Tracking Your Net Worth is Not an Option

by AB@AspiringBlogger.com

Net Worth Example

To give you a deeper look inside my world I have decided to start publishing my monthly net worth (you can take a look HERE at all my finances). Along with the numbers I’ll talk about what changed each month and (as much as I can) why. Before I put my net worth out for you see, I want to talk to you about your net worth.

If you’re not currently tracking your net worth, you NEED to start NOW.  It doesn’t matter if you are completely broke or a multimillionaire – the best way to see how you are performing against your goals is to track your net worth.

The first time you put together your net worth it may look awesome or awful – but you have to keep in mind – it’s only one single point in time. What’s important is to keep tracking it and watch it (hopefully) increase at a faster and faster pace. My wife and I have been tracking our net worth since August of 2009, and we have watched it increase by over $100k since then!!

Every month I look forward to putting together our newest net worth just to see how we’ve done. While our net worth has increased almost every month that we’ve been tracking it, I still enjoy looking at it when it’s decreased. During these times I’m able to analyze why it has decreased and how we can adjust our habits to minimize future decreases.

Where Do I Begin?

At this point you have probably been convinced by my arguments and are ready to start tracking your net worth, but don’t know where to begin. Below I will provide you with a step-by-step guide on preparing your first net worth statement. Obviously, you can deviate from my suggestions, and ignore anything that doesn’t apply, just make sure you capture everything.

How To Create Your First Net Worth Statement

  1. Block out some time – as this is your first one, it could take while
  2. Open your favorite spreadsheet program (Excel, Google Docs, Numbers for Mac, etc)
  3. Make a list of all your assets.
    • Go online and find current balances/values for all of your assets in the following categories:
      • Cash – Actual cash you have in your safe, wallet, mattress, etc – if you can run around your house/apartment/van and touch it then include it here
      • Savings – The total of all your checking, savings, CD, etc accounts that are in cash (aka – not invested) and easily accessible
      • Emergency Fund – if you have carved out a separate emergency fund and would like to track it separately, feel free to do so. You can also include it with the Savings category above as it should be a savings/checking account.
      • Taxable Investments – Any post-tax non-retirement accounts that you have invested in stocks, bonds, peer to peer lending, etc
      • Retirement Accounts – You can break this out into pre-tax (traditional) and post-tax (roth) retirement accounts if you would like, but for now – I would just put them all together into one category. Make sure that if you receive any sort of “matching funds” from your employer that you only include the vested amount.
      • Auto Value – You can choose to include or exclude your vehicles – a lot of people choose to leave them out of their net worth calculations because they are “depreciating assets” and if you had to sell them quickly they wouldn’t be worth as much. I’m not going to argue for or against – you can make your own decision – but I’ll tell you what I do. I include the value of my autos, but not the full value. I reduce it to 80 or 90% (both of my cars are currently listed at 90% of their value) based on how much I think they would be worth if I sold them today. I go onto Edmunds.com, but you can use any valuation site you would like, and find the private party sale value and just put in 90% of what it says. Of course, if your car is in horrible condition, you’ll want to use a lower value
      • Home Value – You can use a lot of numbers here – purchase price, appraised value, Zillow value (I would NEVER use this one), etc. My advice would be to find a conservative number and stick with it. We just sold our home a few months ago and are currently renting, but when we owned we used the purchase price for the 2.5 years and never changed it.
      • Other Assets – As the category implies – if there’s anything that you haven’t included above – just make a new category for it here
  4. Make a list of all your liabilities (also known as your debts)
    • Like you did with your assets, you need to find the current balance for all of your liabilities in the following categories:
      • Credit Cards – I don’t care if you pay your balance off each month or if you are $200k in cc debt, you need to find a consistent system to report your balance each month. My method is to take my statement closing amount each month and use that in my net worth calculation. I never carry a balance on my credit cards, but as I always put together my net worth reports on the last day of the month and don’t pay my credit card bills until the first (or second or third if I forget) there’s still something to include here.
      • Mortgages – If you own a house (or two or three) make sure you put in your mortgage(s), lines of credit, etc here
      • Student Loans – I’ve been lucky and haven’t had to deal with student loans, but if you’ve got them – make sure to include them here
      • Auto Loans – If you owe anything on your cars, put that in here
      • Personal Loans – If you borrowed from an online lender like Prosper.com or LendingClub.com; or even if you borrowed from a friend, your uncle John, or your ex boyfriend – make sure you include that here
      • Other Liabilities– Any debt not included above
  5. Total up all of your assets, do the same with your liabilities, then subtract your liabilities from your assets. This number is your current net worth – CONGRATULATIONS! You have just put together your net worth for the first time.

Other Thoughts / Next Steps:

  1. Consistency – Make sure you put together your net worth statement the same time each month. For me, it’s easiest to do it on the last day of the month. For you, it may be the first of each month, the 15th, etc. Just make sure you are consistent. I find it easiest if I setup a calendar reminder on the last day of each month to make sure I don’t forget.
  2. Categories – I’ve given you the buckets that I use to track my net worth, but you can be as detailed or as general as you like. If you want to have 50 different categories then go for it – as long as you can consistently track them!
  3. Change – Your first net worth statement is just a point in time, which is definitely important, but not as important as your net worth trend. After a few months of tracking you can see the changes in each category, which can be a great motivator. For example, if your first net worth statement shows you have a $10k net worth, and each month it’s decreasing by $1k, it can help you to identify problems in your financial life.

Now that I’ve shown you my methodology for tracking my net worth, go out and give it a try!!! I give full credit to J Money over at BudgetsAreSexy.com for the look of my tracking template. If you head over to his site you can get some great templates for tracking your net worth. Let me know if you need any help. Stay tuned, I’ll be sharing my net worth soon!!

AB

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