Does “This product will pay its own way in one year" mean "This product will pay back your investment in one year"? If so, why?
As a foreigner, I can't connect "pay its own way" with earning back my investment. I am a little confused.
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To be honest, as a native speaker at least passingly familiar with basic finance, I'm not sure what it means in this context either.
These are two very different things. Its even quite possible the speaker put it in exactly this imprecise way in order to mislead his audience. When someone is talking money, it is wise to bring all the cynicism you can muster.
“This product will pay its own way in one year" does not mean "This product will pay back your investment in one year".
It means, "This product will pay back its on-going expenses, starting one year from now."
If you buy a car, and the car "pays its way", that would mean the value you get for it makes up for costs of fuel, maintenance, and so on. Its initial cost is another matter.
When a product is launched, the costs have to be carried by the company.
If the product can "pay its own way" within a year, the companyh expects to recoup those costs in year's time. At that point, what was initially a "loss" for the product will have turned into "breakeven," suggesting that it will be profitable on a cumuulative basis in years two and thereafter.