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Million ~ Billion ~ Trillion ... What's the Diff?

Updated on August 23, 2017

A Trillion Can't Be THAT Much More, Can It?

Million, billion, trillion ... all big numbers. A trillion is just a bigger number, right? True ... but it may be bigger than you think. A million is hard enough to imagine, much less a billion. We need some perspective on what these unimaginable numbers really mean.

Let's Measure a Trillion in Numbers

We'll start simple: how big is a trillion on paper?

1,000 = one thousand

1,000,000 = one million

1,000,000,000 = one billion

1,000,000,000,000 = one trillion

A million is equal to a thousand thousands (1,000 x 1,000).

A billion is equal to a thousand millions
(1,000 x 1,000,000).

A trillion is equal to

a thousand billions

(1,000 x 1,000,000,000)

or a million millions

(1,000,000 x 1,000,000).

How Much Is a $100 Million Budget Cut? - Obama promised to cut $100 million from his multi-trillion budget.

A Monetary History of the United States - by Milton Friedman & Anna Jacobsen Schwartz

Friedman and Schwartz's explanation of the Great Depression was rejected for many decades, but is now the accepted explanation for what happened. Since we appear to be repeating that history, it might be smart to read their assessment!

A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960
A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960

A monumental scholarly accomplishment. . . . [sets] a new standard for the writing of monetary history. (The Economic Journal)


Let's Measure a Trillion in Time

How Long Ago Is a Trillion Seconds?

If you count backward, then:

1 million seconds = 12 days ago

1 billion seconds = 31 years ago

1 trillion seconds = 30,000 B.C.

(give or take a decade or two)

How Much Is a Billion Dollar Debt? - We bypassed billion long ago. How much more is a trillion?

How Much Is a Million? - by David Schwarz

This colorful and entertaining book is as helpful for adults as it is for children, as Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician graphically illustrates the magnitude of and differences between a million, a billion, and a trillion.

How Much Is a Million? 20th Anniversary Edition (Reading Rainbow Books)
How Much Is a Million? 20th Anniversary Edition (Reading Rainbow Books)

Marvelosissimo demonstrates the meaning of a million by showing his young friends that it would take twenty-three days to even count to a million and that a goldfish bowl large enough to hold a million goldfish could hold a whale. Seven pages are printed with tiny white stars on a grid pattern against a blue sky -- adding up to only one hundred thousand stars! And after that, a billion and a trillion are discussed, all with equally or even more outstanding examples; a trillion children standing on each other's shoulders would almost reach to the rings of Saturn. An unusual idea, smoothly and amusingly presented.


Let's Measure a Trillion in Height

How high is a trillion in $1000 bills?

If you stack a trillion-worth of $1000 bills together, then:

1 million dollars = 4 inches high

1 billion dollars = 364 feet high

1 trillion dollars = 63 miles high

(give or take a foot or two)

Note that this is a STACK, not laid end-to-end.

Capitalism and Freedom - by Milton Friedman

Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition
Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition

How can we benefit from the promise of government while avoiding the threat it poses to individual freedom? In this classic book, Milton Friedman provides the definitive statement of his immensely influential economic philosophy - one in which competitive capitalism serves as both a device for achieving economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom. The result is an accessible text that has sold well over half a million copies in English, has been translated into eighteen languages, and shows every sign of becoming more and more influential as time goes on.


How Much Is a Trillion Dollar Bailout? - What could you do with trillion dollars?

Is a multi-trillion-dollar debt acceptable? - Our current budget is slated not for ONE trillion of debt but approximately TEN trillion of debt.

We were unable to pay off a debt that rose into the billions in recent years. Now we are rapidly spending our way toward not just a trillion-dollar debt, but a TEN-trillion-dollar debt. How will our children pay this off?

Let's Measure a Trillion in Distance

How far would you have to walk?

If you stack a trillion-worth of $1000 bills together and lay it down, then:

1 million dollars = less than half the length of your foot

1 billion dollars = the length of a football field

1 trillion dollars = the distance from Springfield MA to Albany NY

(give or take a foot or two)

Note that this is a STACK, not laid end-to-end.

