Visualizing Just How Much A Billion Dollars Is

A million dollars isn't as impressive as it used to be. Today it's all about becoming a billionaire. Here's just how much a billion dollars is!


In his song, “Billionaire,” Bruno Mars sings about how badly he wants to join the elite group of people who make ordinary millionaires seem like peasants. What does it mean, however, in day-to-day terms, to be a billionaire?

How much purchasing power does one billion dollars really provide? And more importantly, from a statistical standpoint, how likely is Bruno Mars to have his wish of wealth come true? Let's find out now!


So, how many billionaires are there? While a billion dollars can buy a lot of things, one thing it can't buy is a football stadium filled with billionaires. Why? Because as of May 2018, for instance, there are only 2,208 billionaires in the world.

In the U S, there are only 585 billionaires in total, but there are more in China, which has 819. That means all the billionaires in the world would severely under-fill any average stadium.


To put things into perspective, off America’s coasts, there are over 13,000 manatees. This means that there are 26 times more of the endangered water mammal around the coast than billionaires on land.

To put things in more serious terms, however, the chances of you being a billionaire, by current world population figures, is roughly 1 in 3 and a half million (1/(2208/7600000000).

In contrast, the chances of you getting struck by lightning are 1 in 700,000, which means you’re five times more likely to encounter a lightly-fried lightning strike victim before you run into a billionaire.


While we know the chances of becoming a billionaire are as small as their fortunes are large, have you ever considered exactly what it means to have a billion dollars? The following list outlines ten examples of what exactly it means to have a billion dollars!

10. You’d be Richer than 13 Nations!

The individual Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, of the world's 13 poorest countries amounts to less than the net worth of a billionaire. Island nations St. Kitts and Nevis bring in modest yearly incomes that would leave some American CEOs wondering how they manage to pay for the country's yacht club fees.


A billion dollars is so much that, not only do entire countries not manage to make it, but some places on Earth wouldn't have that much capital even after pooling their wealth with that of other states in their income bracket.

The combined purchasing power of the four poorest countries on Earth - Tuvalu, Kiribati, The Marshall Islands, and Palau - would still be 254 million dollars shy of the watermark for billionaire status!


9. You Could Stack it HIGH

The physical dimensions of a billion dollars is impressive, to say the least. If doled out in hundred-dollar bills piled on top of one another vertically, the resulting stack would ascend a staggering 3,585 feet!


If this sounds like a mountain of money to you, the reason why is because that altitude puts some actual summits to shame! England's Highest Mountain, Scafell Pike, at 3208 feet, is nearly 400 feet below the peaks of wealth created by our hypothetical billion in Benjamins.

Height, however, is not the only dimension in which a billion dollars is astonishing. At 20,000 pounds, a billion dollars worth of hundred dollar bills tips the scales at over twice the weight of an average killer whale.


And if that boggles your mind, imagine the height of a stack of dollar bills. That stack would reach over 400,000 feet in height, poking out into space, which according to the US, starts at 330,000 feet.

If you thought that was big, imagine a trillion dollars. The height of a stack of one trillion one dollar bills will measure 67,866 miles. This would reach more than one-fourth the way from the earth to the moon.


8. You Could Buy 5,000 Houses

At $188,900, the median cost of a home in America would hardly make a billionaire bat an eye. In fact, a billionaire could purchase a thousand houses at the median cost, and still have 23 times more money left over than the entire GDP of Tuvalu.


With statistics like these, it's almost a wonder why no billionaire has ever purchased Tuvalu and then built a thousand houses upon it.

Or, for billionaires with less of an imperialist streak, becoming acquainted with the scope of their wealth could be accomplished by buying 5,000 new homes. With this amount of abodes, they could sleep in a new house every night and not have to use one they’ve already used before, for a period of almost 14 years!


7. You Could Buy a New Castle Every Day for a Year

While experts have a hard time agreeing on the exact cost of the “average” castle, the most commonly used metric to estimate their costs is to multiply the cost of the average normal, non-drawbridge-sporting home by 12. Basically, that’s the historical cost comparison between castles and homes.


At a rate of $188,900 for the average home, we can see that the cost of a castle should land somewhere near $2.3 million. At this rate, a billionaire could afford to stock his or her kingdom with over 430 castles.

That's more than enough for over a year and two months of new castles every day. Though, they might want to buy only 300 to save enough money to cover the water bill for the moats!


