Billion used to be a big number in the United States, but today trillion is tossed around with increasing regularity. We could use your help communicating its significance.
Whether it’s the $14.3 trillion public debt or the $62 trillion owed for the government’s unfunded liabilities, the number is so large that many folks have no real comprehension of what it means. How, then, do you convey its size?
Over the past year, my colleague Bill Beach and I have traveled to several cities across the country to talk about the debt crisis. Our audience is the Debt-Paying Generation, young professionals under 40 who are on course to inherit a country plagued by unprecedented levels of debt.
Talking about these large numbers can be a challenge, so we tackle the trillion-dollar question early on. A few examples of how we explain it:
- 1,000 billion
- $1,000,000,000,000 (that’s 12 zeros)
- At $45.8 million per year, LeBron James would need to work 21,843 years
- Average life in the U.S. lasts 2.4 billion seconds
- One billion seconds ago = 1979
- One trillion seconds ago = 29,700 BC
Some of these work better than others depending on how you relate to large numbers. So as we prepare for our next presentation in Raleigh, NC, on Thursday night, we have a question for you: How would you explain $1 trillion?
Please leave a comment below with any examples.
UPDATE — June 17, 9:07 a.m.: Thanks for all of the suggestions. Beach and I had a great presentation in Raleigh last night and used some of these to explain the size of a trillion dollars. Click here to view our presentation.