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# The following formula is incorrect for compound interest with the symbols defined this way, can someone tell me why?

The following formula is incorrect for compound interest with the symbols defined this way, can someone tell me why?

Compound Interest is described by A = P(1+rm)^n, where P is the principal, r is the annual rate, m is the number of compounding periods in 1 year, and A is the amount in the account after n compounding periods.

It is an Exponential function since the exponent is a variable.

### 4 Answers by Expert Tutors

Michael F. | Mathematics TutorMathematics Tutor
4.7 4.7 (6 lesson ratings) (6)
1
A=P(1+r/m)mn where
A is the amount
P is the principal
r is the annual rate
m is the number of compounding periods per year
n is the number of years
My apologies to the others.

Explanation for Tonya, and anyone else, of course.
Interest = Principal × r=annual rate × t=time in years
For 1/4 of a year, remember we are compounding quarterly, this means that at the end of 1/4 year we have P+P×r×1/4=P(1+r/4).  Note that any amount of money moved forward in time is simply multiplied by 1+r/4.  For the next 1/4 year we take the prior amount P(1+r/4)×(1+r/4)=P(1+r/4)2
In general after k quarters, the amount is P(1+r/4)k
We are given n the number of years and so may use 4n as the number of quarters.
Finally we get P(1+r/4)4n.  There are some conventions to be considered when the number of years is not an integer, but that is a story for another time.

Jeff M. | Jeff M, Accounting, Microsoft Excel, Finance, General BusinessJeff M, Accounting, Microsoft Excel, Fin...
4.9 4.9 (7 lesson ratings) (7)
1
Hi Tonya,

(Please ignore my comment above.  It seems I saved and posted it before I was finished.)

Your instructor is correct. Now let's figure out why by calculating A, using your formula and the following assumptions:

Your initial account balance (P) = \$1,000. The account earns an annual rate of 5% (r = .05), which is compounded quarterly (m = 4). Assume further that you wish to know the account balance after 2 years, so the number of compounding periods (n) = 8.

Using your formula, as written above, the calculation is as follows:

A = P * ((1 + (r * m))^n
A = \$1,000 * (1 + (.05 * 4))^8
A = \$1,000 * (1 + .2)^8
A = \$1,000 * 4.3
A = \$4,300

Would an account with an initial balance of \$1,000 grow to \$4,300 after 2 years, given interest of 5% per year?  Not likely, when (ignoring the effect of quarterly compounding for the moment) we know that the account will earn \$50 in year 1 (\$1,000 * 5%) and \$52.50 in year 2 (\$1,050 x 5%).  Consequently, the account balance at the end of year 2 (compound annually - as opposed to quarterly - for simplicity) would be \$1,102.50 (\$1,000 + \$50 + \$52.50).  \$1,102.50 vs. \$4,300? Something must be wrong.

Can you see where the problem is?  Here's a hint:  As written, your formula multiplies the initial deposit of \$1,000 by 1.2 (1 + (.05 * 4) = 1.2) to the 8th power.  This would suggest that the quarterly interest rate - compounded for 8 quarters - is equal to 20%. We know that the quarterly interest rate cannot be higher than the annual rate, let alone 4 times higher.  Is it any wonder the calculated balance of \$4,300 is so large?

How can you tweak your formula ever so slightly to convert the annual rate of 5% to the correct quarterly rate, which we know cannot be 20%?

Once the formula is revised, the ending balance in the account after two years will be \$1,104.49.

I look forward to hearing your thought process and conclusion.

Jeff

This seems right to me but Michael down below there says all answers are wrong but his. Am I missing something?
No, Tonya, you're not missing anything.  Michael's answer is correct, but his formula is the same as the formula I was driving at. Using your symbols, the formula should be:

A = P * (1 + r/m)^n

So, to correct your original formula, the annual interest rate (r) should be divided by the number of compounding periods (m). Your formula multiplied the two, resulting in an overstatement of A. Using the numbers from my example, this makes sense intuitively - the quarterly interest rate is 1.25% (5%/4), rather than 20% (5% * 4).

If you plug some numbers into this equation and Michael's, you will get the same result.  I've seen many variations of this formula in practice, which is likely the reason your instructor answered the way (s)he did.

Hopefully that makes sense?
Stephen B. | Secondary or College Math/SAT/GRE TutorSecondary or College Math/SAT/GRE Tutor
4.8 4.8 (112 lesson ratings) (112)
1
Does your book or your notes have a similar equation? Does it look the same or different than this one? The variables in your problem are defined like we normally define them for this kind of equation.

That's what I thought as well but my instructor felt differently. Here is his response to my formula:

"Your formula is incorrect for Compound Interest if you define the symbols the way you did. Look at how the reading defines the symbols."

I can't figure out what he means, any ideas?
A = P * ((1 + (.05 / 4))^8)
very truly yours
Michael F.
William S. | Experienced scientist, mathematician and instructor - WilliamExperienced scientist, mathematician and...
4.4 4.4 (10 lesson ratings) (10)
0
Tonya,

The formula I'm used to using is

A = P[1 + (r/m)]nt

P = principal amount (the initial amount you borrow or deposit)
r = annual rate of interest (as a decimal)
t = number of years the amount is deposited or borrowed for.
A = amount of money accumulated after n years, including interest.
n = number of times the interest is compounded per year

I think that, if the equation you wrote is incorrect, it has to do with the expression r*m instead of the correct (r/m).

I hope this helps.