Have you ever wondered whether or not you’re doing “okay” financially? One good way to take a health-check of your finances is to review your net worth every once in a while. Although net worth is definitely not the end-all-be-all indicator of financial health, it’s a good baseline to get an idea of where you and your family stand.
How to Calculate Your Net Worth
Your net worth is easier to calculate than you think. Here’s a step-by-step process for calculating your net worth:
1. Total all of your assets.
2. Total all of your liabilities (or debts).
3. Subtract your debts from your assets.
4. That number is your net worth!
There are several calculators out there that can help you pull together the numbers you need, but this one from Kiplinger is really comprehensive.
In general, the assets you should be totaling up are:
- Retirement savings
- Other investments
- Life insurance
- Your home
- The value of your business
- Other property you own (including cars, jewelry, antiques, etc.)
Your liabilities might include:
- Credit cards
- Auto loans
- Student loans
- Bills due
Let’s Look At the Numbers
Now that you know how to calculate your net worth, we can talk about what your net worth should be by age 30. Keep in mind that your situation is unique to you. Even though these average numbers provide you with a good baseline to estimate your own net worth, or financial health, with, they don’t tell your whole story.
According to Listen Money Matters, the average net worth for people in the United States under age 35 is right around $6,676. The Financial Samurai has a similar number – estimating that the average 30-year-old has a net worth of about $7,000.
Does that seem low to you? The truth is that most 30-year-olds are still working to pay off a mountain of student loan debt. On top of that, they may be dealing with a mortgage, auto loans, and consumer debt (like credit cards). The more debt you carry, the lower your total net worth is going to be.
A better indicator of financial health at this age is likely how much you have in savings. By the time you’re 30, you can shoot for having between half of your annual salary, to a full year’s salary saved. That’s not to say that all of your savings needs to be in one place! You can contribute to your workplace retirement account, a Roth IRA, a cash savings account, a money market account, or a traditional investment account to keep growing your savings.
Factors That Are Negatively Impacting Your Net Worth
Your net worth is negatively impacted by two different things:
1. Your debt.
2. Your lack of saving.
If you’re swimming in student loans (and paying the minimum balance), and are only saving a little bit each month, the likelihood that your net worth will improve is pretty low. The best things that you can do to boost your net worth are to knock out your debt and to start saving more.
What You Can Do To Improve Your Net Worth
Ready to really level up your net worth? At age 30, you’ve got a lot going on in your life. You might be getting married, starting a family, growing your career, buying a home – the list goes on and on. The good news is that your 30s are an exciting financial time. You’re likely starting to break out of the constantly-grinding, Ramen-for-dinner phase of your life, and you get to start enjoying your wealth a little bit more as it grows. However, in order to get to that point, you have to start actively working to improve your net worth.
The higher your net worth is, the more opportunities you open up for yourself and your family – financially and otherwise. With less debt to weigh you down, and more savings to protect you against expensive emergencies, you’re able to set up the lifestyle you’ve always envisioned for yourself.
If you’re ready to buckle down and start growing your wealth (and your net worth!), here are a few ways you can get started.
A lot of people feel nervous to start investing. When you’re working hard to pay down your debt, you don’t always have a lot of extra cash flow to start investing with. Luckily, getting started with investing isn’t as intimidating as you might think! When you’re a new investor, define your “why” for investing, and start small. For example, if you want to start investing to build your retirement nest egg, you might start looking for target date funds within your company 401(k) that line up with your retirement timeline.
Investing is as easy (or as complicated) as you want to make it. You don’t have to be a stock picker, hunched over your laptop at all hours of the day, to get started! Looking at your workplace retirement accounts, or Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are both great places to start.
Investing isn’t the only way you should be saving! Putting cash aside from every paycheck can help you to build a comfortable emergency fund, or work toward other big-spending goals like buying your first home. If you’re struggling to fit saving into your budget, try a new approach. Having a less-strict budget that breaks your monthly cash flow into three broad categories can help. These categories should be:
1. Savings (I’m a big fan of separate savings accounts for separate goals).
2. Debt repayment.
3. Everything else.
A few general percentages I like to use are: saving 20% of your after-tax income, using 30% to pay down your debt, and 50% to cover everything else. This general budget system can help you to prioritize savings without feeling overwhelmed by tracking every last penny that you and your family spend each month.
Pay Down Your Debt
Debt is often viewed as a bad word. Instead of hiding from your debt and feeling anxious about paying it off, put together a strategy. The two that tend to work best are:
1. The Debt Snowball
2. The Debt Avalanche
The debt snowball strategy says that you start by paying down your smallest-balance debt first. Then, once that debt is paid off, you roll the monthly payment to your next-biggest debt.
The debt avalanche strategy focuses on interest rate instead of debt balance. You’d start by paying off your highest-interest debt first, then roll the payment from that debt into the debt with the next-lowest interest rate.
Some people like the debt snowball strategy because it’s easier to get momentum on the front-end of your debt repayment. Others prefer the debt avalanche because it saves them money in the long-run by paying off high-interest debt first. Find a system that works best for you and your family, then stick to it!
Set Goals – and Save For Them
A big part of growing your wealth is setting smart and specific goals, then saving for them. That means every time you have a big purchase coming up, whether it’s an expensive vacation or a new-to-you car, that purchase becomes a goal. You set aside money each month until you can afford it – that’s it. The purpose of this exercise is simple: you’re growing your savings, and staying out of debt. This can be tough, especially in today’s instant-gratification world. But the longer you’re able to stay out of consumer debt, the more you’ll be able to grow your net worth!
Ready to Boost Your Net Worth?
Having a clear-cut financial plan can help to put you and your family on the right track. Getting started early while you’re in your 30’s gives you a lot of time to grow your savings, and to use your wealth in a way that supports your values and the lifestyle you want. Your financial plan sets you up for success, not just during retirement – but right now, too! Ready to get started? Reach out!