It's one of those natural questions that pop into the heads of the idly curious (or curiously idle): How much money, altogether, is there in the world? As you may imagine with such an expansive figure, finding an answer is a little bit more involved than a simple tally, as one Marketplace.org reader recently learned when they asked the question: "[H]ow much money is out there in the world? Does anybody keep records as to how much money the world has?"
As it turns out, there are a couple different ways to tabulate this. The Bank for International Settlements, for example, keeps track of how much actual physical currency is in circulation all over the planet, and it has the current figure at $5 trillion. Meanwhile, CIA World Factbook takes a broader view, so to speak, by counting what's called "broad money." Broad money is a term for all the money out there that isn't in one's physical possession but still readily available, for example online savings, checking, and money market accounts. Once these digital accounts are brought under the umbrella, the figure becomes even higher, more than $80 trillion according to the CIA, which keeps track of such matters.
Broad money therefore includes all the money that, technically speaking, belongs to individuals but isn't actually sitting in a bank vault waiting for you to withdraw it. Instead, it's circulating through the economy, earning interest for the bank and also you, if you're lucky. Given that, Karen Petrou, a Federal Financial Analytic managing partner, points out what you're probably already thinking:
"Banks always have your money out working in the economy. If everybody lined up and suddenly went to the bank to get cash, you'd have a classic banking run."
If you narrow it down to the circulating currency from one particular country, you reach a figure that's also referred to as M0, defined as "the number of notes and coins in circulation" according to Jacob Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. In the case of the United States, that figure is currently hovering around $1.5 trillion, and American dollars are the most popular and widely circulated currency in the world.