The World’s Most Famous Case of Hyperinflation (Part 2)
For the first infographic in this series, which summarizes the circumstances leading up to hyperinflation in Germany in 1921-1924, it can be found here: Hyperinflation (Part 1 of 2)
“Inflation took the basic law-and-order principles of loyalty and trust to the extreme.” Martin Geyer, Historian.
“As things stand, the only way to finance the cost of fighting the war is to shift the burden into the future through loans.” Karl Helfferich, an economist in 1915.
“There is a point at which printing money affects purchasing power by causing inflation.” Eduard Bernstein, socialist in 1918.
In the two years past World War I, the German government added to the monetary base of the Papiermark by printing money. Economic historian Carl-Ludwig Holtfrerich said that the “lubricant of inflation” helped breathe new life into the private sector.
The mark was trading for a low value against the dollar, sterling and the French franc and this helped to boost exports. Industrial output increased by 20% a year, unemployment fell to below 1 percent in 1922, and real wages rose significantly.
Then, suddenly this “lubricant” turned into a slippery slope: at its most severe, the monthly rate of inflation reached 3.25 billion percent, equivalent to prices doubling every 49 hours.
When did the “lubricant” of inflation turn into a toxic hyperinflationary spiral?
The ultimate trigger for German hyperinflation was the loss of trust in the government’s policy and debt. Foreign markets refused to buy German debt or Papiermarks, the exchange rate depreciated, and the rate of inflation accelerated.
Hyperinflation in Germany left millions of hard-working savers with nothing left.
Over the course of months, what was enough money to start a stable retirement fund was no longer enough to buy even a loaf of bread.
Who was affected?
- The middle class – or Mittelstand – saw the value of their cash savings wiped out before their eyes.
- Wealth was transferred from general public to the government, which issued the money.
- Borrowers gained at the expense of lenders.
- Renters gained at the expense of property owners (In Germany’s case, rent ceilings did not keep pace with general price levels)
- The efficiency of the economy suffered, as people preferred to barter.
- People preferred to hold onto hard assets (commodities, gold, land) rather than paper money, which continually lost value.
Stories of Hyperinflation
During the peak of hyperinflation, workers were often paid twice a day. Workers would shop at midday to make sure their money didn’t lose more value. People burned paper bills in the stove, as they were cheaper than wood or other fuel.
Here some of the stories of ordinary Germans during the world’s most famous case of hyperinflation.
- “The price of tram rides and beef, theater tickets and school, newspapers and haircuts, sugar and bacon, is going up every week,” Eugeni Xammar, a journalist, wrote in February 1923. “As a result no one knows how long their money will last, and people are living in constant fear, thinking of nothing but eating and drinking, buying and selling.”
- A man who drank two cups of coffee at 5,000 marks each was presented with a bill for 14,000 marks. When he asked about the large bill, he was told he should have ordered the coffees at the same time because the price had gone up in between cups.
- A young couple took a few hundred million marks to the theater box office hoping to see a show, but discovered it wasn’t nearly enough. Tickets were now a billion marks each.
- Historian Golo Mann wrote: “The effect of the devaluation of the German currency was like that of a second revolution, the first being the war and its immediate aftermath,” he concluded. Mann said deep-seated faith was being destroyed and replaced by fear and cynicism. “What was there to trust, who could you rely on if such were even possible?” he asked.
Even Worse Cases of Hyperinflation
While the German hyperinflation from 1921-1924 is the most known – it was not the worst episode in history.
In mid-1946, prices in Hungary doubled every fifteen hours, giving an inflation rate of 41.9 quintillion percent. By July 1946, the 1931 gold pengõ was worth 130 trillion paper pengõs.
Peak Inflation Rates:
Germany (1923): 3.5 billion percent
Zimbabwe (2008): 79.6 billion percent
Hungary (1946): 41.9 quintillion percent
Hyperinflation has been surprisingly common in the 20th century, happening many dozens of times throughout the world. It continues to happen even today in countries such as Venezuela.
What would become of Germany after its bout of hyperinflation?
