$29,500 in 1985 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $75,830.63 today, an increase of $46,330.63 over 36 years. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 2.66% per year between 1985 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 157.05%.

This means that today's prices are 2.57 times higher than average prices since 1985, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index. A dollar today only buys 38.90% of what it could buy back then.

The inflation rate in 1985 was 3.56%. The current year-over-year inflation rate (2020 to 2021) is now 6.22%. If this number holds, $29,500 today will be equivalent in buying power to $31,335.45 next year. The current inflation rate page gives more detail on the latest inflation rates.

Contents

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Cumulative price change | 157.05% |

Average inflation rate | 2.66% |

Converted amount ($29,500 base) | $75,830.63 |

Price difference ($29,500 base) | $46,330.63 |

CPI in 1985 | 107.600 |

CPI in 2021 | 276.589 |

Inflation in 1985 | 3.56% |

Inflation in 2021 | 6.22% |

$29,500 in 1985 | $75,830.63 in 2021 |

This chart shows a calculation of buying power equivalence for $29,500 in 1985 (price index tracking began in 1635).

For example, if you started with $29,500, you would need to end with $75,830.63 in order to "adjust" for inflation (sometimes refered to as "beating inflation").

When $29,500 is equivalent to $75,830.63 over time, that means that the "real value" of a single U.S. dollar decreases over time. In other words, a dollar will pay for fewer items at the store.

This effect explains how inflation erodes the value of a dollar over time. By calculating the value in 1985 dollars, the chart below shows how $29,500 is worth less over 36 years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, each of these USD amounts below is equal in terms of what it could buy at the time:

This conversion table shows various other 1985 amounts in today's dollars, based on the 157.05% change in prices:

Initial value | Equivalent value |
---|---|

$1 dollar in 1985 | $2.57 dollars today |

$5 dollars in 1985 | $12.85 dollars today |

$10 dollars in 1985 | $25.71 dollars today |

$50 dollars in 1985 | $128.53 dollars today |

$100 dollars in 1985 | $257.05 dollars today |

$500 dollars in 1985 | $1,285.26 dollars today |

$1,000 dollars in 1985 | $2,570.53 dollars today |

$5,000 dollars in 1985 | $12,852.65 dollars today |

$10,000 dollars in 1985 | $25,705.30 dollars today |

$50,000 dollars in 1985 | $128,526.49 dollars today |

$100,000 dollars in 1985 | $257,052.97 dollars today |

$500,000 dollars in 1985 | $1,285,264.87 dollars today |

$1,000,000 dollars in 1985 | $2,570,529.74 dollars today |

Inflation can vary widely by city, even within the United States. Here's how some cities fared in 1985 to 2021 (figures shown are purchasing power equivalents of $29,500):

**San Diego, California**: 3.56% average rate, $29,500 → $100,409.74, cumulative change of 240.37%**San Francisco, California**: 2.95% average rate, $29,500 → $84,114.62, cumulative change of 185.13%**Seattle, Washington**: 2.88% average rate, $29,500 → $82,015.54, cumulative change of 178.02%**New York**: 2.78% average rate, $29,500 → $79,057.09, cumulative change of 167.99%**Boston, Massachusetts**: 2.76% average rate, $29,500 → $78,686.19, cumulative change of 166.73%**Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Florida**: 2.74% average rate, $29,500 → $78,140.31, cumulative change of 164.88%**Denver, Colorado**: 2.70% average rate, $29,500 → $74,977.65, cumulative change of 154.16%**Philadelphia, Pennsylvania**: 2.53% average rate, $29,500 → $72,545.81, cumulative change of 145.92%**Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota**: 2.49% average rate, $29,500 → $69,751.51, cumulative change of 136.45%**Atlanta, Georgia**: 2.44% average rate, $29,500 → $70,301.42, cumulative change of 138.31%**Chicago, Illinois**: 2.40% average rate, $29,500 → $69,301.48, cumulative change of 134.92%**Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas**: 2.35% average rate, $29,500 → $68,055.40, cumulative change of 130.70%**Detroit, Michigan**: 2.34% average rate, $29,500 → $67,935.47, cumulative change of 130.29%**Houston, Texas**: 2.30% average rate, $29,500 → $66,787.41, cumulative change of 126.40%**St Louis, Missouri**: 2.27% average rate, $29,500 → $66,209.18, cumulative change of 124.44%

San Diego, California experienced the highest rate of inflation during the 36 years between 1985 and 2021 (3.56%).

St Louis, Missouri experienced the lowest rate of inflation during the 36 years between 1985 and 2021 (2.27%).

Note that some locations showing 0% inflation may have not yet reported latest data.

Inflation can also vary widely by country. For comparison, in the UK £29,500.00 in 1985 would be equivalent to £93,874.84 in 2021, an absolute change of £64,374.84 and a cumulative change of 218.22%.

In Canada, CA$29,500.00 in 1985 would be equivalent to CA$63,234.01 in 2021, an absolute change of CA$33,734.01 and a cumulative change of 114.35%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $46,330.63 and total percent change of 157.05%.

