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Real Income

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated November 4, 2020

What is Real Income?

Real income is inflation-adjusted income or wages.

How Does Real Income Work?

For example, let's say John Doe works for Company XYZ. His salary is $100,000 per year. He started the job five years ago at $100,000 and has not had a raise since he took the job.

If the inflation rate is 3% per year, then the value of that $100,000 falls by 3% a year as goods and services get more expensive. As a result, after the first year on the job, John's salary is really able to buy only $97,000 of goods and services [$100,000 - (3% x $100,000) = $97,000]. In year two, John's salary is then worth only $94,090 [$97,000 - (3% x $97,000) = $94,090]. The longer this goes on, the less John's $100,000 salary buys. By the end of five years, John's salary would be "worth" only $85,873.

Why Does Real Income Matter?

Real income is a measure of the purchasing power of wages. The concept is at the heart of many labor and salary negotiations.

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