Inflation Insurance

Zvi Bodie

NBER Working Paper No. 3009
Issued in June 1989
NBER Program(s):Monetary Economics

A contract to insure $1 against inflation is equivalent to a European call option on the consumer price index. When there is no deductible this call option is equivalent to a forward contract on the CPI. Its price is the difference between the prices of a zero coupon real bond and a zero coupon nominal bond, both free of default risk. Provided that the risk-free real rate of interest is positive, the price of such an inflation insurance policy first rises and then falls with time to maturity. It is a decreasing function of the real interest rate and an increasing function of both the expected rate of inflation and the real risk premium on nominal bonds.

When a deductible is introduced, the insurance policy can no longer be priced like a CPI forward contract. The option feature has its greatest value when the deductible is close to the forward rate of inflation, defined as the difference between the risk-free nominal and real interest rates. Such inflation insurance contracts are priced using the model developed by Black-Merton-Scholes. Pricing an inflation insurance policy with a cap requires only a minor modification of the model.

The approach presented in this paper permits fairly precise quantification of the cost of implementing proposals to index pension benefits for inflation. It also gives us a way of estimating the savings to the Social Security system that would result from introducing a deductible.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w3009

Published: The Journal of Risk and Insurance, December 1990.

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