Million ~ Billion ~ Trillion - Shown in stacks of $1000 bills

Brewster's Millions DVD - We'd all like to have Richard Pryor's problem: Spend money to make more!

Brewster's Millions
Brewster's Millions

Richard Pryor is Montgomery Brewster, a minor league baseball pitcher who discovers he has to blow $30 million on 30 days as a condition to inherit a much greater fortune. Here's the catch: He will forfeit everything if he reveals to a soul the real reason he seems to be throwing away all that cash. With the help of his pal Spike (John Candy), they set off on a frantic spending spree the likes of which would bring any self-respecting accountant to his knees.


How Many Trillionaires?

If there are billionaires, it must be a short step to trillionaire, right?

How many super-wealthy people are out there?

millionaires = too many to count

billionaires = about 1,000 in the world

trillionaires = NONE, ever


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    • profile image

      SAMMAIAH M 24 months ago

      Million 1 000 000

      Billion. 1 000 000 000

      Trillion1 000 000 000 000

      ? 1 000 000 000 000 000

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 2 years ago from Royalton

      We may no longer strive to be the first person to land on the moon but I see that we can still strive to be the first trillionaire. The twelve zeros are no problem. Now I just have to get that one into the 13th column! LOL :)

    • profile image

      nikhilrajurkar 3 years ago

      1000 trillion equal how

    • profile image

      nikhilrajurkar 3 years ago

      1000 trillion equal how

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      thanks for such a nice and interesting info...

    • profile image

      mstcourtjester 5 years ago

      Great lens! : Keep up the good work and good luck Squidooing...:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have one word for you , Rothschild- Look up this family. net worth $600 trillion.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      wow relief frm confusion

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      wow relief frm confusion

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great for understanding big numbers but what did Milton Friedman do in there?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      No Trillionairs? The central banks (FED, Bank of England) are privately owned, who owns them and how much are they worth?

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 5 years ago from Missouri

      Wow. Incredible lens. Blessings.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      These videos have cinched my vote for Ron Paul. I really couldn't conceptualize what a trillion dollars looked like because I had no standard to go on. I'm truly overwhelmed by $15 trillion in accrued national debt.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 6 years ago from Royalton

      Numbers are amazing. A zero means nothing until it is a place holder for a number like a trillion. How can we understand a trillion? I can't even really get a grip on 63 miles let alone a stack of bills 63 miles high. Great lens for exploring a trillion.

      Thank you for linking to my lens about a billion. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very well done lens. I'm afraid most people don't understand how big our national debt is in terms of how long it would take to get back to even.

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 6 years ago

      Excellent lens and Blessed by a Squid Angel today!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      (Finally!) featured on Learning and Teaching Math Headquarters.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Fantastic lens! It's great for kids and adults alike to visualize/conceptualize these amazingly huge numbers.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      We are out of control that is for sure!!! Thanks for putting this into some perspective.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago


      King Solomon, was very very rich in gold!

      But, Rothschilds family are claimining to be richer than king Solomom? what do you think?

      Sonof man

    • Twmarsh profile image

      Twmarsh 7 years ago

      Really makes one think. Great, insightful five star lens!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 8 years ago

      Excellent topic and lens. We need more gov. responsibility on spending. if we don't stop now, we will live a miserable life to our children and grandchildren as somebody have to pay in future for what we waist now.

      Thanks for creating this debate.

    • puzzlerpaige profile image

      puzzlerpaige 8 years ago

      I love your examples that give examples we are familiar with. Like the time example: 12 days, 31 years, 30,000 BC. Excellent.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

      Nicely done; interesting topic. Blessed.

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 8 years ago

      Very interesting lens

    • drifter0658 lm profile image

      drifter0658 lm 8 years ago

      What can I say? This was truly an amazing explanation of how heavy the debt is.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Very information. You did a good example of government waste.

    • profile image

      Joan4 8 years ago

      Excellent explanation of numbers we don't even hear anymore - we simply have become numb. And yet facts are facts. Scary!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      My goodness you've shown such a good example of what a trillion actually looks like.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 8 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Wow. Very informative! Maybe each of us should send this link to our members of Congress, not to mention to the guy in the oval office.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      Wow! A trillion is BIG! Thanks for putting that into perspective. I want to get A Monetary History of the United States.