I used to post net worth updates, but they were my least commented upon posts. So, I stopped. But, I still track our household net worth every month. This goes back over fifteen years. Things change and evolve, but the process has largely stayed the same. Here is how I calculate our net worth.
I always do our net worth on the 7th of the month (give or take a day). The reason for this is because a lot of transactions take place around the 1st of the month, and can take a couple of days to clear. I want to make sure that everything is processed. Waiting a couple of days past the first of the month is the best way to make that happen. These things include:
- Mortgage payments
- Credit card payments
- Transfers from end-of-the-month paychecks to savings / money market accounts
I love Microsoft Excel for my tracking. It's gotten complicated, but
- Snapshot – This is a snapshot of the most current month. It’s broken down into the categories which I will outline in a bit. This summarizes everything that I track and rolls it up into several categories.
- History – I roll up the high level numbers each month into a month-by-month breakdown. This lets me see how things have progressed over time.
- Balance Sheet – This is where I separate the assets from the liabilities. Yes, I took lots of accounting classes in college.
- Debt – I track all outstanding debts and their balances.
- Savings – This is how we track any money that's set aside for savings. I break it down by goals that we have earmarked.
- Monthly Summary – This is a hybrid of an Income Statement and Cash Flow statement. I track our bank account activity and spot any trends.
- Ledger – This tracks our day to day spending from our bank account and credit cards.
- In Case of Emergency – I have a tab dedicated to outlining all of the required information in the event that something were to happen to me or my wife, such as account locations, website addresses, etc.
- A few other tabs – I track a few other things. These include charitable contributions, dividends , cost basis for investments, etc. These aren’t used every month but kept pretty up to date, and help around tax time.
With all of this, I have pretty much everything I need all the time. I actually had attempted to use out of the box tools in the past. These restricted me. I couldn't manipulate the numbers to the degree that I like.
I break our net worth down into the following four major categories:
- Automobiles / Camper
- Current (Liquid) Assets and Debt
- Retirement Assets
Here’s a breakdown of each of those:
I track the value of our house based on three things: Zillow, our city estimates, and surrounding sales. For net worth purposes, I actually deduct the anticipated selling costs that would be involved with selling the house. So, I write 7.75% off.The reason for this is simple: The only reason I would ever have true interest in the value of my house is if we had to sell it. This calculation would give us the estimated cash in hand after a sale.
From there, I subtract our outstanding mortgage principle to give the total value of our home.
Automobiles / RVs
Any cars or RVs we own, I track here. I use Kelley Blue book and estimates based on current sales. I usually knock off about 10% just to be safe. Again, this would give me the cash on hand if everything was liquidated.
Current Assets and Debt
This is where I track anything that is cash or could easily be converted to cash, as well as what we owe for anything outside of the mortgage and car payments. So, the things that I currently track are:
- All bank accounts
- All investment accounts
- Health Savings accounts
- Outstanding Credit Card balance (debt) – note: we pay our balance in full every month but this tracks the current outstanding balance at the time I do the monthly check
- Student Loans (debt)
This is pretty self explanatory, but tracks all investment accounts.
Total Net Worth
Once per month, I log into accounts for each of the accounts and enter the numbers. From there, it calculates the value by each category and those totals equal our net worth.
That’s it! Overall, I know it isn’t the perfect system but it works well for me. I like it because it gives me the information I need. It's probably complicated in some ways, but I think that's OK. With money and finance, you have to make it work for you. This method does just that. There's always a tweak I could make here and there, but overall, his works.
Readers, how do you track your net worth? Do you have a system that you use or an off the shelf package?