Real Vs. Nominal Interest Rates – Differences Between Them

The concept of real and nominal interest rates is one that has been widely studied in economics, as it plays a role in the understanding of inflation and other macroeconomic factors. It is important to understand the differences between these two types of interest rates and how they can affect economic decisions. This article will examine both kinds of interest rate and explain their distinctions from each other.

In order to understand the difference between real and nominal interest rates, it is first necessary to consider what each type actually refers to. Nominal interest rate is defined as an amount charged by a lender for borrowing money over a fixed period of time, expressed as a percentage per year before taking into account any taxes or fees associated with the loan. Real interest rate on the other hand takes into consideration all relevant costs related to borrowing including inflation which makes it easier to compare different loans over varying periods of time.

Finally, this article will explore how changes in either type of interest rate may impact financial markets and investors’ decision-making processes. Furthermore, it will investigate the implications regarding investment strategies when utilizing real versus nominal interest rates. By exploring these topics, readers should be able to better comprehend how real and nominal rates are used within current economic contexts today.


Definition Of Interest Rates

Interest rates are the cost of borrowing money, or a return on a loan. They represent the price paid for using someone else’s funds. Interest can be calculated as a percentage of the principal amount borrowed, and is typically quoted as an annual rate known as the ‘nominal’ interest rate. It is important to distinguish between nominal and effective interest rates when considering the total cost of a loan.

Real interest rates take into account inflation by subtracting expected changes in prices from the nominal rate. This allows borrowers and lenders to compare investments over time while accounting for inflationary effects on purchasing power. In effect, real interest rates measure how much purchasing power has been gained or lost due to lending or investing activities.


Types Of Interest Rates

Interest rates are a major factor in financial decisions, and there are two types of interest rates – real and nominal. Real interest rates take into account inflation, as it is the rate after adjustment for inflation. Nominal interest rate does not consider inflation; rather, it reflects the cost of borrowing or lending money at face value.

1. Real interest rate: Takes into account current level of inflation 2. Nominal interest rate: Does not include adjustment for inflation 3. Interest earned from investments: Represents return on investment 4. Compound interest: Accumulated over time with compounding periodicity

Real interest rates provide borrowers with an accurate reflection of their true costs when making long-term commitments to debt financing, while nominal interest rates can be misleading because they do not adjust according to changes in the cost of living over time. Both real and nominal interests should be included in any comparison between different loan options before committing to one particular option so that all terms and conditions can be properly understood before signing a contract agreement.


Calculation Of Interest Rates

The previous section discussed the various types of interest rates and their effects. This subsequent section will now focus on how to calculate real and nominal interest rates and discuss the differences between them.

Real Interest Rate Nominal Interest Rate
Calculation: (1 + r)/(1+i) – 1 Calculation: i/100
Definition: The true rate of return after inflation is taken into account  Definition: The stated or quoted rate of interest before taking inflation into account
Effect of Inflation: Subject to adjustment due to changes in purchasing power Effect of Inflation: Not subject to adjustment due to changes in purchasing power

Real interest rates are calculated by taking one plus the current market rate for borrowing, then dividing it by one plus the expected inflation rate and subtracting one from this result. This formula takes into consideration that a currency’s buying power decreases as prices rise over time with regard to goods, services, and other assets purchased using that same currency.

As such, nominal interest rates do not take into account any possible change in buying power resulting from future price increases related to a given currency. Consequently, they may be less reflective of an investor’s actual return than real interest rates when factoring in the effect of inflation.


Advantages And Disadvantages Of Real Vs Nominal Interest Rates

Real interest rates are the rate of return on an investment after adjusting for inflation. The nominal interest rate is simply the stated, or advertised, amount that will be paid out in terms of percentage points. Real and nominal rates can differ significantly due to changes in the cost of living or economic conditions, as well as other factors.

