Assets and Liabilities
Your net worth is a snapshot of your finances. The picture will change slightly the next time you pay a bill and again, the next time you receive a paycheck. To determine your current magic number, the first step is to take a look at all of your assets, which are anything of value that you own. Make a list of all these items and next to each, list the amount it's worth. These typically include:
- Cash -- any physical currency and coins you have
- Funds in the bank -- all the money you have in a savings, checking, or money market accounts, and any certificates of deposit (CDs)
- Stocks, bonds and mutual funds: also list savings bonds
- Retirement accounts -- includes 401(k) funds, IRAs and any other retirement accounts
- Life insurance -- counting any cash value you have in the policy
- Motor Vehicles: the current blue book value of any cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, etc.
- Real Estate -- the current market value of property (house, condo, land, etc.) you own, even if you have a mortgage
- Personal Valuables -- including the market value of jewelry, collectibles (from baseball cards to art) and furniture
- Money you're owed -- as long as you have a reasonable expectation of being paid back [source: Sahadi]
In reality, just because you own these assets doesn't mean you'll be able to access their monetary value today. Only cash and other highly liquid assets -- things that you can exchange for a good market value quickly -- are easily accessible. Although it might take months to turn real estate into its true cash value, use the full market value when calculating your net worth today. If you're unsure of what something you own is worth -- like an antique -- is worth, find a professional appraiser.
When you're done listing assets, make a separate list of liabilities and amounts. Liabilities are any debts or payments you owe to someone else. Here are the most common:
- Mortgage -- the principal or amount you have left to pay on your mortgage(s)
- Home equity loan -- how much you owe if you have a home equity loan
- Automobile loan -- the amount you have yet to pay on your car(s) and other motor vehicles
- Student loans -- the amount left on student loans
- Credit card debt -- any balance owed to a credit card company
Once you're finished taking stock of all of your assets and liabilities, it's time to calculate the magic number. Read the next page to find out how.