin of safety is a principle of investing in which an investor only purchases securities when their market price is significantly below their intrinsic value.

what is a margin of safety

In the principle of investing, the margin of safety is the difference between the intrinsic value of a stock against its prevailing market price. Intrinsic value is the actual worth of a company’s asset or the present value of an asset when adding up the total discounted future income generated. The margin of safety is the reduction in sales that can occur before the breakeven point of a business is reached.

Example of the Margin of Safety

The idea is to locate mismatches between the intrinsic value of stock and the current stock prices. Therefore, deep value investing requires experienced investors with a huge margin of safety. The concept is to avoid an investment scenario where there is little to gain and more to lose. The investor needs to keep cash reserves to cushion themselves against revenue falls and unexpected expenses.

what is a margin of safety

These companies pay their shareholders regularly, making them good sources of income. To determine if you have a margin of safety, you need to figure out if that is doable. Forty percent per year for five years would turn earnings of $1 million into close to $5.4 million. An overvalued stock, with a huge negative margin of safety, is priced for perfection. The table reveals that both the margin of safety and profits worsen slightly as a result of the equipment purchase, so expanding production capacity is probably not a good idea. Yarilet Perez is an experienced multimedia journalist and fact-checker with a Master of Science in Journalism.

Margin of Safety Formula

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It shows the proportion of the current sales that determine the firm’s profit. Using margin of safety, one should buy a stock when it is worth more than its price in the market. This is the central thesis of value investing philosophy which espouses preservation of capital as its first rule of investing.

The formula for calculating the MOS requires knowing the forecasted revenue and the break-even revenue for the company, which is the point at which revenue adequately covers all expenses. If not, there is no “room for error” in the valuation of the shares, meaning that the share price would be lower than the intrinsic value following a minor decline in value. The Margin of Safety represents the downside risk protection afforded to an investor when the security is purchased significantly below its intrinsic value. In the case of the firm with a high margin of safety, it will be able to withstand large reductions in sales volume. To show this, let’s consider the example of two firms with the same net income shown in their income statement but with a different margin of safety ratio. The value represented by your margin of safety is your buffer against becoming unprofitable, which will vary depending on your business.