CPI is the weighted combination of many categories of spending that are tracked by the government. Breaking down these categories helps explain the main drivers behind price changes.

Between 1985 and 2021:

- Gas prices increased from $1.15 per gallon to $3.38
- Bread prices increased from $0.55 per loaf to $1.53
- Milk prices increased from $1.09 per gallon to $1.38
- Egg prices increased from $0.75 per carton to $1.82

This chart shows the average rate of inflation for select CPI categories between 1985 and 2021.

Compare these values to the overall average of 2.66% per year:

Category | Avg Inflation (%) | Total Inflation (%) | $29,500 in 1985 → 2021 |
---|---|---|---|

Food and beverages | 2.70 | 160.55 | 76,863.05 |

Housing | 2.68 | 159.43 | 76,530.83 |

Apparel | 0.39 | 15.07 | 33,944.54 |

Transportation | 2.13 | 113.79 | 63,067.39 |

Medical care | 4.34 | 362.00 | 136,290.08 |

Recreation | 1.12 | 49.15 | 43,998.49 |

Education and communication | 1.82 | 91.53 | 56,502.82 |

Other goods and services | 4.03 | 314.94 | 122,408.04 |

The graph below compares inflation in categories of goods over time. Click on a category such as "Food" to toggle it on or off:

For all these visualizations, it's important to note that not all categories may have been tracked since 1985. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1985 and today:

CPI today
CPI in 1985

×

1985 USD value

=

Today's value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 107.6 in the year 1985 and 276.589 in 2021:

276.589107.6

×

$29,500

=

$29,500 in 1985 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $75,830.63 in 2021.

To get the total inflation rate for the 36 years between 1985 and 2021, we use the following formula:

CPI in 2021 - CPI in 1985CPI in 1985

×

100

=

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

276.589 - 107.6107.6

×

100

=

The above data describe the CPI for all items. Also of note is the **Core CPI**, which measures inflation for all items except for the more volatile categories of food and energy.
Core inflation averaged 2.61% per year between 1985 and 2021 (vs all-CPI inflation of 2.66%), for an inflation total of 152.98%.

When using the core inflation measurement, $29,500 in 1985 is equivalent in buying power to $74,628.99 in 2021, a difference of $45,128.99. Recall that for All Items, the converted amount is $75,830.63 with a difference of $46,330.63.

In 1985, core inflation was 4.37%.

The average inflation rate of 2.66% has a compounding effect between 1985 and 2021. As noted above, this yearly inflation rate compounds to produce an overall price difference of 157.05% over 36 years.

To help put this inflation into perspective, if we had invested $29,500 in the S&P 500 index in 1985, our investment would be * nominally* worth approximately $1,742,873.92 in 2021. This is a return on investment of 5,808.05%, with an absolute return of $1,713,373.92 on top of the original $29,500.

These numbers are not inflation adjusted, so they are considered *nominal*. In order to evaluate the *real* return on our investment, we must calculate the return with inflation taken into account.

The compounding effect of inflation would account for 61.10% of returns ($1,064,852.62) during this period. This means the inflation-adjusted * real* return of our $29,500 investment is $648,521.30. You may also want to account for capital gains tax, which would take your real return down to around $551,243 for most people.

Original Amount | Final Amount | Change | |
---|---|---|---|

Nominal |
$29,500 | $1,742,873.92 | 5,808.05% |

RealInflation Adjusted |
$29,500 | $678,021.30 | 2,198.38% |

Information displayed above may differ slightly from other S&P 500 calculators. Minor discrepancies can occur because we use the latest CPI data for inflation, annualized inflation numbers for previous years, and we compute S&P price and dividends from January of 1985 to latest available data for 2021 using average monthly close price.

For more details on the S&P 500 between 1985 and 2021, see the stock market returns calculator.

Politics and news often influence economic performance. Here's what was happening at the time:

- Mikhail Gorbachev replaces Konstantin Chernenko as leader of the Soviet Union.
- Earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 rocks Mexico City and kills 10,000 people, leaving over 250,000 homeless.
- Mikhail Gorbachev (leader of the Soviet Union) and Ronald Reagan (President of the United States) meet for the first time.
- Ernie Wise makes the first mobile phone call in the UK.

Raw data for these calculations comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index (CPI), established in 1913. Inflation data from 1665 to 1912 is sourced from a historical study conducted by political science professor Robert Sahr at Oregon State University.

You may use the following MLA citation for this page: “$29,500 in 1985 → 2021 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 6 Dec. 2021, https://www.officialdata.org/us/inflation/1985?amount=29500.

Special thanks to QuickChart for their chart image API, which is used for chart downloads.

in2013dollars.com is a reference website maintained by the Official Data Foundation.

Cumulative price change | 157.05% |

Average inflation rate | 2.66% |

Converted amount ($29,500 base) | $75,830.63 |

Price difference ($29,500 base) | $46,330.63 |

CPI in 1985 | 107.600 |

CPI in 2021 | 276.589 |

Inflation in 1985 | 3.56% |

Inflation in 2021 | 6.22% |

$29,500 in 1985 | $75,830.63 in 2021 |