| Real Life Strategies for Building Wealth
Budgeting is Not for Wimps: My Cash Flow Analysis Needs Resurrecting

Budgeting is Not for Wimps: My Cash Flow Analysis Needs Resurrecting

 

What did you do this weekend? Anything exciting?

Because I spent my time between meeting old friends, making new ones and doing my cash flow analysis. Which, as it happens, needs resurrecting.

You see, most people use budgeting to control their spending. My kind of budgeting is somewhat different and it is not for wimps: I use budgeting to do my cash flow analysis. Because, your cash flow is the one measure of financial health that can take you from debt to wealth; from being broke to being financially secure.

For many years now, our cash flow has fit a ‘prosperity profile’. This is the profile where monthly expenses stay constant and monthly income continuously grows.

My cash flow analysis shows that since February 2010, when my mind focused on increasing my cash flow like a sniper’s cross hair on a victim’s forehead, we have increase our regular monthly income by 60%. We have also build – through investing in businesses – a healthy monthly side hustle income.

In 7 years, our monthly cash flow has increased five-fold; yes, this is correct. This increase is a combination between increased income and no spending on debt (except mortgage). Currently, we invest an average monthly income every month.

It wasn’t always like that. Before you think of me as ‘lucky’ and/or ‘uppity’ remember that I arrived in the UK, twenty-seven years ago, with $20 in my pocket (not kidding). And I married for love!

We also have five different income streams and another one gaining momentum. This is not bad, you know. The average millionaire has seven different income streams (well, we are one short and our income streams are not that large yet.)

‘How do you know all that?’ – you may think.

I know exactly how our family finances have developed over the last seven years because I have records of everything. In fact, I could tell you how much a packet of butter used to cost on 2010 (I’ll save you; still, this is the kind of nerd that dealing with debt made me. Now, being a nerd keeps financially healthy and (relatively) prosperous.)

Okay, Maria, but why are you saying that budgeting is not for wimps?  You cash flow analysis tells us that you are in great shape.

Here is the ‘not so good’ news, my friend.

Our biggest income stream is my monthly pay. As you know, trouble is brewing at my university and, in my unit, one in two jobs will be lost. While I believe that redundancy can be a wonderful opportunity, it is still a hard decision to take.

Do I think that I’ll be made redundant? Who know but probably now. What I need to decide to regain control over my life and my finances is whether I’ll be applying for voluntary severance.

If I were to decide to apply for voluntary severance, our biggest income stream will vanish.

Scary stuff. This is why budgeting is not for wimps. Let me tell you what my cash flow analysis shows.

Without my monthly salary, our monthly cash flow (assuming we maintain current level of spending) will become slightly negative. In other words, we’ll slide from a ‘prosperity’ to ‘debt’ profile. You remember, I’ve made a vow to never get in debt again, do you?

To break even, I’ll need to make between £500 and £1,000 per month (after tax).

Just here, my cash flow analysis become interesting.

The question is, would I be able to make £500 to £1,000 per month?

This, my friend, is my chance to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve written about making enough money to cover the monthly bills. It is time to try some of these for myself. I’ll keep you posted what I’ve decided.

Now, let me tell you why I thought to share the results of my cash flow analysis.

Here are the lessons:

Large cash flow is great but don’t be complaisant. Your situation can change fast and your cash flow can turn negative.

Develop and maintain many income streams. Millionaires have got this one right: the more income streams you have the less volatile your financial situation is.

Aim to develop passive income streams. We have three passive income streams (and another one developing) that must be grown.

Ensure that your income streams are matched. This is the real discovery of my cash flow analysis: our income streams are uneven with my monthly salary the largest by far. As a result, potential loss of it will shake our finances.

Finally…

I haven’t made my mind up yet but my cash flow analysis shows that if I were to apply for voluntary severance, the loss of my salary will push us into negative cash flow. Put simply, this means that I’ll have to find a way to make between £500 and £1,000 per month.

I’ll have a jolly good go at putting into practice what I’ve been preaching on The Money Principle and work on increasing some of our income streams.

It should be fun. Do you what to do it with me?

