Last week, I tried to figure out what a million looks like, and I learned some pretty neat things about books and pages and libraries and square feet houses. But I’m still a little mixed up about what a million looks like. Then I kind of laughed because people like to say, “If I had a million dollars” and that’s usually when they really want to buy something that costs too much for them. So I got to thinking: What does a million dollars look like?

Except that wouldn’t work because I already know that money isn’t just one amount. You have five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars and fifty dollars and one hundred dollars, so a million dollars made out of five dollars would be way bigger than a million dollars made out of one hundred dollars. But still, everybody says they want a million dollars!

My Uncle Bob is really smart, especially with math problems. Guess what I did? I went to his office (because he was in there working) and I knocked on the door. When he said, “Come in” I opened the door and said, “I have a math problem I need help with.” He said I could go all the way in his office, and he’d help me figure out the math problem. Except he didn’t know it wasn’t a easy math problem like adding up things I want to buy at the dollar store. This was a way bigger math problem.

When I asked him how big a million dollars was, he said that it was a hard thing to answer. I said I already figured out it was going to be really hard to answer because you need way more five dollars than hundred dollars to make a million dollars. And you know what he said? He said, “Let’s look at how much interest a million dollars in the bank will get you.”

Well, if I had a million dollars in a bank, I’m pretty sure that would be me a lot of interest … from the bank president and the tellers and maybe even the security guard at the front door. But that’s not what Uncle Bob meant.

He said that if the interest rate money earns in a savings account is really small like only two percent, that every year, a million dollars would earn $20,000 of interest. Except that I didn’t really understand how much $20,000 of interest is.

Then he said, “Twenty thousand dollars is enough money to live on if you don’t live in a big city.”

“But how much is that so I can understand?” I asked him.

“Okay, imagine this,” he said. “In the U.S. the poverty level for a family with 3 people in it is twenty thousand dollars. But if you’re just one person and you have twenty thousand dollars, you aren’t poor. You’re doing fine.”

“And if you have two people and twenty thousand dollars, does that make you poor? Because twenty divided in two is ten thousand, so two people would only have ten thousand,” I said.

“If the two people live together …”

“Like grandma and grandpa?”

“Like grandma and grandpa,” he repeated. “If two people live together like grandma and grandpa, then twenty thousand dollars is still enough money for a whole year.”

“But mostly because they would already have a million dollars in the bank, right?”

“Missy,” he said, “twenty thousand dollars for a whole year means two people aren’t poor … even if they don’t have a million dollars in the bank.”

Anyway, that didn’t really explain what a million looks like but I didn’t want to upset my Uncle Bob because he really tried hard to help me do the math of this problem. I think I’m going to have to figure out another way of figuring out what a million looks like.

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