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$20 Trillion of U.S. Debt Visualized Using Stacks of $100 Bills



For most people, our experiences in everyday life are with using lower numbers like one, two, or ten. We not only comprehend what it means to buy five apples, but we can also visualize exactly what that might look like. In other words, these are numbers that fall within a range that is very intuitive for most humans.

Extrapolate that a little higher and we can still comprehend the numbers, but we start to lose that intuition.

Are there 1,500 or 2,000 people at a music venue? It’s hard to know for sure, but we do at least have a basic comprehension of the sizes of those numbers. Every day, we do math with numbers in the thousands – a paycheck, a credit card bill, or paying rent.

Millions, billions, trillions

This is where things start to get dodgy. Once numbers get beyond the millions, we don’t really have any intuition, tactile familiarity, or comprehension of what they mean.

For example:

  • One million seconds = 12 days
  • One billion seconds = 32 years
  • One trillion seconds = 32,000 years

Going back in time a trillion seconds would place you well before written history, the building of the pyramids, and 10,000 years before the first cave wall paintings in France.

Our monkey brains don’t really know what to do with these giant abstractions, and so it helps to think about them in different ways, especially visually.

The Visual Interpretation

Looking at visual representations of these numbers will help to put them in perspective.

Below is a series of fantastic 3d graphics produced by that help to do this for the $20 trillion in U.S. Federal Government debt. It starts with a $100 bill, and goes from there. Enjoy!

1. Here is a single $100 bill.

A single $100 bill

2. Here is $10,000, or 100 of those same bills in a stack.

$10,000 or 100 of those bills

3. $1 million, or equal to 92 years of work for the average human on Earth.

$1 million visualized in $100 bills

4. $100 million on a pallet. The couch is worth a cool $46.7 million, too.

$100 million visualized in $100 bills

5. $1 Billion – getting bigger…

$1 billion visualized in $100 bills

6. $1 trillion, looking at it from a front angle.

$1 trillion visualized in $100 bills

7. Here’s a better view of the $1 trillion with the White House.

$1 trillion visualized in $100 bills

8. Finally, here’s $20+ trillion of U.S. government debt.

$20 trillion in U.S. government debt

For more on putting the U.S. debt in perspective, here’s a video showing Trump’s $20 trillion problem, as well as visualizing the debt from a more 2d perspective.

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Central Banks

$69 Trillion of World Debt in One Infographic

What share of government world debt does each country owe? See it all broken down in this stunning visualization.



$69 Trillion of World Debt in One Infographic

Two decades ago, total government debt was estimated to sit at $20 trillion.

Since then, according to the latest figures by the IMF, the number has ballooned to $69.3 trillion with a debt to GDP ratio of 82% — the highest totals in human history.

Which countries owe the most money, and how do these figures compare?

The Regional Breakdown

Let’s start by looking at the continental level, to get an idea of how world debt is divided from a geographical perspective:

RegionDebt to GDPGross Debt (Millions of USD)% of Total World Debt
Asia and Pacific79.8%$24,12034.8%
North America100.4%$23,71034.2%
South America75.0%$2,6993.9%

In absolute terms, over 90% of global debt is concentrated in North America, Asia Pacific, and Europe — meanwhile, regions like Africa, South America, and other account for less than 10%.

This is not surprising, since advanced economies hold most of the world’s debt (about 75.4%), while emerging or developing economies hold the rest.

World Debt by Country

Now let’s look at individual countries, according to data released by the IMF in October 2019.

It’s worth mentioning that the following numbers are representative of 2018 data, and that for a tiny subset of countries (i.e. Syria) we used the latest available numbers as an estimate.

RankCountryDebt to GDPGross Debt ($B)% of World Total
#1🇺🇸 United States104.3%$21,46531.0%
#2🇯🇵 Japan237.1%$11,78817.0%
#3🇨🇳 China, People's Republic of50.6%$6,7649.8%
#4🇮🇹 Italy132.2%$2,7444.0%
#5🇫🇷 France98.4%$2,7363.9%
#6🇬🇧 United Kingdom86.8%$2,4553.5%
#7🇩🇪 Germany61.7%$2,4383.5%
#8🇮🇳 India68.1%$1,8512.7%
#9🇧🇷 Brazil87.9%$1,6422.4%
#10🇨🇦 Canada89.9%$1,5402.2%
#11🇪🇸 Spain97.1%$1,3862.0%
#12🇲🇽 Mexico53.6%$6550.9%
#13🇰🇷 Korea, Republic of37.9%$6520.9%
#14🇦🇺 Australia41.4%$5880.8%
#15🇧🇪 Belgium102.0%$5430.8%
#26Russian Federation14.6%$2420.3%
#33South Africa56.7%$2090.3%
#34Taiwan Province of China35.1%$2070.3%
#40Saudi Arabia19.0%$1490.2%
#53Czech Republic32.6%$79.90.12%
#54United Arab Emirates19.1%$79.10.11%
#58Sri Lanka83.3%$74.10.11%
#61New Zealand29.8%$60.50.09%
#63Puerto Rico55.5%$56.10.08%
#65Slovak Republic48.9%$52.10.08%
#69Dominican Republic50.5%$43.20.06%
#77Costa Rica53.5%$32.30.05%
#84Côte d'Ivoire53.2%$22.90.03%
#93El Salvador67.1%$17.50.03%
#105Lao P.D.R.57.2%$10.40.01%
#107Congo, Republic of87.8%$10.20.01%
#108Trinidad and Tobago45.1%$10.20.01%
#115Papua New Guinea35.5%$8.20.01%
#116Bahamas, The63.3%$7.90.01%
#119Congo, Dem. Rep. of the15.3%$7.20.01%
#121Bosnia and Herzegovina34.3%$6.90.01%
#127Burkina Faso42.9%$6.10.01%
#128Equatorial Guinea43.3%$5.90.01%
#132North Macedonia40.5%$5.10.01%
#136Kyrgyz Republic56.0%$4.50.01%
#148Sierra Leone63.0%$2.60.00%
#152Cabo Verde124.5%$2.50.00%
#157South Sudan, Republic of42.2%$1.90.00%
#160Antigua and Barbuda89.5%$1.40.00%
#161Gambia, The86.6%$1.40.00%
#166San Marino77.9%$1.30.00%
#167Saint Lucia64.3%$1.20.00%
#169Central African Republic49.9%$1.10.00%
#173Saint Vincent and the Grenadines74.5%$0.60.00%
#174Saint Kitts and Nevis60.5%$0.60.00%
#178Hong Kong SAR0.1%$0.40.00%
#179Brunei Darussalam2.6%$0.40.00%
#180São Tomé and Príncipe74.5%$0.30.00%
#183Solomon Islands9.4%$0.10.00%
#184Micronesia, Fed. States of20.3%$0.10.00%
#186Marshall Islands25.2%$0.10.00%

