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Money Illusion


Money illusion refers to the tendency of people to think about money in nominal terms, rather than in real terms. In other words, it is the misunderstanding of the value of money in relation to inflation or deflation. This bias can lead individuals to make irrational financial decisions based on the face value of money, ignoring its purchasing power.


The phonetics of the keyword “Money Illusion” is: /ˈmʌni ɪˈluːʒən/

Key Takeaways


  1. Subject to Perception: Money illusion refers to the tendency of people to think of currency in nominal, rather than real, terms. In other words, it’s the inclination of people to view money in its face-value terms and ignore its purchasing power.
  2. Economic Irrationality: Money illusion can lead to economic decisions that do not maximize utility. Individuals suffering from money illusion may focus more on the nominal value of money, ignoring the impacts of factors like inflation. This may lead them to make irrational financial decisions.
  3. Impacting Economy’s Health: Money illusion could have serious implications for the health of the entire economy. It influences many key economic decisions, from consumer spending to the setting of interest rates and wage negotiations, which can affect the health of an entire economy.



The business/finance term “Money Illusion” is important because it refers to the tendency of people to think about money in nominal terms, rather than real terms. In other words, people tend to view their wealth and income based on the face value, without considering the effects of inflation. This can impact their financial decisions and purchasing power. If consumers are under the money illusion, they may not realize that they can purchase less even if their income increases, if inflation rises faster. Thus, understanding the concept of money illusion is crucial for individuals to make rational financial decisions and maintain their real purchasing power over time. It also has significant implications in the roles and strategies of businesses, economists, and policymakers.


Money illusion refers to the tendency of individuals to think of money in nominal rather than real terms. Essentially, it is a cognitive bias where people mistake the face value of money for its purchasing power. The term implies that people behave differently when they perceive that the nominal value of money is affecting their real purchasing power or wealth. Although this may seem irrational in formal economic theory, for practical purposes, the money illusion can have a significant role in economic behavior and decision-making processes.Economists and financial experts use the concept of money illusion to understand and predict how people and markets will react to certain financial events. For instance, the money illusion can influence individuals’ perceptions and responses to inflation, wage changes, or investment returns. When it comes to financial planning and investment, people influenced by money illusion may make poor decisions because they’re not taking into account the eroding effects of inflation on wealth. In the business world, understanding money illusion is important because it can help companies make strategic decisions regarding pricing or wage-setting under different economic conditions. It can also make it more complex for central banks to effectively manage monetary policy because they need to take into consideration how people will react to changes in nominal rather than real monetary values.


Money illusion refers to an economic concept by which people interpret the nominal value of currency as its real value. In other words, it is when people make decisions based on nominal values, not taking into account inflation. Here are three examples of this concept:1. Saving Money in a Bank Account: If you leave all your savings in a regular bank account that has a lower interest rate than the rate of inflation, the purchasing power of that money diminishes over time. Even though you might think you’re gaining interest and your nominal wealth is increasing, the real value of the money is actually declining because of inflation. This is a common example of money illusion.2. Employee Salary Increases: Let’s say you get a 5% raise in your salary, making you feel like you’re earning more. However, if the inflation rate is 6%, the increased nominal salary doesn’t actually cover the increased cost of goods and services. Despite your paycheck being larger in nominal terms, in real terms you’re earning less.3. Property Prices: If someone buys a property at a certain price and sells it a few years later for a higher nominal price, they might think they’ve made a good profit. However, if the inflation rate over that period was higher than the increase in the property’s price, the real value of the money they’ve gained is actually less than they initially invested. In all these cases, the money illusion can mislead people into thinking they are better off financially than they actually are. The nominal value of money may increase, but the real value — what the money is actually worth in terms of buying power — might decrease.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Money Illusion?

Money illusion refers to an economic theory where people confuse real and nominal values of money. Essentially, people perceive the value of money in terms of its face value, rather than its actual purchasing power.

What’s an example of Money Illusion?

A classic example is when individuals get a pay increase, and they believe they are better off, even though inflation may have risen at the same rate. They see the nominal value of their salary increased but forget that the real value in terms of purchasing power may remain the same.

How does Money Illusion affect the economy?

Money illusion can lead to faulty economic decisions, like spending or saving too much based on a misperception of wealth. It can also mislead people into thinking they’re better off after a nominal wage increase when the cost of living has risen similarly.

Can Money Illusion impact investments?

Yes, money illusion can potentially lead investors to make poor choices based on nominal value instead of real value. Investors may see a nominal return on their investment without taking into account the impact of inflation, which may considerably lower the real return.

Can Money Illusion be avoided?

Yes, understanding the concept of real versus nominal value can help individuals and businesses avoid money illusion. It is crucial to take into account factors like inflation when making any financial decisions or evaluations.

What is the link between Money Illusion and inflation?

Money illusion often occurs when inflation is present. When the price level rises, one unit of currency can purchase less than before, thereby reducing the real value or purchasing power of money. However, many people still reason in nominal terms, disregarding the inflation’s impact.

Who coined the term Money Illusion?

Esteemed Economist Irving Fisher coined the term Money Illusion in the early 20th century.

Related Finance Terms

  • Nominal Value: This term refers to the face value of money and it doesn’t consider things like inflation or interest rate.
  • Real Value: This is a measure that factors in changes in purchasing power due to inflation. It is the perceived value of money illusion.
  • Inflation: This economic term is a key cause of money illusion. It’s the general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money over time.
  • Purchasing Power: This term refers to the amount of goods or services that one unit of a given currency can buy. It’s directly impacted by money illusion.
  • Behavioural Finance: This term is a field of study that proposes psychology-based theories to explain stock market anomalies such as drastic rises or falls in stock price. Money illusion is a cognitive bias studied in Behavioural Finance.

Sources for More Information

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