A young man named Adolf Hitler began to grow angry that innocent Germans were starving…
“We are opposed to swarms of Americans and other foreigners raising prices throughout Germany while millions of Germans are starving because of the increased prices. We are equally opposed to German profiteers and we are demanding that all be imprisoned.” – Adolf Hitler, 1923, Chicago Tribune
About the Money Project
The Money Project aims to use intuitive visualizations to explore ideas around the very concept of money itself. Founded in 2015 by Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals, the Money Project will look at the evolving nature of money, and will try to answer the difficult questions that prevent us from truly understanding the role that money plays in finance, investments, and accumulating wealth.
How Do Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation?
This interactive graphic shows a breakdown of how average Americans spend their money, and how expenses vary across generations.
How Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation
In 2021, the average American spent just over $60,000 a year. But where does all their money go? Unsurprisingly, spending habits vary wildly depending on age.
This graphic by Preethi Lodha uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show how average Americans spend their money, and how annual expenses vary across generations.
A Generational Breakdown of Overall Spending
Overall in 2021, Gen X (anyone born from 1965 to 1980) spent the most money of any U.S. generation, with an average annual expenditure of $83,357.
|Generation||Birth Year Range||Average Annual Expenditure (2021)|
|Silent||1945 or earlier||$44,683|
|Boomers||1946 to 1964||$62,203|
|Generation X||1965 to 1980||$83,357|
|Millennials||1981 to 1996||$69,061|
|Generation Z||1997 or later||$41,636|
Gen X has been nicknamed the “sandwich generation” because many members of this age group are financially supporting both their aging parents as well as children of their own.
The second biggest spenders are Millennials with an average annual expenditure of $69,061. Just like Gen X, this generation’s top three spending categories are housing, healthcare, and personal insurance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, members of Generation Z are the lowest spenders with an average of $41,636. per year. Their spending habits are expected to ramp up, especially considering that in 2022 the oldest Gen Zers are just 25 and still early in their careers.
Similarities Across Generations
While spending habits vary depending on the age group, there are some categories that remain fairly consistent across the board.
One of the most consistent spending categories is housing—it’s by the far the biggest expense for all age groups, accounting for more than 30% of total annual spending for every generation.
|Generation||Average Spend on Housing (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$16,656||37.3%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$21,273||34.2%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$26,385||31.7%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$24,052||34.8%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$15,449||37.1%|
Another spending category that’s surprisingly consistent across every generation is entertainment. All generations spent more than 4% of their total expenditures on entertainment, but none dedicated more than 5.6%.
|Generation||Average Spend on Entertainment (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$2,027||4.5%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$3,476||5.6%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$4,694||5.6%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$3,457||5.0%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$1,693||4.1%|
Gen Zers spent the least on entertainment, which could boil down to the types of entertainment this generation typically enjoys. For instance, a study found that 51% of respondents aged 13-19 watch videos on Instagram on a weekly basis, while only 15% watch cable TV.
Differences Across Generations
One category that varies the most between generations and relative needs is spending on healthcare.
As the table below shows, the Silent Generation spent an average of $7,053 on healthcare, or 15.8% of their total average spend. Comparatively, Gen Z only spent $1,354 on average, or 3.3% of their total average spend.
|Generation||Average Spend on Healthcare (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$7,053||15.8%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$6,594||10.6%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$5,550||6.7%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$4,026||5.8%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$1,354||3.3%|
However, while the younger generations typically spend less on healthcare, they’re also less likely to be insured—so those who do get sick could be left with a hefty bill.
Mapped: The World’s Billionaire Population, by Country
Collectively, worldwide billionaire wealth is nearly $12 trillion. This map breaks down where these 3,311 billionaires live around the globe.
Visualized: The World’s Billionaire Population
The world’s billionaires—only 3,311 individuals—represent almost $11.8 trillion in wealth. The global billionaire population continued to grow in 2021, increasing by 3%. Over the same period, billionaire wealth also increased by 18%.
This map uses data from the Wealth-X Billionaire Census to visualize where the world’s billionaires live and breaks down their collective wealth.