Now, if you don’t believe me, here are Eminem and Royce Da 5’9 telling about resurrecting their cash flow.

photo credit: Neil Tackaberry hard cash via photopin (license)

Your Game Plan to Financial Independence

Your Game Plan to Financial Independence

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Pauline of InvestmentZen.com. The point Pauline makes here is simple: to achieve financial independence you need to master three things: spending less, earning more and investing wisely the rest.

Financial independence is the stage of your financial journey where your passive income from investments covers all your living expenses. That means you never have to work another day in your life if you don’t want to. Pretty sweet, right? But that sweet reward comes after a few years of saving and dedication that not everyone is able to accomplish.

Know where you stand

When you embark on a journey towards financial independence and early retirement, you need to review your entire finances to know where you stand.

  • If you have high interest debt, paying it off is your number one priority. Try to get a 0% balance transfer or at least refinance for a cheaper rate, so it doesn’t take forever.
  • Then look for a refinance of your student loans and mortgage, that can also save you thousands
  • Send every extra cent you have to pay off your debt.

Once your high interest debt is wiped off, time to plan for financial independence.

Your financial independence number

How much do you need to live comfortably for the rest of your life? Right now, there are expenses that are related to work, like buying suits, commuting or having lunch with your colleagues, that will be eliminated once you are financially independent. If your income is lower once you stop working, you might also be paying less taxes. And if you are living off your nest egg, you will not be making retirement contributions anymore.

On the other hand, as you get older, you might need a bigger house for your growing family, money to send your kids to college, and medical care in old age. The last thing you want is having to go back to work at age 65 because you didn’t plan properly!

So, determine your financial independence annual budget, and multiply that by 25. Using a safe withdrawal rate of 4%, your nest egg should outlive you if you have 25 years of expenses saved.

Get started

Financial independence is achieved by a combination of

  • Spending less
  • Earning more
  • Investing and compounding

Spending less

Spending less is easy when you know the reward that is expecting you: independence from a cubicle and freedom to do what you please with your days, decades before your peers. But if it becomes a frustration, you might give up and go back to your old spending ways. Try to determine what is really important to you, so that doesn’t happen. If you want to buy something, wonder how long you would have to pay for it, and whether it is worth delaying financial independence by that much.

Earning more

Earning more is the real key to financial independence. While you can certainly cut your expenses here and there, you still need to eat and put a roof over your head. You can’t achieve a 100% saving rate. In order to become financially independent earlier, you need to make more.

You can start by asking for a raise at your current job, if you haven’t had one in a while. A one time $10,000 raise means $200,000 more over the next 20 years! If you were already able to live off your current salary, invest 100% of your raise for a year or two. Living on last year’s salary is a great way to boost your saving rate. If your boss won’t give you a raise, look for a better paying job elsewhere. Or a job that pays the same but would give you more free time, less commuting expenses, etc. Try to find an hour or two in the evening to work on a side project. It could be something that pays you right now, like teaching a yoga class or dog walking, or a side business you enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like work and might provide an additional source of income in retirement.

Investing

Finally, investing is the secret that will take your financial independence plan to the next level. It will take much, much longer to save 25 years of expenses if you are getting 1% interest from your saving account, compared to getting 8% from the markets. 8% is a realistic rate of return over a long period of time (30+ years) for index funds like the S&P500. Open a brokerage account and start sending every amount you can spare, taking first advantage of tax free accounts and your company match for an extra boost. No need to be an expert in investing or spend hours researching a company, just select a few low fee index funds and keep going. Ignore the market crashes, the craze about this or that stock, do your boring little thing and watch your nest egg grow. Invest only money you can afford to leave untouched until financial independence. Reinvest the dividends and watch compound interest work its magic.

You can also look for other types of investments, like real estate, but remember that managing a rental property is not exactly what you call passive income, so take that into account when you picture your retirement. Will you be active, and willing to do that? Will you even be around, or traveling the world? Will a manager still make the investment worth your while?

Financial independence does not happen overnight. But following these steps, even on an average salary, you can get there in just a few years. If you save 50% of your income, which is easy with a partner since many households make it work on one income, financial independence is just 17 years away.

