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Visualizing the Size of the U.S. National Debt

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Visualizing the Size of the U.S. National Debt

Visualizing the Size of the U.S. National Debt

The Money Project is an ongoing collaboration between Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals that seeks to use intuitive visualizations to explore the origins, nature, and use of money.

When numbers get into the billions or trillions, they start to lose context.

The U.S. national debt is one of those numbers. It currently sits at $19.5 trillion, which is actually such a large number that it is truly difficult for the average person to comprehend.

How big is the U.S. National Debt?

The best way to understand these large numbers? We believe it is to represent them visually, by plotting the data with comparable numbers that are easier to grasp.

Today’s data visualization plots the U.S. National Debt against everything from the assets managed by the world’s largest money managers, to the annual value of gold production.

1. The U.S. national debt is larger than the 500 largest public companies in America.
The S&P 500 is a stock market index that tracks the value of the 500 largest U.S. companies by market capitalization. It includes giant companies like Apple, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Alphabet, Facebook, Johnson & Johnson, and many others. In summer of 2016, the value of all of these 500 companies together added to $19.1 trillion – just short of the debt total.

2. The U.S. national debt is larger than all assets managed by the world’s top seven money managers.
The world’s largest money managers – companies like Blackrock, Vanguard, or Fidelity – manage trillions of investor assets in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and more. However, if we take the top seven of these companies and add all of their assets under management (AUM) together, it adds up to only $18.9 trillion.

3. The U.S. national debt is 25x larger than all global oil exports in 2015.
Yes, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia make a killing off of selling their oil around the world. However, the numbers behind these exports are paltry in comparison to the debt. For example, you’d need the Saudis to donate the next 146 years of revenue from their oil exports to fully pay down the debt.

4. The U.S. national debt is 155x larger than all gold mined globally in a year.
Gold has symbolized money and wealth for a long time – but even the world’s annual production of roughly 3,000 tonnes (96 million oz) of the yellow metal barely puts a dent in the debt total. At market prices today, you’d need to somehow mine 155 years worth of gold at today’s rate to equal the debt.

5. In fact, the national debt is larger than all of the world’s physical currency, gold, silver, and bitcoin combined.
That’s right, if you rounded up every single dollar, euro, yen, pound, yuan, and any other global physical currency note or coin in existence, it only amounts to a measly $5 trillion. Adding the world’s physical gold ($7.7 trillion), silver ($20 billion), and cryptocurrencies ($11 billion) on top of that, you get to a total of $12.73 trillion. That’s equal to about 65% of the U.S. national debt.

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Debt

Visualizing the Meteoric Rise of Bond ETFs

Bonds are a staple in every portfolio, but up until recently were hard to own. Here’s how bond ETFs changed that, reaching $1 trillion in global AUM.

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Visualizing the Meteoric Rise of Bond ETFs

Bonds are a staple in almost any investment portfolio — but up until very recently, they weren’t exactly the easiest thing to own.

Despite the bond market being bigger than the equities market, bonds mostly trade over-the-counter (OTC) and not on any centralized exchange.

In fact, traders mostly swapped bonds over the phone, negotiating prices and making deals. However, this “old school” approach came with several disadvantages, including high transaction costs, illiquidity, and a lack of true transparency in the market.

A New Way to Play

Today’s infographic comes to us from iShares, and it shows that over the last two decades, the bond market has been dramatically transformed and democratized from the “old school” approach that relied on phones, traders, and giant bond calculators.

The biggest factor in this transition: the use of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the bond market, which just hit a new global milestone of $1 trillion of AUM in June 2019.

Let’s look at the journey of how this rapidly rising segment of the market took off, the factors driving it, and what the future may hold for Bond ETFs.

Bond ETFs: Journey to $1 Trillion

Below is a year-by-year account of new innovations in bond ETFs, and how the usage of them has changed over time:

2002: New tech

A new financial technology, the ETF, shakes up the bond market for the first time – and the first fixed income ETFs launch in the United States.

2003: More variety

Just one year in, and there are already numerous types of bond ETFs that allow investors to fulfill different portfolio needs:

  • Government bond ETFs
  • TIPS ETFs
  • Corporate bond ETFs
  • Aggregate bond ETFs

2006: Achievement unlocked

The global bond ETF industry hits $25 billion in AUM.

2007: Bond ETF innovations

The bond ETF universe continues to expand as investors demand even more options:

  • Mortgage-backed security bond ETFs
  • Muni bond ETFs
  • High yield bond ETFs

2008: A new source of liquidity

Liquidity for individual bonds dries up during the 2008 Financial Crisis. However, bond ETFs step up to the plate by providing a new source of liquidity and volume increases, allowing investors to efficiently access fixed income markets.

2010: More precise strategies

The first term-maturity ETFs launch. These special bond ETFs specifically hold bonds that all mature in the exact same year.

2012: Achievement unlocked

The global bond ETF industry hits $250 billion in AUM.

2015: More product innovation

At this time, factor-based bond ETFs start to hit the mainstream. These use a rules-based approach to employ multiple investment factors, such as low volatility, quality, value, or momentum.

2016: Achievement unlocked

The global bond ETF industry hits $500 billion in AUM.

