How Large is a Trillion?

How Large is a Trillion

NPR  (National Public Radio) presented an amazing and memorable explanation of “how large is a trillion.”

I thought it important to post the information here because we hear “a trillion” this and “a trillion” that thrown around today like it’s nothing. We get so used to hearing it that the meaning becomes insignificant. I’m sure our parents rarely heard it. I bet our grandparents never heard it – certainly not in relation to the economy.

And you may notice that, too often, “trillion” is used when discussing US expenditures or debt. Bummer.

Ok, so how large is a trillion?

  • If you stack up enough $100 bills to make $100,000 – the stack would be 4 inches tall.
  • If you stack up enough $100 bills to make One Million Dollars – $1,000,000 – the stack would be 40″ tall (just over 3 feet).
  • If you stack up enough $100 bills to make One Trillion Dollars – $1,000,000,000,000 – the stack would be 679 miles high.

In case you thought one trillion was just a bit more than one million, you were wrong.  When I first wrote this post in March of 2010, our national debt was quickly approaching $13 trillion. Today, less than four years later, our national debt is over $17 trillion.

The Outstanding Public Debt as of 26 Dec 2013 at 02:28:06 PM GMT was $17,257,742,289,617.93.

Now, next time you hear the word “trillion”, think about what that means.

This post has 5 Comments | Would you like to leave a comment?


  1. Thanks, Marshall. And, thanks for promoting my post!

  2. That is an AMAZING illustration of a trillion. Thanks for sharing it. I will definitely pass that one along.

  3. Thank you, Martin, for your insight!

  4. OK, to help the perspective most people do not look at HOW FAST you can spend money and it be gone before you know it.

    For instance if you spend an average of $1000/ day it would take a little under 3 years to go through 1 million dollars. $1,000,000.00. You say that is silly, how can someone do that?? Consider that you can spend anywhere from $80,000.00 to $250,000.00 for a house alone without thinking about it or $25,000.00, $30,000.00 or more for a car then you can see how it is very possible. (KEEP IN MIND THAT DOES NOT INCLUDE UP KEEP ON THOSE ITEMS)

    To spend a Billion Dollars (which is 1000 Millions) well you do the math. (3 yrs X 1000) right at 3000 yrs.

    Unless I am wrong 1 Trillion is 1000 Billion WELL you get the picture.

    HOW can our government waste that much money??? It is easy when you hire assistants for this and for that each making from 5 to 6 digits incomes.



  5. Mind-boggling and disgusting. Thanks for the perspective. I guess that’s why this is “Karen’s Perspective!”

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