Putting Large Numbers Into Perspective

By: Angela Howard Email
By: Angela Howard Email

Today we hear huge numbers thrown around, such as million, billion, and trillion and it's hard for most of us to comprehend the actual size of those numbers. However, certified financial planner Bruce Hagan says we can do it if we relate them to smaller units.

For instance, earlier this year Congress passed a 787 billion dollar stimulus package, but exactly how big is a billion?

Hagan says a billion seconds ago, it was 1959. A billion hours ago it was the Stone Age. If you took a billion pennies and stacked them on top of each other, it would be a stack about a thousand miles high and would weigh 3,125 tons.

Recently we've added the term trillions to everyone's vocabulary, so how does that compare to a billion?

Again Hagan uses the smaller units method. He says the stack of pennies would be 100 thousand miles high and would weigh 3,125,000 tons.

for example, Hagan gave this example: "Let's say you were given $100,000 to spend each year. It would, of course, take you 10 years to spend a million dollars. It would take you ten thousand years to spend a billion dollars. Let's say we change that to a million per year you get to spend. Spending a million dollars a year, how long would it take you to spend a trillion dollars? It would take you a million years. So when the Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next ten years the U.S. will create additional budget deficits of 9 trillion dollars to go with the almost 12 trillion dollars of existing national debt, that's some serious money any way you break it down."

Many may not want to know, but the number after a trillion ... is a quadrillion.


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