2017: Green bonds

Green bonds ETFs provide investors with the ability to invest in bonds that are tied to sustainability purposes.

2018: Market volatility and bond ETFs

In the second half of 2018, markets get volatile and investors turn to bond ETFs to help reduce their overall portfolio risk, specifically diversifying their exposure to stocks.

2019: Achievement unlocked

The global bond ETF industry hits $1 trillion in AUM, with now over 1,300 bond ETFs available.

The Path to $2 Trillion?

In just 17 years, bond ETFs have grown to be a significant part of the investment universe, reaching $1 trillion AUM in 2019.

Impressively, it won’t likely take long to double the last milestone. According to BlackRock, it’s anticipated that ETFs will hold $2 trillion in AUM by the year 2024 — just a few short years down the road.

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Banks

Where the World’s Banks Make the Most Money

Last year, the global banking industry cashed in an impressive $1.36 trillion in profits. Here’s where they made their money, and how it breaks down.

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Where the World’s Banks Make the Most Money

Profits in banking have been steadily on the rise since the financial crisis.

Just last year, the global banking industry cashed in an impressive $1.36 trillion in after-tax profits ⁠— the highest total in the sector seen in the last 20 years.

What are the drivers behind revenue and profits in the financial services sector, and where do the biggest opportunities exist in the future?

Following the Money

Today’s infographic comes to us from McKinsey & Company, and it leverages proprietary insights from their Panorama database.

Using data stemming from more than 60 countries, we’ve broken down historical banking profits by region, while also visualizing key ratios that help demonstrate why specific countries are more profitable for the industry.

Finally, we’ve also looked at the particular geographic regions that may present the biggest opportunities in the future, and why they are relevant today.

Banking Profits, by Region

Before we look at what’s driving banking profits, let’s start with a breakdown of annual after-tax profits by region over time.

Banking Profit by Year and Region ($B)

 2009201020112012201320142015201620172018
Global ($B)$388$530$635$703$859$963$1,070$1,065$1,144$1,356
United States$19$118$176$263$268$263$291$275$270$403
China$95$135$174$225$255$278$278$270$301$333
Western Europe$78$34$21-$70$28$95$154$159$186$198
Rest of World$196$243$265$285$309$327$348$361$387$421

In 2018, the United States accounted for $403 billion of after-tax profits in the banking sector ⁠— however, China sits in a very close second place, raking in $333 billion.

What’s Under the Hood?

While there’s no doubt that financial services can be profitable in almost any corner of the globe, what is less obvious is where this profit actually comes from.

The truth is that banking can vary greatly depending on location ⁠— and what drives value for banks in one country may be completely different from what drives value in another.

Let’s look at data and ratios from four very different places to get a sense of how financial services markets can vary.

CountryRARC/GDPLoans Penetration/GDPMargins (RBRC/Total Loans)Risk Cost Margin
Global Average5.1%124%5.0%0.8%
United States5.4%121%5.0%0.4%
China6.6%147%6.0%1.4%
Singapore13.0%316%4.6%0.4%
Finland3.4%133%2.8%0.2%

1. RARC / GDP (Revenues After Risk Costs / GDP)
This ratio shows compares a country’s banking revenues to overall economic production, giving a sense of how important banking is to the economy. Using this, you can see that banking is far more important to Singapore’s economy than others in the table.

2. Loans Penetration / GDP
Loans penetration can be further broken up into retail loans and wholesale loans. The difference can be immediately seen when looking at data on China and the United States:

CountryRetail LoansWholesale LoansLoan Penetration (Total)
United States73%48%121%
China34%113%147%

In America, banks make loans primarily to the retail sector. In China, there’s a higher penetration on a wholesale basis — usually loans being made to corporations or other such entities.

3. Margins (Revenues Before Risk Costs / Total Loans)
Margins made on lending is one way for bankers to gauge the potential of a market, and as you can see above, margins in the United States and China are both at (or above) the global average. Meanwhile, for comparison, Finland has margins that are closer to half of the global average.

4. Risk Cost Margin (Risk Cost / Total Loans)
Not surprisingly, China still holds higher risk cost margins than the global average. On the flipside, established markets like Singapore, Finland, and the U.S. all have risk margins below the global average.

Future Opportunities in Banking

While this data is useful at breaking down existing markets, it can also help to give us a sense of future opportunities as well.

Here are some of the geographic markets that have the potential to grow into key financial services markets in the future:

  1. Sub-Saharan Africa
    Despite having 16x the population of South Africa, the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa still generates fewer banking profits. With lower loan penetration rates and RARC/GDP ratios, there is significant potential to be found throughout the continent.
  2. India and Indonesia
    Compared to similar economies in Asia, both India and Indonesia present an interesting banking opportunity because of their high margins and low loan penetration rates.
  3. China
    While China has a high overall loan penetration rate, the retail loan category still holds much potential given the country’s population and growing middle class.

A Changing Landscape in Banking

As banks shift focus to face new market challenges, the next chapter of banking may be even more interesting than the last.

Add in the high stakes around digital transformation, aging populations, and new service opportunities, and the distance between winners and losers could lengthen even more.

Where will the money in banking be in the future?

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