How to know what you’re really worth

You are here

Have you ever been lost?  Have you ever used a map or GPS to get somewhere?  Do you feel lost when it comes to money?

you are here mall
To get where you want to go, you first have to know where you are!

I like to think of personal finance like a road map.  You have a destination in mind (if you don’t that should be your first step!  More on that in a future post….).  Once you know where you want to go, you need to figure out where you are.  It’s kind of like when you walk into a mall and want to find the store you need to go to.  You find the store you want on the map, then determine where you are, so you know how to get there.

The first step to know where you are, is to determine your net worth.  Financial Net Worth is one of the best ways to measure your financial health as well as track your progress.

What is your net worth?  Basically, it is your total assets minus your total liabilities.  I like to track my net worth on a monthly basis, as we pay down our debt and add to our savings.  It helps me to see progress made in our overall ‘big picture’.  How often you track your net worth is a personal decision.  Maybe a quarterly check is what helps you stay on track and see your progress.  Perhaps an annual check is more appropriate.  I do this exercise monthly just because it helps keep me motivated as I see my assets grow, my liabilities decrease and my net worth get higher!  This is exciting stuff!

How do I figure my net worth?

FIRST, LIST ALL OF YOUR ASSETS.

There are many opinions on what counts as an asset.  Personally, I only use items that I could sell to bring in significant amounts of cash.  For example, I count our minivan as an asset (although vehicles are rapidly depreciating assets!), but I don’t count my couch or my desk in my office.

You can include such items as:

  • jewelry
  • artwork
  • valuable collectibles
  • cash, savings accounts
  • checking accounts
  • stocks
  • bonds
  • retirement funds
  • your home
  • real estate

One asset that you may choose to include an education fund.  However, I don’t choose to count these as part of my assets.  We have 529 plans set up for all of our children, and I do not include these as part of my personal assets, because I wouldn’t use them to cover a liability.  And I sort of don’t ‘own’ these accounts anyway because the money in them is earmarked for my children’s education, not for my use.

Make a list of all of your assets, and what they are worth.  Add the amounts together and you have your total asset amount.

NEXT, MAKE A LIST OF ANYTHING YOU OWE.

These are your debts, or liabilities.  These can include:

  • auto loans
  • mortgage
  • loans from family members
  • student loans
  • credit card balances
  • money owed to the IRS
  • medical debt, and so forth.

Add all of these debts together, and you have your liability amount.

YOUR LAST STEP IS TO SUBTRACT YOUR LIABILITIES FROM YOUR ASSETS.

How does it look?

Do you have enough assets to cover liabilities?  Calculating your net worth can be exciting as you see that you are ‘worth’ more than you might have guessed.  Or it can be painful to see that you actually owe more than your assets.

If your net worth is negative, do not despair.  Use this new knowledge to develop goals to bring your net worth to a positive and ever growing number.  As I mentioned, I like to check my net worth monthly, to see how much I can increase it each month.  By eliminating debt (liabilities) and increasing savings (assets), little by little that net worth number starts to grow.

Every time you make one of those debts smaller, or one of those assets larger your net worth will increase.  So net worth is increased by saving and investing money, paying off debts and decreasing spending.

Now can you see why calculating your net worth should be your first step in beginning your financial plan?  If you don’t know where you are, you won’t be able to figure out how to get where you want to go.

By understanding where you are, you will begin to see how important a spending plan is, how to analyze your purchases, increase income, decrease debt and liabilities, and where to place your priorities in order to get from “You are here” to your destination.

Net Worth worksheet

Action:

This week, with your spouse if you can, list all of your assets, and all of your liabilities and determine your net worth!  And, if you like what you have learned, subscribe to make sure you receive the latest posts and information to help you become financially confident and informed.

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Why should you care?

women-and-money

When seeking for tips and suggestions about starting this blog, I consulted with one of my mentors who also works to educate women in financial matters. She let me know that the idea was a good one and the knowledge was valuable, but then said something that surprised me. She said, in essence, that the biggest problem she runs into is that women don’t know that they should care.

