What is the Real Rate of Return?
The real rate of return is the actual annual rate of return after taking into consideration the factors that affect the rate like inflation and it is calculated by one plus nominal rate divided by one plus inflation rate minus one and inflation rate can be taken from consumer price index or GDP deflator.
It helps an investor find out what actually he gets in return for investing a specific sum of money in an investment. For example, if Mr. Timothy invests $1000 into a bank and the bank promises to offer a 5% rate of return, Mr. Timothy may think that he is getting a good return on his investment. In financial terminology, we will call this 5% as the nominal rate.
However, the question remains, is 5% the actual return on Mr. Timothy’s investment? The answer is no. We also need to consider inflation and also tax (if the return on investment is not taxdeductible).
Real Rate of Return Formula
By considering the inflation rate, we can calculate it as follows
Real Rate of Return = (1+Nominal Rate)/(1+Inflation Rate) – 1
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For eg:
Source: Real Rate of Return (wallstreetmojo.com)
Example
Ms. Soul has kept $100,000 in a bank. The bank promises to pay a 6% rate of return at the end of the year. The inflation rate is 3% during the year. What would be the real rate of return?
 Real Rate of Return Formula = (1 + Nominal Rate) / (1 + Inflation Rate) – 1
 = (1 + 0.06) / (1 + 0.03) – 1
 = 1.06 / 1.03 – 1
 = 0.0291 = 2.91%.
Interpretation
In this formula, we’re first considering the nominal rate, and then we will consider the inflation rate.
As you already know – the rate of return on the investment or the bank offers is the nominal rate of return. However, to find out the inflation rate, we need to use the consumer price indexConsumer Price IndexThe Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average price of a basket of regularly used consumer commodities compared to a base year. The CPI for the base year is 100, and this is the benchmark point.read more. Alternatively, businesses can use a different consumer price index to calculate the inflation, or they can only take the goods and services into account that are related to their business.
Here’s the formula by using which we can find out the inflation rate –
Rate of InflationRate Of InflationThe rate of inflation formula helps understand how much the price of goods and services in an economy has increased in a year. It is calculated by dividing the difference between two Consumer Price Indexes(CPI) by previous CPI and multiplying it by 100.read more = (CPI _{x+1 }– CPI_{ x}) / CPI _{x}
Here, CPI _{x }means the initial consumer index.
If you have invested a good amount, it’s always prudent to use the real rate of return to see how much you’re actually earning on the investment.
However, if you just want to make sure how much you’re actually making in a casual sense, you can just use the following formula – (nominal rate – inflation rate).
Though this formula is not recommended, you can just check before going into detail.
Use and Relevance
If the investors want to know how much they are actually making (in some cases, it is actually negative), In this formula is a good one.
However, there are two things you need to consider before using this formula.
 The first thing is to deduct the inflation rate (or to divide the inflation rate); you need to make sure that you will purchase the same goods the CPI considers.
 The second thing is the rate of return is not always accurate. Yes, you can calculate the real rate of return by using the formula, but there can be more factors that you may need to consider, e.g., taxes, opportunity cost, etc.
Calculator
You can use the following Calculator.
Nominal Rate  
Inflation Rate  
Real Rate of Return Formula =  
Real Rate of Return Formula = 



Real Rate of Return in Excel (with excel template)
Let us now do the same example above in Excel. This is very simple. You need to provide the two inputs of the Nominal Rate and Inflation Rate. You can easily calculate the real rate of return in the template provided.
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