What is your game plan?

photo credit: Lapse of the Shutter Tree Avenue via photopin (license)

Make Your Dream Family Vacation a Reality Without Breaking the Bank

Make Your Dream Family Vacation a Reality Without Breaking the Bank

With the cost of vacations constantly rising, it can be difficult to know how you’ll be able to take the entire family away during the summer months. But thankfully, there are a number of ways you can start saving up points so you can enjoy the vacation of a lifetime and without breaking the bank.

Below you’ll find some top tips on how you can earn points through your credit card company, how you can earn air miles and where you can stay in hotels for free (yes, free!):

Before You Start, You Need to Plan Your Trip

As soon as you start looking at all of the available plans there are, it’s easy to get carried away and you may soon feel overwhelmed by the choices there are available. That’s why it’s important that you’ve decided exactly where you want to go before you start shopping around for the best reward schemes.

The points available with each credit card and holiday provider will differ dramatically depending on where you’re going. So, before you start planning, make sure you discuss with the family what your top destinations are. This will enable you to narrow down your search results so you can carefully filter through the available options without getting too distracted by other exotic locations!

Opt for Convertible Reward Schemes

Some credit card programs will only provide you with one reward program, so try to find one that’s convertible and offers you more than one scheme. A lot of leading credit card companies like AMEX offer a number of different programs (learn how to redeem AMEX points for maximum value here) which will give you much more scope when planning future vacations as well as this one.

And don’t forget to get your partner to sign up to these schemes too. You’re both entitled to them!

Pay for your Bills with Your Rewards Card

To rack up those points as quickly as possible, it’s a good idea to set up an autopay system with your credit card for all of your bills. Those bills that come out of your account once a month, e.g. cable, cell phone and electric, can all be set up to automatically come out of your credit card account. A lot of companies will let you do this without charging you any additional fees so it’s a great way of earning points without having to think too much about it. And if your bills amount to $2,000 a month, you’ll have earned enough to get a trip within the US with the points you’ve built up as many cards offer you a point per dollar spent.

Check Out Hotel Loyalty Programs

You may be thinking you’ll have to find budget accommodation in order to take your family to their dream location but think again. A lot of top hotels offer great rewards programs which allow you to cut the costs of your stay dramatically. Some hotels will offer you these schemes on their own but it’s much easier to build up points if you’ve got the rewards card that they’re co-branded with.

For example, you can join the Starwood Preferred Guest program which is in conjunction with American Express. This helps you to get fabulous overnight stays in these hotels with your points, and could even see you upgrading to a prestigious suite without it costing you a dollar!

Go Steady with Your Rewards

As mentioned previously, it can be easy to get carried away with all of the points on offer but this could land you in a whole heap of trouble if you’re not careful. A lot of these rewards come from credit cards and if you go too mad spending on these pieces of plastic, you could end up with a mounting debt that you can’t handle. So, be sensible when you’re using your cards, opting for one or two to start with before you add more, if necessary.

And finally, do your research before you spend your points so you know you’re getting the best value for them. Even though you may be able to travel somewhere with the air miles you’ve accumulated, your points may be worth more if you hold onto them for next year’s trip. Equally, don’t just hold onto your rewards “just in case” because they may start to lose value, expire, roll over with changing schemes and so on.

With a little careful planning and research, you and your family could be enjoying the ultimate trip at a fraction of the price!

Editor’s note: Aimee Archer took a round the world trip when she was 18, and since then has always loved the thrill of travel. Now a Mom, she enjoys planning trips for her family; broadening the kids minds as they discover new cultures and strengthening her relationship with her husband.

photo credit: JLS Photography – Alaska Enjoying the winter sun . . via photopin (license)

7 Powerful Money Rules You Usually Ignore

7 Powerful Money Rules You Usually Ignore

If I ask you to tell me three money rules fast which ones are they going to be?

[Take a minute to think about it and let me know in the comments.]

The ones I’d most likely think about are:

  • Spend less than you make.
  • Stash the difference away.
  • Don’t simply save it, invest it wisely.

That’s it! Three money rules to rule them all!