I am the kind of person that likes to know the ‘Why’s behind the rules. If you explain to me why, then I am much more likely to follow the rules, or to want seek further understanding. I’ve noticed my children are similar. If I tell them they have to eat their vegetables I am met with resistance and whining. If I take the time to explain why we eat vegetables, what is in the vegetables that is so great (we usually look up whatever we are eating and find out what amazing things those particular vegetables will help our bodies do), then they are more inclined to eat them. They might not be excited, or think the vegetables taste any better, but because they understand how it will help their bodies, they are usually more compliant with eating their nutritious and carefully, lovingly prepared vegetables (or their pre-cut, raw carrots or broccoli out of the bag, is more like it).

So, here are a few reasons why you should care about personal and family finance:

(Statistics from InvestmentNews.com):

  • Women control $14 trillion in personal wealth assets. By 2020 they are expected to control $22 trillion
  • 95% of women will be their family’s primary financial decision maker at some point in their lives
  • 37% of women are more likely than men to think they need to accumulate LESS than $250,000 for retirement
  • Women are more likely than men to end up poor: 11% of women age 65 and older are poor, compared to 7% of men age 65 and older
  • Women rely on Social Security: 57% of all Social Security beneficiaries are women
  • We don’t put enough away for retirement; only 49% of women contribute to their 401(k) plans
  • Women are four times more likely than men to be widowed; 8.7 million women aged 65 and over are widowed in the US
  • Nearly 700,000 women lose their husbands each year. Widows outlive their husbands by an average of 14 years    (as cited by Jonyce Bullock, CPA, http://aspiringmormonwomen.org/2016/02/03/womenandmoney/)

In a spiritual sense, there are even more reasons why it is important to be educated about personal finance:

(These ideas come from http://www.personalfinance.byu.edu, an excellent resource for furthering your personal financial education with an LDS perspective.)

  • Spiritual: All that God does is to bring us to Christ.  There are so many aspects of finance that will bring us to Christ (think tithing, sacrifice, consecration, humility, gratitude, giving, etc.) and help us to overcome the “natural man.” (Mosiah 3:19)
  • Temporal: Money, and all that we have for that matter, is not ours, but our Heavenly Father’s.  We are stewards over what He has given us, and we are here to prove if we will be wise stewards over our resources.
  • Individual: We are all sent to this earth with talents to share and sacred missions to perform.  Many of our missions will require material resources.  Our resources can be consecrated to help us fulfill our individual purpose and mission, if we are wise and faithful stewards over these resources.
  • Family: One of the biggest reasons, if not the #1 reason, for divorce is money.  Being wise stewards over our money, using it wisely, and understanding how it works will help to strengthen our marriages,  and our families.  In addition, money and resources will provide opportunities for our families (think education, missions, service, family vacations, etc.) that we otherwise could not have.  (http://personalfinance.byu.edu/sites/default/files/files/Other/Whys%20Whats%20and%20Hows%20of%20PF%20-%20Hill.pdf)

In the 2015 Fidelity Investments Money FIT Women Study, they found:

  • Women are eager for information about financial planning and investing
  • 92% of women want to learn more about financial planning
  • 75% want to learn more about money and investing
  • 83% want to get more involved in their finances within the next year.

“Yet a majority of women hold back when it comes to talking about money; eight in 10 women confess they have refrained from discussing their finances with those they are close to.  Only 47% of women say they would be confident discussing money and investing with a financial professional on their own.”  (To read the whole study, which is very interesting go here: https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/women-fit-money-study.pdf)

How do you gain confidence in a subject matter?  LEARN more!  Please join me on this journey to learn more about personal and family finance, in order to be better stewards over what our Heavenly Father has given us, and to bless the lives of our families and others, and to fulfill our personal missions.