When considering which type of rate to use, there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with each one. For example, real interest rates allow investors to compare returns across different time periods despite fluctuations in prices. Additionally, they provide a better measure of actual purchasing power than nominal rates do since they account for inflationary effects on investments over time. On the other hand, nominal interest rates may offer higher returns but also come with greater risk since their value isn’t adjusted for inflation.

They can also be more difficult to compare between different investments since their values change depending on how much prices have increased or decreased during a particular period.

Overall, it’s important to consider both types of interest rate when making financial decisions so you understand how your money is performing against current market conditions and expectations for future growth. It’s also important to understand any potential risks involved in investing your money given current economic conditions and expected trends in inflation going forward.


How Inflation Affects Real And Nominal Interest Rates

The difference between real and nominal interest rates is highly dependent on the effects of inflation. Real interest rates take into account the effect of inflation, whereas nominal interest rates do not. Inflation erodes purchasing power over time, so when calculating a real rate of return, it must be adjusted to reflect the impact that inflation has on an individual’s financial position.

The formula for calculating real interest rate adjusts the nominal rate by subtracting the expected or current inflation rate from it. For example, if an investor receives a 5% return on a savings account and expects 3% inflation in the following year, then their actual return would be 2%. This adjustment helps investors better understand how much they are actually earning after accounting for potential losses associated with rising prices due to inflation.

In comparison, a nominal rate does not adjust for changes in price levels caused by inflation. Nominal rates provide no insight into whether or not there have been any gains or losses associated with purchasing power; instead they only represent the stated amount that will be received at maturity without taking into account any adjustments for fluctuations in market conditions caused by macroeconomic events such as currency devaluation or monetary policy decisions made by central banks.

As a result, nominal returns can often overestimate true economic growth if taken out of context since lower-than-expected returns may still lead to negative purchasing power outcomes due to high levels of inflation.


Strategies For Managing Interest Rate Risk

Interest rate risk management is a critical component of any sound financial plan. Real and nominal interest rates represent two distinct types of measures that can be used to manage this risk. The key difference between these two types of rates lies in their calculation methodologies. Nominal interest rates are calculated using the current market conditions, while real interest rates account for inflation as well as other external factors such as taxes or government subsidies. By understanding how each type of interest rate works, investors can create strategies for managing their exposure to risk associated with rising or falling interest rates.

One strategy for mitigating the impact of changes in interest rates on an investor’s portfolio is to diversify across various debt instruments that have different maturities and credit ratings. This way, if one instrument experiences significant losses due to increasing or decreasing interest rates, the impacts may be offset by profits from another instrument.

Additionally, investors may also consider utilizing derivative products such as swaps and futures contracts which allow them to hedge against changing economic conditions without actually buying or selling securities. Through carefully constructed portfolios featuring multiple asset classes and proper hedging techniques, investors can effectively manage their exposure to fluctuations in both real and nominal interest rates over time.



The distinction between real and nominal interest rates is important for both personal finance and commercial banking. Real interest rates are adjusted to take inflation into account, while nominal interest rates do not consider the effects of inflation. Generally speaking, when inflation rises, the value of money decreases, so adjusting for this effect can provide a more accurate measure of true returns on investments or loans. It is also important to understand how inflation affects these two measures of interest and be aware of strategies that can help manage any risks associated with changes in either rate.

Real and nominal interest rates have advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation at hand. Nominal interest rates tend to be easier to calculate since they don’t require adjustment for inflation but often underestimate potential losses due to rising prices over time. On the other hand, real interest rates can provide a truer measure of return over time by accounting for changing price levels, though they may be more difficult to estimate accurately due to volatility in market conditions.

Overall, understanding the differences between real and nominal interest rates is essential in order to make informed decisions about one’s finances or business operations. This includes being aware of how various economic factors such as inflation influence each type of rate and having strategies in place for mitigating related risks associated with fluctuations in either measure. In addition, it is beneficial to use tools like present value analysis which incorporate calculations based upon both types of interests when making long term financial plans or investment decisions.

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