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At the recent price of $140 a barrel, it turns out to be a mere 400 billion barrels, or just about the combined reserves of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
That's when the world starts to look very different. It also looks more than a little scary to the U.S. Today, the net worth of the entire country is equivalent to a mere 400 billion barrels of oil. That's a smidgeon less than the proven reserves of two Middle Eastern countries: Saudi Arabia (264 billion barrels) and Iran (139 billion barrels).
I learned this by measuring the net worth of all U.S. households and nonprofit organizations in barrels of oil. Every three months the Federal Reserve estimates the value of our collective tangible assets, financial assets and liabilities to arrive at our net worth. It's the whole enchilada -- all our cars, our houses, our durable "stuff," bank deposits, stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Everything. Then it subtracts all our mortgages, consumer credit and other debt to arrive at our net worth.