You’re probably reading this because you want to see your financial life improve—likely because you’re trying to move toward financial independence.
Good on you, my friend! A great way to get better at something is to start tracking it.
Let’s talk about calculating and tracking your net worth.
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How to Calculate Your Net Worth
Simply put, your personal net worth is equal to your assets (the things you own) minus your liabilities (i.e., debts).
The trick to getting an accurate number is to carefully examine what you have and what you owe, inclusive of all accounts—and, remember, it’s a snapshot in time.
Don’t just think to yourself, “Well, I have two thousand bucks in my savings account, so my net worth must be two thousand dollars.” There is much more to it than that.
For instance, your assets might be:
- cash in checking and savings
- real estate
Your liabilities might be:
- your mortgage
- credit card balances
- student loans
These are some of the more common elements. You might have more or less and/or different items.
See my net worth spreadsheet at the bottom of this post to get an idea of the things you can track. For a quick and easy way, I suggest plugging your numbers into Empower for free to quickly see your own net worth.
How is the net worth actually calculated? It’s simple, really.
All you have to do is add up the value or balances of each category (assets and liabilities) and simply subtract your liabilities from your assets.
Ideally, this will equal a positive number, but, it’s okay if it doesn’t initially. Most people start out their journey in the negative (I sure did).
It may seem a little weird to reduce your entire financial existence into a mere number, and it can be truly bizarre to actually see the number once all the calculations are complete.
Keep in mind it’s just a number which indicates how much your assets are worth and really has nothing to do with you as a person.
Why You Should Know Your Net Worth and Track It
It’s always good to take a moment to understand why you want to do something.
Knowing your net worth will:
- Bring clarity to your financial life. Instead of living in ignorance, you will see the truth. Knowledge is power!
- Motivate you to see the net worth number improve. I promise you, your mind will instantly be drawn to how you can increase your assets and decrease your liabilities. It’s natural. Don’t turn from this feeling. Embrace it.
- Allow you to set a specific goal towards improving your net worth. If you don’t know where you are, it’s hard to know how to get to where you want to be.
What Should Your Net Worth Be?
As much as possible!!! Okay, I’m joking (but, not really).
Try not to think in terms of a static number. Don’t get caught up in comparisons, either.
Simply put, your net worth should be moving in a positive direction.
Once you get it going in a positive direction and set goals around it, you’ve found the sweet spot for understanding this simple little calculation.
Of course, at some point, you might want to set a goal of financial independence (the point in which you are able to live off of the income produced by your assets).
In this case, your net worth needs to be roughly 25 times your annual expenses, or enough so you can withdraw 4% (the Trinity study’s safe withdrawal rate) of your assets to live on each year (e.g. $40k on $1M). If that’s your goal, get crackin’.
It’s hard not to compare though.
How Do You Track Your Net Worth?
I recommend tracking your net worth using Empower. It’s simple, automated, and free.
Manual tracking more your thing? My wife and I have used a few spreadsheets to track our net worth through the years.
Initially we used this personal financial statement template. That was sort of an all-in-one sheet.
Then, I wanted to have a sheet specifically for net worth, so we switched to using a simple Excel spreadsheet (see below). You don’t have to use Excel though.
There are plenty of online-based calculators out there which will help you get to your net worth, and keep it up to date for you every month.
Again, the one we use now is Empower.
If your net worth isn’t a positive number or isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, set a goal. Put it on paper.
Make both a short-term and a long-term goal. Decide how long, based on your ability to save or pay off debt, it should take you to reach your goals.
My Net Worth From 10 Years Ago
Several years ago now, fresh off of my first FinCon where I was inspired by “coming out” to all of my money nerd friends I began to share my net worth monthly on the blog.
Initially, I found the process fun and revealing. Then I realized after 6 months no one was commenting anymore on the updates (so it felt useless and uninspired) and I felt once again a little exposed by sharing such detail.
By this time I was no longer an anonymous blogger and so I stopped sharing the specifics publicly.
But those don’t even include my business net worth, so it’s still off. Still, I suppose if you are desperate to know you can hunt around and find it.
Here’s the Spreadsheet I used previously to track my net worth:
Below you’ll find the commentary from five months’ worth of data (don’t ask me where the July and September commentary are). To see it, click show