At one point or another, someone has asked you: “A penny for your thoughts?”
Afterwards, one thing remains the same. No one ever coughs up any money.
But what if they did?
What if every half-baked idea or thought that fired through our brain could be redeemed for a penny? How rich could we be?
Reporter Zachary Crockett of Vox.com calculated the answer to the nearest cent.
The science behind our thought process is elaborate. Our understanding of the human brain hasn’t progressed to the extent that we know exactly how many thoughts we have each day, or even what constitutes a fully-formed “thought.” But one of the best estimates was derived at the University of Southern California’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.
USC researchers conducted some basic experiments measuring students’ brain activity using electrophysiological monitoring. The researchers found that the average person has about 48.6 thoughts per minute. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say 49 thoughts per minute.
That means we have 2,916 thoughts per hour, 69,984 per day, and 25,544,160 per year.
Now, let’s cash in each thought for a copper coin. Although your busy-body grandma might want you to say your thoughts out loud for your pennies, our estimates will include both spoken and unspoken thoughts. In addition, the calculations will assume that your thoughts don’t slow down when you’re sleeping. The consistent rate of 49 thoughts per minute will apply day and night.
With 69,984 thoughts per day, we’re earning a solid daily income of $699.84, equating to an annual salary of $255,500.
Before you jump for joy, take note that your $255,500 yearly income doesn’t make you a member of the rich elite. In fact, with that measly salary, you’re a long way from America’s '1%.'
Last year, it took at least $450,000 in annual income to make it into the 1 percent. So even if you literally earned a penny for each of your 25.5 million thoughts every year, you wouldn’t even come close to our country’s richest old white dudes.
But maybe you can resist the temptation to spend all that money on hookers and blow. If you could save up enough of your thought-earning revenue, over a number of years, you could make your way to the elite. The following chart displays how your money would accumulate over time:
Pew Research reports that the average net worth of the top 1 percent of Americans is $2.4 million. Let’s assume that you spend $56,000 per year, as The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average American does. If you hoard everything else, you could save your way to the 1 percent within 12 years.
Of course, the notion that you can think your way to millions of dollars is a crazy thought. And contrary to all the calculations, that thought is actually worth jack shit. Guess we’ll go on philosophizing in the gutter.