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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roberts FPFS

What’s a billion quid between friends?

Updated: Mar 21, 2020

Have you ever watched an interview on TV, or listened to one on the radio, when a politician is bandying around the few hundred million here, or a couple of billion pounds there? Of course you have. It’s a daily occurrence. Especially given the building election fever.

But just what do these numbers mean? They roll off the tongue with great ease, but exactly how much is a million, a billion, or a trillion (or a thousand million if you’re not American!)?

I recently came across an article published 30 years ago, which brought this to life with astonishing simplicity.

Probably most of us could remember what we were doing about one million seconds ago; that equates to about 11.5 days. How about a billion seconds ago; that’s a little trickier, as that would be 32 years ago. How about 1 trillion seconds ago? Well, you’d have to ask the Neanderthals in Europe and western Asia, the Denisovans in Asia, and the "hobbits" from the Indonesian island of Flores that were around at that time, around 32,000 years ago.

For the more visually oriented among us, you could also think of it like this. Counted out in fifty pound notes, you could fit £10,000 in your coat pocket quite comfortably. £1m would probably need a reasonably sized rucksack. A billion pounds would take up the back bedroom in your house. Whereas a trillion pounds, that would need a garden the size of a football pitch!

So, with the latest spending commitments being put forward during the election campaign, let’s not forget, a billion quid is an awful lot of money!

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