Growth5 Blog

Monday, April 13, 2009

How Much is a Trillion?

Who would've thought that the word "trillion" would just roll off our tongues so casually when talking about money. When President Obama or Tim Geithner or Ben Bernanke speak publicly about the economy and taxpayers help, the word "trillion" is commonplace. How bad is it when politicians put the word "only" before a number and the word "billion" - is that supposed to make us feel better? put together the graphic representation below. The images do a great job of providing context as to how much money a trillion dollars really is...

"We'll start with a $100 dollar bill. Currently the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, slightly fewer have owned them. Guaranteed to make friends wherever they go.


A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000. Fits in your pocket easily and is more than enough for week or two of shamefully decadent fun.


Believe it or not, this next little pile is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it.

$1,000,000 (one million dollars)

While a measly $1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million is a little more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet...

$100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars)

And $1 BILLION dollars... now we're really getting somewhere...

$1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars)

Next we'll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is that number we've been hearing so much about. What is a trillion dollars? Well, it's a million million. It's a thousand billion. It's a one followed by 12 zeros.

You ready for this?

It's pretty surprising.

Ladies and gentlemen... I give you $1 trillion dollars... (our red-shirted friend/guide is standing at the bottom left corner)

$1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars)

Notice those pallets are double stacked.
...and remember those are $100 bills.

So the next time you hear someone toss around the phrase "trillion dollars"... that's what they're talking about."

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At April 13, 2009 at 5:55 PM , Blogger jake said...

XKCD provides an important reminder as well;
1 Million X 1,000 = 1 Billion.

At April 13, 2009 at 6:18 PM , Blogger Robert Beal said...

Great point Jake. As this graph illustrates there is obviously a HUGE difference between one million, billion and trillion. However, sometimes the press likes to use the fact that they sound alike over the air and/or look alike in print to make them seem the same to support whatever point they are making. Like the TARP to-date vs. the AIG bonus amounts.


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