Tracking net worth was hugely important in helping me save $100,000 by age 25. To get a free copy of the custom spreadsheet I used to hit my goal, just sign up to the Deep Dish newsletter (if you’re an existing subscriber, it’s already in your inbox). To learn more about net worth tracking, read on!
Smoke and mirrors
Two dudes pull into a parking lot. Dude number one climbs out of a late-model European sports car, looking sharp in an Armani suit and designer sunglasses. Dude number two swings his battered Birkenstock-clad feet out of a beat-up Toyota Corolla. Which of the two is more financially successful?
At face value, dude number one wins hands-down.
Now, here’s what you don’t see: Flashy bro is three payments behind on the car, which is about to be repossessed. The fine garments were also bought on credit. His shades hide his red-rimmed eyes, swollen from crying because his girlfriend left him after one money fight too many. The whole precarious house of (credit) cards is about to come tumbling down.
Here’s what you don’t see about scruffy sandals dude: He doesn’t owe anyone a dime, is a self-made millionaire, and retired young. His Birkenstocks are worn out from all the excellent adventures he takes with his beautiful family.
‘Keeping up with the Jones’ is all smoke and mirrors, which is why it’s such a deadly game to play. The latest and greatest gadget, glamorous holidays, carefully curated social media feeds – none of it means jack shit. It’s often the people most desperate to appear successful who are actually miserable and drowning in debt.
The great bullshit detector
Net worth slices through all the pretenses. The definition is simple: It’s everything you own, minus everything you owe.
This number strips away the preening, the posturing, and the peacocking, laying bare your real money situation. There’s nowhere to hide.
Growing your net worth over time – by reducing debt and building up assets – is the only meaningful definition of financial success.
How to calculate net worth
Open up the spreadsheet I sent you, or grab a pen and paper. First you want to list everything you own of value. That means cash, bank account balances, investments, retirement accounts, houses, vehicles and any other possessions worth mentioning.
(If you’re not sure how to go about valuing these, hover your cursor over each category in the spreadsheet for specific advice.)
Now for the not-so-fun bit: Time to dredge up all the red ink. Dig out credit card statements, your student loan debt, mortgage balance, car payments, overdrafts, unpaid library fines, and the $50 you still owe your cousin from last Christmas.
You should now have two subtotals. Subtract the debts from the assets, and you’ve got your net worth.
Be warned – calculating your net worth for the first time will probably suck. When I first ran the numbers, I realised I had less than a cent to my name. It was like having a bucket of ice water dumped over my head; shocking at first, but ultimately invigorating.
This might be just the sort of wake-up call needed to get your shit together.
If you’re in the red, it’s important not to panic or get disheartened and quit. As long as your net worth starts moving in the right direction, you’re on your way. Clawing your way from being $100k in the hole to debt freedom is just as impressive as going from debt freedom to six figures.
Consistency is key
The management maxim ‘What gets measured, gets done’ is sort of cheesy, but I like it. If something is important to me, I measure and track the shit out of it, whether it’s calories, weights on a barbell, savings, or anything else.
Once you’ve calculated net worth once, it’s easy to update the numbers. Create a recurring event in your calendar that prompts you to check in regularly (maybe every month or quarter) to make sure you’re on the right track.
If you’re falling behind, give yourself a hearty kick in the butt and vow to do better (Check The Ultimate Guide to Slashing Your Spending for inspiration on areas that might need pruning).
Net worth is not self-worth
This should go without saying, but sometimes people get it twisted. Your net worth has no correlation with your value as a human being (if it did, ‘billionaire’ wouldn’t be synonymous with ‘puppy-eating tyrant’).
Comparing your net worth with others is interesting, but not super helpful. The only person you should be competing against is yourself, so let’s try not to replace one dick-measuring contest with another.
With that being said: If you’re one of the few people who understand the importance of net worth tracking, you’re automatically ahead of the pack.
Keep that number moving in the right direction, ignore all the other bullshit, and financial success is all but guaranteed.
TIPS FOR USING THE SPREADSHEET
- You don’t need any special software. There are two versions available; one for Excel and one for Google Sheets.
- Once you’ve opened the sheet, navigate to the ‘getting started’ tab on the bottom right for instructions.
- Big ups to my sister who did all the technical stuff with, like, equations and shit. If you need any Excel work done, fire me an email and I’ll pass your details on to her.
Any questions on net worth tracking? If you already track your net worth, how’s it going? Let me know in the comments!