Money makes the world go round, as they say, and billions of people use it every day. Most of us think of money as coins and notes that we can swap or exchange for goods and services. But if we think of money as being ‘wealth’, then that would include all the things we have that are of value – like houses, businesses, savings accounts, stocks and shares, and other resources – as well as the cash (the notes and coins) in our pockets.
So, have you ever wondered how much money there is in the world? Is it even possible to count it all? And how far would it go? It’s a question that’s tricky to answer but let’s have a go and see if we can work it out…
There is a system of money (or a ‘currency‘) in every country. Currencies are known by different names but they are all used to give a value or price to things. In the United Kingdom, where I live, our currency is called ‘pound sterling‘ (with the symbol £). It is made up of pounds and pennies. Each pound is made up of 100 pennies, which makes it an easy currency to count and do maths with.
And currencies can be compared with each other to give an ‘exchange rate‘, which tells you what one unit of currency in one country is worth in another country. For example, one pound sterling (£1.00) is currently worth about 1.34 US dollars ($1.34)*.
So, to work out how much money there is in the world, we have to count all the different kinds of money there are in all the different currencies. This includes:
- Cash – all the notes and coins in all the currencies
- All the money in bank accounts
- All the money in savings accounts and personal investments
- All the money tied-up in money market funds and long-term deposits
Some of this is ‘real’ money that you can hold in your hand and some of it is ‘imaginary’ money that people use to deal with enormous things, like houses.
Lots of people have tried to work out how much all of this money would be worth and no-one has come up with a perfect answer. But one estimate puts it at $75 trillion (that’s 75 million million or 75,000,000,000,000 US dollars)!
If you were able to get all of that money together in $1 notes and stack them up into a tower, the pile would be more than 50 million miles high** – which is further than the distance between the planets Earth and Mars!
*I worked out this exchange rate on 30 September 2017.
**A $1 bill is 0.043 inches thick and there are 63360 inches per mile. So, I multplied 0.043 by 75 trillion then divided by 63360 to get an answer of 50,899,621 miles.