No doubt you have talked or thought about what you might do if you had a million dollars.
Actually, one of the first pieces I ever wrote for this newspaper was about how a million dollars, which it sounds like a lot on its face, doesn’t go as far as it seems it should. That was more than 10 years ago, and now it rings more true than ever. In fact, lots of people are millionaires these days, so having a million dollars isn’t what it used to be.
We have more than a million millionaires in Canada, according to The Globe and Mail, many of those in the tens and hundreds of millions. Most professional athletes are millionaires, as are big time CEOs, along with lots of doctors, lawyers, and business people. I’m sure there are plenty of unsuspecting, blue collar people as well, who either hit the lotto or invested wisely, or who are just good at managing their money. We probably have some millionaires right here in the Strait area.
So because millionaires aren’t as anomalous anymore, maybe we should talk about what it would be like if we were given a billion dollars. Even that isn’t as rare as you might think.
The number of billionaires has doubled in the last five years – we now have about 1,700 billionaires in the world, with 540 in the United States. China is in second with 251, then Germany with 120, Canada with 90, India with 84, and Russia with 77. Impressive numbers all around, but the U.S. is clearly dominating in wealth.
Exactly how much is a billion? A billion is 1,000 million. Can you imagine? To put it in perspective, let’s say you were given a billion dollars in one-dollar bills and were told to count them to make sure you were given the right amount. Do you know how long would it take you to count to a billion, one dollar per second? The answer is about 32 years.
How much would a billion dollars weigh? If it were in denominations of $100 bills, $1 billion would weigh 10 tonnes. (A semi-trailer can haul about 40 tonnes.)
A billion minutes ago Jesus walked the earth. A billion months ago, dinosaurs walked the earth. A billion inches is halfway around the earth. Now try to imagine those numbers in terms of Loonies.
Hard to wrap your head around that amount, isn’t it? This is why billionaires don’t hesitate to spend tens of millions on property or artwork or whatever, it’s a drop in the bucket for them.
And who are some of the billionaires, you might be wondering? The guy from Reuters, David Thompson, has the highest net worth of all the Canadians on the billionaires list, with over $30 billion, and he’s followed by the Loblaws guy, an Irving, and the owner of Rogers. To our south, Bill Gates is worth about $80 billion, with Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerman close behind.
Once upon a time, people would tell their children they could grow up to be President of the United States, but considering the money you need to run I’m not sure if that’s true anymore. Barack Obama was a millionaire before taking office, and Donald Trump is worth between $3 billion to $5 billion (no one knows for sure how much). Even the First Lady, Melania, is worth about $50 million earned during her modeling career, so she’s no slouch herself.
You don’t even necessarily have to be a good person to be a billionaire (I point this out in case the example of Trump didn’t drive that point home). Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar became the richest criminal in history when he accumulated $30 billion during his life as the leader of a drug cartel. After “making” all that money, the police caught him and shot him dead, so it didn’t do him much good.
So what does all of this mean, other than that it’s just kind of fun to know how much a billion is and who is a billionaire? It’s just something to aspire to. Then, if you fall short, you might still have a few million to throw around.