US Federal debt is about $13 trillion, the deficit about $1.4 trillion, state pensions are underfunded by about $3 trillion. Trillion is definitely the new billion. But with all these headlines, we can lose track of how much a trillion really is. I recently came across one nice description (a slight edit of an excerpt from a piece by Barry Habib, Chairman, Mortgage Success Source):
“Picture a stack of $100 bills. It might surprise you to know that it only takes a stack four inches high to be worth $100,000. So $1,000,000 would be a stack of $100 bills 40 inches tall. How about a Billion? Well, you would have to stack $100 bills up to the top of the Empire State Building…twice…in order to reach a Billion. So to picture $1 Trillion represented by a stack of $100 bills – that stack would be 680 miles high. If you could turn that stack on its side and were able to drive alongside it, it would take you longer than 11 hours to reach the end. If you laid those $100 bills down side by side, they would travel around the world 40 times.”
Perhaps a more economic way of thinking about a trillion is that it is about 10% of what all Americans spend on consumer goods and services in a year, or about $7,500 per individual tax return. Big numbers.