Note on methodology: The report uses proprietary data from Wealth-X. Billionaire status is determined by assessing an individual’s total net worth, including publicly and privately held businesses and investable assets. To determine a billionaire’s location, Wealth-X used their primary business address.
Billionaires by Region
We’ll begin by zooming out to look at how various continents and world regions rank in terms of their billionaire population.
North America is home to most billionaires, worth $4.6 trillion. The U.S., unsurprisingly, accounts for the majority of this wealth, with 975 billionaires and a collective net worth of $4.45 trillion.
|Rank||Region||Number of billionaires||Collective Billionaire Wealth|
|#1||North America||1,035||$4.6 trillion|
|#4||Middle East||191||$519 billion|
|#5||Latin America and the Caribbean||146||$465 billion|
In regional terms, Europe’s billionaire wealth is growing the fastest, up 22% year-over-year in 2021. In contrast, the year-over-year change in the Middle East was -12.5%.
Asia is inching towards Europe, holding almost a quarter of all billionaire wealth worldwide, compared to Europe’s 26.5%.
Wealth in Africa will also be important to watch in coming years. Although only home to 46 billionaires currently, the change in billionaire wealth increased by almost 17% year-over-year. Additionally, while they no longer live there, a number of the world’s billionaires hail from African countries originally.
Billionaires by Country
Now, let’s look at the ranking broken down by the top 15 countries:
|Rank||Country||Number of Billionaires||Collective Billionaire Wealth|
|#1||🇺🇸 US||975||$4.45 trillion|
|#2||🇨🇳 China||400||$1.45 trillion|
|#3||🇩🇪 Germany||176||$602 billion|
|#4||🇮🇳 India||124||$384 billion|
|#5||🇬🇧 UK||120||$266 billion|
|#6||🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||114||$287 billion|
|#7||🇨🇭 Switzerland||111||$365 billion|
|#8||🇷🇺 Russia||107||$475 billion|
|#9||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||71||$192 billion|
|#10||🇫🇷 France||68||$294 billion|
|#11||🇮🇹 Italy||68||$207 billion|
|#12||🇨🇦 Canada||60||$131 billion|
|#13||🇧🇷 Brazil||52||$159 billion|
|#14||🇸🇬 Singapore||50||$99 billion|
|#15||🇦🇪 UAE||45||$181 billion|
China is an obvious second in billionaire wealth to the United States, with famous billionaires like Zhang Yiming ($44.5 billion) of TikTok and Zhong Shanshan ($67.1 billion), whose wealth primarily comes from the pharmaceutical and beverages industries.
That said, Chinese billionaire wealth actually decreased 2% last year. It was India that came out on top in terms of growth, seeing a 19% increase in 2021.
Billionaires by City
Looking at cities, New York is home to the most billionaires—with 13 added billionaire residents last year—followed by Hong Kong.
|Rank||City||Country||Number of Billionaires|
|#1||New York City||🇺🇸 U.S.||138|
|#2||Hong Kong||🇭🇰 China||114|
|#3||San Francisco||🇺🇸 U.S.||85|
|#7||Los Angeles||🇺🇸 U.S.||59|
|#13||São Paulo||🇧🇷 Brazil||34|
Billionaire Wealth in 2022
Billionaires have significant power and influence, not in the least because their collective wealth is equivalent to about 11.8% of global GDP.
In recent billionaire news, Gautam Adani’s wealth has been soaring, most recently hitting the $145 billion mark, making him the third-richest person in the world according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. However, not all billionaires are holding on to their wealth. Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, recently transferred ownership of his company to an organization that fights climate change.
Over the last decade, billionaires have been grown their fortunes considerably, with wealth increasing at a faster rate than the growth in the number of billionaires themselves. According to Wealth-X, collective billionaire net worth grew by an astonishing 90% in the last 10 years.
But in the shorter term, the situation is often more volatile. With markets reeling in 2022, Bloomberg reported that billionaires lost a record $1.4 trillion over the first half of the year. Once the year is over and the final numbers are in, it will be interesting to see how the billionaire landscape shapes up in comparison to the more long-term trend.
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