Constant Dollar

Definition of 'Constant Dollar'


An adjusted value of currency used to compare dollar values from one period to another. Due to inflation, the purchasing power of the dollar changes over time, so in order to compare dollar values from one year to another, they need to be converted from nominal (current) dollar values to constant dollar values. Constant dollar value may also be referred to as real dollar value. 

Constant dollar calculation:

Formula for constant dollar

Investopedia explains 'Constant Dollar'


The constant dollar is often used by companies to compare their recent performance to past performance. Governments also use the constant dollar to track changes in economic indicators, such as wages or GDP. Any kind of financial data represented in dollar terms can be converted into constant dollars by using the consumer price index (CPI) from the relevant years.

For example, constant dollars can be used to calculate what $20,000 earned in 1995 would be equal to in 2005. The CPIs for the two years are 152.4 and 195.3, respectively. The value of $20,000 in 1995 would be equal to $25,629.92 in 2005. This is calculated as $20,000 x (195.3/152.4). The calculation can also be done backwards by reversing the numerator and denominator. Doing so reveals that $20,000 in 2005 was equivalent to only $15,606.76 in 1995.

Individuals can also use constant dollars to measure the true appreciation of their investments. For example, suppose Eric bought a house in 1992 for $200,000 and sold it in 2012 for $230,000. After paying his real estate agent a 6% commission, he's left with $216,200. Looking at the nominal dollar figures, it appears that Eric has made $16,200. But what happens when we adjust the $200,000 purchase price to 2012 dollars? By using a CPI inflation calculator, we learn that the purchase price of $200,000 in 1992 is the equivalent of $327,290 in 2012. By comparing the constant dollar figures, we discover that Eric has essentially lost $111,090 on the sale of his home.


Filed Under: ,

comments powered by Disqus
Hot Definitions
  1. Marginal Analysis

    An examination of the additional benefits of an activity compared to the additional costs of that activity. Companies use marginal analysis as a decision-making tool to help them maximize their profits. Individuals unconsciously use marginal analysis to make a host of everyday decisions. Marginal analysis is also widely used in microeconomics when analyzing how a complex system is affected by marginal manipulation of its comprising variables.
  2. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities - TIPS

    A treasury security that is indexed to inflation in order to protect investors from the negative effects of inflation. TIPS are considered an extremely low-risk investment since they are backed by the U.S. government and since their par value rises with inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, while their interest rate remains fixed.
  3. Gilt-Edged Switching

    The selling and repurchasing of certain high-grade stocks or bonds to capture profits. Gilt-edged switching involves gilt-edged security, which can be high-grade stock or bond issued by a financially stable company such as the Blue Chip companies or by certain governments.
  4. Master Limited Partnership - MLP

    A type of limited partnership that is publicly traded. There are two types of partners in this type of partnership: The limited partner is the person or group that provides the capital to the MLP and receives periodic income distributions from the MLP's cash flow, whereas the general partner is the party responsible for managing the MLP's affairs and receives compensation that is linked to the performance of the venture.
  5. Class Action

    An action where an individual represents a group in a court claim. The judgment from the suit is for all the members of the group (class).
  6. Retail Sales

    An aggregated measure of the sales of retail goods over a stated time period, typically based on a data sampling that is extrapolated to model an entire country. In the U.S., the retail sales report is a monthly economic indicator compiled and released by the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce.
Trading Center