Total return is the full return on an investment over a given period, including the income generated from dividend, interest or rental payments, and any gains or losses from a change in the asset's market value. This is normally expressed as a percentage of the purchase cost, annualised if the period is less than a year.
In March 2014 the FT commented on the differing dividend policies of UK housebuilders which generated different total returns for investors. An investor in upmarket building firm Berkeley wuold have seen shares rise by 145 per cent over a decade but would have enjoyed total returns of 500 per cent. This compares to the sector as a whole which has seen share prices rise by 45 per cent and total returns by 78 per cent.