Net worth is a useful tool to gauge your overall financial picture. We have good data in America for average net worth by age. See how you stack up and because LMM listeners are not average, what your net worth by age should be.
Get out your calculator and see just how you stack up against your peers. What is your net worth?
What is Net Worth?
Knowing your personal net worth is one of the most important aspects of personal finance. It’s one of the best indicators we have to know if we are on target to meet our goals. Whether you want to be debt free, buy a home, pay for college for your children, or to retire you need to be on target.
Your net worth is a way to see what is holding us back. It’s a very strong indicator of your overall financial health.
Figuring out your net worth is easy. Add up the total value of all of your assets. Add up the total value of all of your debts. Now subtract the assets from the debts. You might have a positive net worth or a negative one.
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What’s Included in Net Worth?
Okay, what are your assets? Do you estimate how much every possession you own would be worth if you sold it? If you owe money on your house or car, are those assets or liabilities?
- Current market value investment accounts including individual stocks, bonds, mutual funds and even advanced platforms like Betterment and Fundrise.
- Current market value of your retirement savings in all retirement accounts. Include even those accounts that would charge a penalty for early withdrawal like 401ks and IRAs.
- Current market value of your home and/or rental property.
- Current market value of your vehicles.
- Cash value of your checking accounts and savings accounts.
- Items of significant value like artwork, antiques, or jewelry.
- Mortgages on your primary residence and rental properties
- Car loans and auto loans
- Student loans
- Personal loans
- Credit card debt
- Back taxes
- Medical debt
- Liens or judgments against you
What Gets Measured Gets Managed.
Know you know what your net worth is, for better or for worse. But what should it be? The numbers are different for everyone because there are a lot of variables involved, but there are some general yardsticks that you can measure your numbers against.
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Net Worth By 30
The average net worth for people living in the United States under age 35 is just $6,676. There is a good reason for such a low number.
Maybe you had jobs as a teen and through college but now you just started your grown-up career and may have student loan debt so it can be hard to start building net worth. But what you do in your 20’s can lay the foundation for your entire financial life.
Your goal at this point in your life is to have half of your salary saved by age 30.
If you’re making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000. It sounds impossible but you have a few years to get there, and it’s easier than you think.
You may not have had a budget while you were in college. If not, now is the time to make one. A budget will tell you what’s coming in and going out each month. It will show you where you are wasting money that would be better spent paying off debt or investing for your future.
Start Investing. Yes Now
Now that the budget has been established and our student loan debt has a low-interest rate, we need something to do with our extra money. Now it’s time to invest.
Every day that passes before you start investing is money lost. There is no magic involved in investing but there is a secret ingredient, and it’s time. Even small amounts of money invested now will grow exponentially because of the power of compounding interest.
The two best places to start investing are Betterment and your 401k if your employer offers one. Betterment because there is a low bar to get started, there is no minimum, you need to know nothing about investing to get started, and the fees are very low.
Stop reading this article and open a Betterment account right now. I’ll wait.
Done? Good! If you aren’t contributing to your 401k, that’s next. One of the reasons people don’t invest is because they don’t pay themselves first.
They have good intentions, whatever money is left over at the end of each month, they will start investing. But too often, there is nothing left over and investing gets pushed back again.
When you participate in your 401k, the money is taken out of your paycheck before you see it and you can’t spend what you don’t see.
Even better, does your employer offer matching? If they do, that is free money. Even if you have credit card debt, contribute enough to your 401k to be eligible for the match.
You can go much deeper into investing, and we have. We designed a whole blueprint to guide you through the investing process. You will never again have so few expenses and responsibilities as you do now. Take advantage of that.
FYI: If picking funds in your 401k, 403b or TSP gives you anxiety than you need Blooom. You’re welcome.
Reaching Your Goals
We like Personal Captal because it’s easy to use and free. To get started, all you have to do is attach your bank and credit card accounts, and they do the rest. It pulls those transactions into the program so you can see everything in one place.
Next, you can set up your budget. You can dive deep by setting up lots of different categories, but if you’re just starting out, it’s okay to cover the basics like housing, utilities, food.
If you find that you keep going over budget in certain categories, you can break them down further like groceries, dinners out, lunches out, convenience store snacks until you can clearly see where the problem is.
No idea how your budget should break down? There are tons of different formulas, but we like 50/30/20 because it’s simple. 50% of your income goes to fixed expenses like rent and utilities, 30% goes to variable expenses like food and entertainment, and 20% goes to your financial goals, saving or paying off debt.
Live like a college student for as long as you can, whether that means staying at home with mom and dad for a few extra years, living with roommates, or keeping your cheap college apartment. When your housing and utility costs are low, you can tackle the student debt you have. You also may need to consider taking on a side hustle to make some extra cash.
If you have student loan debt, what is the interest rate? If it’s higher than 3 -4%, you might consider refinancing it to a lower rate. Even a 1% decrease in interest rates can save hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.
If you’re lucky enough not to have student debt, you can use this time to build up 6 months worth of expenses for a fully funded emergency fund. Once the emergency fund is in place, you can start investing.
Net Worth by 40
The average net worth for those aged 35-44 is $35,000. Your goal in your 30’s is to have twice your yearly salary saved by age 40. If you’re now making $75,000, you should have a net worth of $150,000 when you turn 40.
There are possibly a lot more demands on your money now. You may have a spouse, a home, and children. You may find yourself financing life on credit cards.
If you have credit card debt, it is going to be a struggle to stay on target. The average APR on a credit card is in the mid-teens, but it can be much higher. If you just pay the minimums each month, you are never going to pay this debt off, and it will continue to drag down your net worth.
