October was a terrible month for the U.S. stock market. And when the big tech companies in particular crash, it's fun sometimes to calculate the massive amounts of wealth that people like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg wind up losing.

Case in point. As of yesterday, Bezos had lost $37 billion in October according to reports. That's basically the combined net worth of Elon Musk and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Zuckerberg lost billions, too. Heck, we could play this game with just about ever big tech-heavy entrepreneur on the lists of the wealthiest people in the world.

In fairness, we also write about them on the other side, when stock swings mean they make massive amounts in short periods of time. Heck, a year ago, Bezos made $6.2 billion in about five minutes.

But let's set aside the billionaires for a minute. Let's talk about you.

During October, the S&P 500 alone lost $1.91 trillion, analyst Howard Silverblatt told CNBC. The entire U.S. population is only 325.7 million people. So spread that loss over the whole country, and you wind up with a per-American loss of $5,864.29.

No, not every American is invested in the stock market. And there's also a lot of wealth invested in U.S. companies that comes from overseas. 

So it's a paper loss. But it illustrates a couple of things: 

First, the way that these wild swings affects ordinary people's portfolios (and their retirement savings).

Second, the crazy degree to which our minds simply don't grasp big numbers. Just think how you'd feel if you had an average $6,000 loss out of your net worth as a result of the stock market dip. 

Now imagine that this "$" symbol represents every person enduring that loss in the city of Boston (they get the honor since they also won the World Series in October. The losses would look like this:

  • Entire city of Boston: $
  • Jeff Bezos: $$$$$$$$$
  • Entire stock market: I don't have room for it here, but just imagine 475.5 of those dollar signs.

Maybe we'll get it all back tomorrow. Maybe the stock market isn't really done with the longest bull market in history. Or maybe--heck, maybe most likely--maybe most people won't even notice. 
 

Published on: Nov 1, 2018
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