In absolute terms, the most indebted nation is the United States, which has a gross debt of $21.5 trillion according to the IMF as of 2018.

If you’re looking for a more precise figure for 2019, the U.S. government’s “Debt to the Penny” dataset puts the amount owing to exactly $23,015,089,744,090.63 as of November 12, 2019.

Of course, the U.S. is also the world’s largest economy in nominal terms, putting the debt to GDP ratio at 104.3%

Other stand outs from the list above include Japan, which has the highest debt to GDP ratio (237.1%), and China , which has increased government debt by almost $2 trillion in just the last two years. Meanwhile, the European economies of Italy and Belgium check the box as other large debtors with ratios topping 100% debt to GDP.

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Central Banks

The Silver Series: The Start of A New Gold-Silver Cycle (Part 1 of 3)

As the decade-long bull run shows signs of slowing, is it time for precious metals to shine? Here’s why it could be the start of a new gold-silver cycle.



The world has experienced a decade of growth fueled by record-low interest rates, a burgeoning money supply, and historic debt levels – but the good times only last so long.

As the global economy slows and eventually begins to retract, can precious metals offer a useful store of value to investors?

Part 1: The Start of a New Cycle

Today’s infographic comes to us from Endeavour Silver, and it outlines some key indicators that precede a coming gold-silver cycle in which exposure to hard assets may help to protect wealth.

The Start of a New Gold-Silver Cycle

Bankers Blowing Bubbles

Since 2008, central bankers around the world launched a historic market intervention by printing money and bailing out major banks. With cheap and abundant money, this strategy worked so well that it created a bull market in every sector — except for precious metals.

Stock markets, consumer lending, and property values surged. Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s assets ballooned, and so did corporate, government, and household debt. By 2018, total debt reached almost $250 trillion worldwide.

Currency vs. Precious Metals

The world awash in unprecedented amounts of currency, and these dollars chase a limited supply of goods. Historically speaking, it’s only a matter of time before the price of goods increases or inflates – eroding the purchasing power of every dollar.

Gold and silver are some of the only assets unaffected by inflation, retaining their value.

Gold and silver are money… everything else is credit.

– J.P. Morgan

The Perfect Story for a Gold-Silver Cycle?

Investors can use several indicators to gauge the beginning of the gold-silver cycle:

  1. Gold/Silver Futures

    Most traders do not trade physical gold and silver, but paper contracts with the promise to buy at a future price. Every week, U.S. commodity exchanges publish the Commitment of Traders “COT” report. This report summarizes the positions (long/short) of traders for a particular commodity.

    Typically, speculators are long and commercial traders are short the price of gold and silver. However, when speculators and commercial traders positions reach near zero, there is usually a big upswing in the price of silver.

  2. Gold-to-Silver Ratio Compression

    As the difference between gold and silver prices decreases (i.e. the compression of the ratio), history suggests silver prices can make big moves upwards in price. The gold-to-silver ratio compression is now at high levels and may eventually revert to its long-term average, which implies a strong movement in prices is imminent for silver.

  3. Scarcity: Declining Silver Production

    Silver production has been declining despite its growing importance as a safe haven hedge, as well as its use in industrial applications and renewable technologies.

  4. The Silver Exception

    Silver is not just for coins, bars, jewelry and the family silverware. It stands out from gold with its practical industrial uses which account for 56.1% of its annual consumption. Silver will continue to be a critical material in solar technology. While photovoltaics currently account for 8% of annual silver consumption, this is set to change with the dramatic increase in the use of solar technologies.

The Price of Gold and Silver

Forecasting the exact price of gold and silver is not a science, but there are clear signs that point to the direction their prices will head. The prices of gold and silver do not accurately reflect a world awash with cheap and easy money, but now may be their time to shine.

Don’t miss another part of the Silver Series by connecting with Visual Capitalist.

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