You need to attack this debt right away. Don’t just throw money at these balances without a plan.
To pay off credit card debt efficiently, you can use the snowball or the stack method. Both have their pros and cons so read the specifics and decide which is best for you.
You and your spouse also need to take a hard look at income and expenses. If the kids are in private school, you’re taking expensive vacations, you bought way more house than you need and can afford, and you both are driving new cars, but you don’t have any savings, something has to change.
Your investing needs to become a little more sophisticated than it was in your 20’s. There is nothing wrong with your Betterment account, but at this stage, you also want to consider something like Vanguard.
Invest in Your Retirement
You should also be maxing out your 401k and open an IRA as well. If you have children, you may want to consider a 529 college savings plan but not to the detriment of your retirement. They have a lot longer to pay off student loans that you have to save for retirement.
If you have dependents, you need to buy life insurance. Health IQ rewards healthy people with lower premiums. You also need to make a will and include who would get custody of your minor children in the event you and your spouse were to die.
Net Worth by 50
The average net worth for those age 45-54 is $84,542. By age 50 your net worth should be four times your salary.
If you make $100,000 a year, your target is $400,000. The good news is, this is likely to be the time in your career where you are earning the most money you will ever earn.
You should assess your current position every year or two. Are you getting what you’re worth, what other people in similar positions, are getting?
When was your last raise? How much was it? It’s been shown that those who loyally stay at a company for more than two years make 50% less over their careers than job hoppers. Loyalty is not rewarded, and your only loyalty is to yourself.
Even if you’re happy where you are, you should always be on the lookout for a better opportunity. Attend networking events and stay plugged into new developments in your industry.
Grow Your Passive Income
This is also a good time to start looking for ways to create a passive income stream. You now have more working years behind you than you have ahead of you and you need to find ways to have money coming in after you’ve stopped working.
Rental property is our favorite form of passive income and if you do it right, owning rental property can be a completely hands-off experience. Roofstock handles every aspect of property management from finding the home to collecting the rent.
If you still owe on your mortgage, it’s time to focus on getting that paid off.
Net Worth by 60
The average net worth for those age 55-64 is $143,964. When you reach 60, your net worth should be six times your yearly salary.
Currently, the maximum you can contribute to a 401k is $18,000 per year, and for an IRA, it’s $5,500. However, once you reach age 50, those numbers increase. The max for a 401k is $24,000 per year and $6,500 for an IRA. Now is the time to max these out to the increased limits.
You should start thinking about what you want your retirement to look like. Are you going to downsize your home because you’re now an empty nester?
Because you won’t be tied to a location for your career, do you want to move to a new place, perhaps a place with a lower cost of living than where you are now?
Do you want to continue to work in some capacity, perhaps part-time or as a consultant? Is there a career you would like to pursue in the second half of your life now that money is less of a consideration? Perhaps you will want to go back to school.
You don’t have to make any decisions, but you should start planning what you want your post-working life to look like.
Your asset allocation needs to change to reflect your shortened investing horizon. Shift the ration away from stocks and toward bonds which are less risky.
Medical debt is the biggest cause of bankruptcy in America now and 40% of those who filed, for this reason, had health insurance. Do you have enough insurance and the right kinds of insurance?
If you don’t already have disability insurance, now is the time to investigate it. If you were unable to work, disability insurance could replace that lost income. How is your health? Do any close relatives have chronic diseases that are genetic?
Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of things like home health aids so if you think you will want to stay in your home as long as possible when you can longer do daily things like cooking or bathing for yourself, buy long-term care insurance.
Net Worth by Retirement
The average net worth for those age 65-69 is $194,226. When you are ready to retire, you should have ten times your final salary saved.
Now you have to make some final decisions about the things we were considering above; will you move to a smaller, cheaper home, perhaps a condo or apartment, so you aren’t responsible for upkeep?
You can use the 4% rule to get your final retirement number. You can safely withdraw 4% of your savings every year for at least 30 years without running out of money.
If you plan to live on $60,000 a year, you need to have $1.5 million saved by the time you retire. Is that ten times your final salary?
Do you want to move to a new part of the country or move abroad? If you’ve lived in an urban area for your career, there are a lot of places in the world where your dollar will go much further.
Are you going to continue to work in some capacity? At what age do you want to start taking Social Security?
You should update your will. Your children are grown, and you know how they’ve turned out. Maybe there is that one black sheep that you can’t leave a lump sum of money too, and you need to put it into a trust. If you have grandchildren, you may want to set up a trust for them as well.
If you haven’t done it already, you need to make arrangement for your medical care. Who will have power of attorney in the event you are unable to make a personal or financial decision for you? What kind of measures should be taken to save your life?
Do you want to be on life support? Pre-planning and pre-paying for your funeral can take a lot of strain off your family at what will already be a very difficult time.
None of these are pleasant things to think about, but once you have them in place, you don’t have to think about them again. And you can enjoy the retirement you have worked so hard for.
Don’t feel bad if your net worth is not where it should be. We’ve given you plenty of ideas to help you get there. And the numbers are individual to all of us. Some of us live now and plan to live when we retire in areas where the cost of living is low. Some of us will remain childfree which frees up about a quarter of a million dollars.
Some of us will inherit money or other assets from our parents. Some of us will marry rich! Even though these numbers are just guidelines, you should track your net worth and see how you measure up. If you are far behind, you can see you need to catch up before retirement creeps up on you.
But it’s almost never too late to get your financial house in order. Just start today rather than tomorrow.