Money chart

I had a huge amount of fun putting the money chart together. It was the first time in a long time that my life’s been stable enough that I’ve been able to really disappear into a project—I’d almost forgotten how enjoyable it can be.

I’ve corrected a bunch of typos and other minor errors, most of which crept into the project during the final 36-hour no-sleep marathon to integrate all the pieces together. (Those corrections, plus a few more that will be added over the next few days, will all be integrated into the printed version).

Now it’s time for me to to spend some time relaxing with family, and trying to break the habit—trained into me by the research I did for the chart—of thinking of everything in economic terms. To those of you in the US (GDP: $15.18 trillion[1], total net worth: $58.73 trillion[2]), have a happy Thanksgiving!

249 replies on “Money chart”

  1. Putting the poster on my wall will greatly help me win internet arguments!

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  2. There’s one thing I don’t understand. The Dollars part collapses down to a little icon in the Thousands part, and the Thousands part into an icon in the Millions part, and so on. Is that icon meaningful in a quantitative way? If so, what is the meaning?

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  3. Too bad the whole thing uses household figures instead of per capita figures, making any such figures absolutely useless to anyone with any sort of knowledge of economics. Other than that, amazing chart!

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  4. Roy: I believe each chart is reduced by a thousandth of its size in order to provide perspective for the next chart (which has units 1000x larger).

    RedScourge: What is the average number of people in a household?

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  5. As a Barenaked Ladies fan, I really like the section about the cost of all the things in the “If I Had $1000000” song. That being said, you missed a few things! In the last verse the singer says he would buy you a green dress (but not a real green dress, that’s cruel), some art (a Picasso or a Garfunkel), and a monkey. I just couldn’t help but notice; I hope you add them in.

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  6. Randall – Thank you so much for that work. It is fascinating, amazing, and a wonderful new view into something so hard to get your head around – well at least my head.

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  7. I love this way of presenting information. I was just a little disappointed that it wasn’t a true “deep zoom”, with the different multipliers as separate levels you could zoom “through”.

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  8. There must be a cool story behind how you put this together… surely you didn’t just do it by hand! Custom script? Graphing software hack? Do tell!

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  9. It’s an awesome chart, but it was a real pain for me to view. The viewing page was broken for me in Chrome, and since there was no direct link to the PNG I had to download each of the times and reassemble them (thankfully someone posted a program for this in the fora).
    Next time, could you provide a direct link as well?

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  10. This sort of thing is why i love your site. just randomly on occasion you’ll put something up that is utterly impressive.

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  11. Ah, finally I understand where all this money goes/comes from. You should add pets as a category and… could this help the super committee/congress sort things out you think? You should send it along!

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  12. Seconded on missing bits from the $1000000 song. I can see not including a green dress as it is clarified as not being real, but we need art and a monkey. Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?

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  13. I’m not sure I understand the “Current Eurozone Bailout Fund $194,620,000,000” graphic. It looks as if the total number of boxes depicted represent $1,162,000,000,000 (but no explanation is provided). Where did the other $967,380,000,000 come from? Is $1,162bn the estimated bailout required? If so, shouldn’t 194.62 of the boxes be filled in darker green?

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  14. This is phenomenal. I would gladly pay a subscription fee to receive data like this, in such a clear and intriguing format, on a yearly basis. I know a few other people I spoke with seemed interested in the idea too. Would you ever consider adding such a thing to your store?

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  15. I think there must be a typo for “US foreign humanitarian and ecumenic aid”. It gives the same number as “US foreign military aid,” but it clearly should not be the same, both from the subsums and from the graphic.

    Another problem: You never explain what the dark squares mean in the corporate profits section (I’m assuming it’s taxes or something).

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  16. Randall, you brought a grin to my face and groans to all those around me (perfect!). It’s a great chart, with sharp snark correctly woven in. Now all I need are some of those units to buy the poster! 🙂

    BTW, XKCD is a great dating filter: if s/he doesn’t know what it is, then they get tossed back into the pool.

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  17. @aaron, when i first looked at it i thought it WAS profit, while the total figures were revenue….

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  18. Randall, you are a god among men. Me and my wife spent half an hour reading that chart. We alternated between gasping, laughing and crying. The sign of a true work of art! 🙂

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  19. @Russ You’re assuming the Eurozone bailout fund works within the realms of reality. I think Randall is attempting to incorporate how much money all the countries need, how much other countries are saying they will pay, how much they actually will pay and how much money I will physically vomit up if they attempt to explain it to me again. And he’s damn close.
    Signed
    A financial journalist and former human being

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  20. Please, give me a clue how other people can make a chart like this, if they have the info!

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  21. Wow; probably your best chart yet! I’m so glad you had the time again in your life to spend at something you enjoy so obviously much. I can’t wait to buy a big one from your store.
    The part about the CEO pay alone should turn a few heads in the OWS crowd.

    Happy Holidays and keep up the good work.
    Bill Munroe

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  22. Sorry about being totally unrelated to the money chart… But I drew a real-life (faceless o.o) version of The hat guy (the one who flooded the hall with play pit balls and the one who put a chin-up bar at the top of the worlds largest escalator) He is installing the pipes into the hall. He looks like he’s from Anonoumus ^-^ it is funny. I don’t know how to send it to anyone though… I guess if you want it email me?

