Humans struggle to understand large numbers. We may have hundreds, or even thousands of certain objects in our lives or our homes. (Like my house has hundreds of Pokemon cards right now). You might be watching your retirement savings grow, and chances are it’s in the thousands period of numbers right now.

We don’t need to count that high, or travel further than thousands of kilometres, which is how we might measure the distance around our planet. Space distances are incomprehensible.

But this post is about the incomprehensibility of being a billionaire. What does it mean to be a billionaire?

Think of a pile of money. Think about how many pennies it takes to make a dollar. Now think about how many Loonies to make $100. You can do it, right?

Now think about $1000, then $10000, then $100000. Can you do it? Does the pile of loonies fill the room you are in?

Here is all of that consolidated in one coin, the million dollar coin at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Now that you have unitized- exchanged one million dollar coins for a million dollar coin, can you now imagine how many of these coins are needed to make one billion dollars?

One billion is a thousand million, or a thousand million dollar coins.

Here is a list of the world’s billionaires.

Bill Gates has $75 billion. He has 75 000 one million dollar coins, in theory. How long would it take to give away his fortune, if he gave away a million dollar coin every single day? A very very long time.

He would notice giving away a million dollar coin less than you would notice giving away a dollar a day, I might hypothesize, but I can’t prove it.

Large numbers are large, and billionaires have a lot of money.

I realized after I wrote this, that Critical Math has another related piece that gets us to think about how much money Mr. Gates has. Read it!

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