What’s In A Trillion?

In Money, Time on February 12, 2009 at 10:12 am

I can never seem to wrap my head around the concept of a trillion. (I can’t a billion either, but let’s go for broke.) I still can’t but these analogies help:

  1. One trillion stacked dollars would reach one quarter of the way to the moon (60,000 miles–which I can’t imagine either).
  2. If you spent one million dollars a day from the time Jesus was born, it would take until October 2737 to spend one trillion.
  3. A million seconds was 12 days ago. A billion seconds ago was 1959. A trillion seconds was 31,688 years ago.
  4. One trillion dollars could pave the entire U.S. highway system with 23.5 karat gold leaf.
  5. If your income since 2006 was $58,000, it would take 17,232,763 years to make a trillion.
  6. A trillion dollars would give every high school student in this country a free college education.

(See more examples here.)

I used to think that a million was unfathomable. Now I know that even though a million dollars could support me for 10-20 years depending upon my expenses (more, really, because of compound interest), in many parts of the country that would only buy one or two houses. Even in relatively inexpensive areas, it would only buy a little more than four. When I watch HGTV, I’m amazed–and appalled–at what other people are able to pay for their homes. Where do these people get their money?

I get scared when I see projections that say I need $2 million after I retire if I live another 20 years, because no way will I have even close to that. A trillion dollars would support 500 million people at that rate. I won’t have one fifteenth of that.  So how could someone like me even begin to understand the scope of a trillion?


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