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  23. BTW very good. Sat staring at the large version for hours trying to read everything >3<

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  24. Fantastic, thanks!
    Steve Forbes has a typo: he’s drawn as $114,000,000 but written
    as $11,400,000.

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  25. Nice chart, i am think about buying the poster.

    But i have some remarks:
    Why is the house in the 1M$ song part 90$ cheaper than a typical new home?

    When I add up the federal and state and local goverment debt i get 12 tril. $
    but in the nation overview it is only 10,2 tril. $ (or 15 tril,$) . Why? Different sources?

    What does the timeline in the trillion part show? in 2011 it is 79 tril. so it is not the world GDP. Or is it the GDP but different source for this graph as in the world GDP part?

    And one question which has nothing directly to do with the chart:
    When the total US debt is 36 tril. $ and we say the same is true for europe,asia, and the rest of the world, we have around 140 trill in debt. But the derivate market is 3-4 times as large. Where does the rest of that market (debts) comes from?

    Cheers
    Kai D.

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  26. He did add artwork, he mentioned the Mona Lisa. What part said the price for a velociraptor? Also, Randall should have posted this as his 1000th comic, since it’s coming out in February.

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  27. This chart is amazing. I spent over an hour scrolling through it and trying to let the unbelievable amount of data make my head explode.
    But after 3/4 (or 1h 15min) my sight got blurry and I had to stop.

    Anyway: Great work. Love your site.
    All the best for you and your family!

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  28. Please fix your high-speed rail numbers. Amtrak’s 30-year plan is $117 billion (Google “A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor”) and not $192 billion, and California’s high-speed rail plan was never $45 billion – it was originally $33 billion in 2008 dollars, and just recently released a business plan saying it had run over to $65 billion in 2010 dollars (Google “cahsr business plan draft 2012” without the quotes).

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  29. I’m not certain where he obtained the velociraptor data, but the way I would go about it would be to run down numbers based on things in the novel. The implicit assumption is that the project is possible at all, and involves developing only moderate amounts of revolutionary discoveries and technologies, but once you’ve made that assumption, pricing the project is fairly straightforward.

    Average incomes for specialist fields are available, even if they do vary considerably based on experience (computer programmers, engineers, microbiologists, game wardens, lawyers, etc.). Prices for hardware are similarly available, like supercomputers, tasers, electric fences, tranquilizers, feed animals, and so on.

    Add it all up, translate from 1990 dollars to 2011 dollars, and divide by the number of velociraptors originally bred – 20 or 30 in the novel, I think – and you get the per-unit cost of a velociraptor. That’s how I would approach it, anyway. Is there a factor I missed?

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  30. I would love to see you perform a video tour through all this. I’m, financially speaking, a layperson – but you have a knack at explaining hard things simply 🙂

    Cheers

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  31. I can’t believe the average household incomes charts. Those are from 2007 data … do we have any way of telling how much these numbers have shifted since the financial crisis of 2008? I’ll bet the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, the question is what about those middle three brackets?

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  32. I just have to say that when I finally move beyond the starving stage of my life (starving student, starving unemployed person, starving barely employed person, and so on) and can afford to actually buy actual cool stuff that doesn’t involve transportation, shelter, or food, the xkcd store will be among my first stops. I need this print, and a couple of other prints, and some of the shirts, and definitely the stickers.

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  33. I love this poster, and a was wondering if you have any tips on making a Canadian verson? Also the freaknomics blog posted a link to you.

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  34. RedScourge – You are suffering from some kind of cognitive disorder. I recommend hitting yourself over and over with a frying pan, until things clear up.

    Randall- As a math teacher, I want to commend you for providing me with what I _thought_ would be an entire lesson plan. It didn’t quite work, as the kids sort of crumpled the poster in the process of looking at it. But still. I have a bunch of kids who think that “more than 9000” is the highest quantity possible, and this was very useful. Thank you.

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  35. Is that waldo i see? I love the way you present knowledge with a sense of humor! keep at it!

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  36. Not sure if someone has already mentioned this, but I think there’s a typo in the “tax on CO2 emissions”.

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  37. About Monday’s comic. You cannot pee continuously, ever, no matter how fast you drink. You would die before ever expelling enough to save your organs.

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  38. About the urination “fast enough slow enough” caption line, I believe if you used a catheter and a properly sized micro valve, you could probably drip at a fairly constant rate.

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  39. Thank you so much for putting this together. I just emailed it to 50 of my friends with the following message:

    I read xkcd religiously because its comics are full of nerdy jokes, unique insights, and painstaking research. This poster has all of that in spades. It depicts, to scale, the money flows in our current world, from buying a dozen apples ($5.68), to the estimated cost of Fukushima’s meltdown to Japan ($131 B; compare that to the cost of deaths from the quake and tsunami, $129 B).

    But beyond the jokes, the poster does a better job than anything I’ve seen about putting all money flows–government, industry, personal–into comparison with each other. As somebody interested in how the world works and how it can be changed, and of the belief that to understand the former you pretty much have to follow the money flows, I have been entranced.

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