6. You Could Live an Ordinary Life for an Extraordinarily Long Time

The average Joe makes a median, personal income of $31,099 every year. To put in perspective how little this is relative to a billion dollars, consider the following: If a billionaire gave an average American just 1 penny out of every dollar they had, the recipient of those pennies would find themselves with 10 million dollars, or 322 times richer than they were originally!


If a billionaire decided to put themselves on a financial diet and restrict their yearly spending to match the limits of the common man, they could live without running out of money for 32,155 years. However, I suspect that they’d have to invest a far greater amount than the average salary to purchase the therapies necessary to live 32 millennia.

5. You Could Buy All Remaining Wild Tigers - And Clone Them!

Years of poaching and habitat decline have reduced the number of wild tigers to thresholds almost as low as those of wild billionaires. With only 3200 of the 100,000 tigers that once roamed the jungles remaining, something needs to be done to increase their population.


Fortunately, at market rates of $7500 per big cat, assuming the laws of economics don’t apply, and not taking into account costs of upkeep, a billionaire could afford to buy 42 times the entire stock that exists…. If that’s even possible.


But, it is! With average cloning rates at an all-time low of $150,000, he or she could afford to clone all of his or her new cats without losing their billionaire status – if you round upwards, as they’ll still be worth 520 million dollars after they clone 3200 cats.

4. You Could Go to Space Every day For a Decade

With only 566 people having visited space throughout recorded history, becoming an astronaut is one of the few things that's less likely than becoming a billionaire.

However, now that Virgin Galactic offers the opportunity to venture to infinity and beyond for about the same amount as an average cloned tiger, it's likely that the number of billionaires taking flight will, quite literally, take off.

Deposits for Virgin Galactic’s foray into the final frontier start for as little as $250,000. At costs this low, a billionaire could start their day with coffee and a space flight every day for more than a decade before their finances hit a black hole.


Though private space travel has only been offered until now by the Russian Space Agency, Virgin Galactic’s growing number of deposits means that the days of aristo-nauts zipping through the stratosphere are looming on the horizon.

3. You could be the Richest Person in Zimbabwe

The nation of Zimbabwe is known for its big game reserves, unspoiled wilderness, and majestic waterfalls. However, while it's known for its wealth of natural resources, it's not famous for its booming coffers.

Indeed, this culturally and environmentally rich nation is hardly a South-of-the-Equator Silicon Valley, and its inhabitants, much like the rest of Africa, lead lives whose fulfillment comes less from money and more from the ample assortment of natural wonders surrounding them.


As a result, Zimbabwe's richest man has a net worth of $600 million, according to Forbes. Though this amount is hardly something to scoff at, it pales in comparison to the waves of green that swell from the endless well that is a billionaire's bank account.

Consequently, a billionaire tired of being one out of more than five hundred can move to Zimbabwe where their wealth will put them in a financial weight class of their own.


2. You Could Place a Belt of Dollar Bills Around the Earth

Mother Earth is a woman with curves, and with a circumference of 24,901 miles, her midsection is far from petite. Perhaps as a result of the Earth's size, historical attempts to adorn it with belts have relied on imaginary circles, such as The Equator.

However, a modern-day billionaire could trace a trail of dollar bills three times around the planet before having to ask his or her friend for some extra cash, though I'd imagine friends would be less than sympathetic to the cause after hearing of how they blew their fortune on a belt of bills.


At 6.14 inches in length a piece, it would take over 256 million singles (256,958,853 ) to cover Earth's 1.57 billion (1,577,727,360 ) inch circumference. Though I'm not sure why anyone would want to spend over 250 million dollars to turn the Equator into a belly dancer’s belt, I bet it’d give them something interesting to observe during their daily space flights.

1. You Could Start a Private Air Force

For as little as 85 million dollars, a person can purchase a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. This space-age testament to the evolution of modern aeronautics is truly a marvel to behold: its features include short-distance and vertical take-offs, max speeds of 1200 mph, and more missiles than you could shake a stick at.


These airborne hotrods are the Navy's ride of choice, and, if you were a billionaire, you could own a new one for every day of the week. Why might you need your own private air force fleet, you may ask?

Well, in the event that you took my earlier suggestion and decided to take a swing at cloning-based tiger conservation - you might need a powerful way of asserting your dominance over neighborhood poachers. Or, perhaps, you just need a way to incentivize your daughter’s prom date to treat her well.


So, as you’ve seen, a billion dollars is more money than most people will ever see in their lifetimes. It's a monumental amount of money that can fund activities and ideas whose extravagance and eccentricity make for the stuff of legends. Thanks for reading.

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