Or maybe not.

These money rules are important but today I’ll share with you 7 money rules that are powerful enough to transform you money destiny. And to top it all, these are money rules that you don’t hear much about and usually don’t think about or remember.

(Before I go any further, I’d like to thank Quora member Lukas Schwekendiek who reminded me about some of these.)

So, the 7 powerful money rules you don’t usually think about despite them having the potential to transform your personal finances are:

#1. Money spent living better is not wasted

You see, most personal finance experts would tell you that paying attention to your wants rather than needs and allowing yourself some luxury is a waste of money.

Living in a nice apartment?

Waste of money paying all this rent/mortgage when you can save it.

Travelling business class?

Waste of money when you can travel coach and save the difference.

Guess what?

Living better, makes you feel better, perform better and brings great returns.

I have introduced a rule that if my flight is longer than four-five hours I travel business (and it matters little whether I travel for my job, my side hustle or pleasure). This pays for itself manifold given that I save at least couple of days recovery time (my time is very expensive), can work during the flight and am less likely to die from deep vein thrombosis.

It is up to you to figure out what ‘living better’ means to you (and for you).

#2. Produce more instead of saving more

Regular readers of The Money Principle know that this is part of my ‘money philosophy’.

There is little wrong with living a parsimonious life style (said simply this means getting most bang for your buck). Still, producing more, and correspondingly, making more money is the secret to winning the game of wealth.

In many cases this is a matter of shifting your mind set from the one of a consumer to one of producer. Simply put, this means a shift from reading book to writing book, from playing games to developing games etc.

#3. Get excited, not afraid, about your money

I ignored this one for close to two decades.

All this brought was a financial crisis which I was determined enough to turn into rebirth. It could have easily been a disaster ending in a bankruptcy court.

Combat fear and turn it into an excitement that will bring about financial success irrespective where your finances stand at the moment.

(Just in case you started suspecting that I’ve gone all new age on you, this is about much more than a positive thinking. This is about framing problems, about the buzz that solving problems and winning give, and about turning misery into enjoyable games. Hard but so worth it.)

#4. You always buy emotions not things

I’ve never been able to understand people who shop for pleasure and remodel their kitchens every ten minutes or so.

Now, having done some research and thinking about it, I do. It is not about the kitchen or about the objects people buy. It is about the emotions this creates.

Buying stuff make people feel powerful, secure and prosperous. Spending is shapes their identity (I’m prosperous and certainly much better than…) and feeds their self-esteem.

Ones you remember that you don’t buy things but emotions, you may start thinking about different ways to achieve the same emotion. Ways that are not going to break the bank and fill your house with clutter.

#5. Decide what matters and spare no expense

When we were in a lot of debt and I kept track of every penny that came in and out of our bank account, there were three things on which I continued spending despite the expense.

  • I bought expensive perfume (I love Bulgari) because its smell makes me feel like million dollars (and then some).
  • Continues having expensive haircuts.
  • Maintained my gym membership and worked with a personal trainer.

These kept me out of psychological meltdown and helped me get out of debt very quickly.

Meanwhile, I clamped down on almost everything else. I cancelled my car parking permit and cycled to work; I stood at the bottom of a ski slope (we borrowed a friend’s house to go skiing) and bought people’s ski passes; I didn’t buy any clothes and shoes (bought clothes and shoes only for my growing up son); etc.

You see what I mean?

Decide what is really important for you and don’t skimp on it. Don’t forget to cut all that doesn’t matter much.

#6. Get help when you need it

To master your finances you have to learn and act. You also have to be able to know when you need help and who you can ask for it.

That is all.

#7. Focus on value not money

This is a mistake that we make in our personal finance and our businesses. Large organisations make this mistake as well and they fail.

What is the mistake, you may ask?

We focus too much on money: we focus on the money we don’t have and we’d like to make. Meanwhile we completely ignore the fact that money follows value.

Which means that if we focus on the value we can contribute (and crack it), the money will follow anyway.

Next time you think about ways to make money, think about what you can contribute to someone’s life that makes their life easier, more enjoyable and more productive.

(As a side line, focusing on value is a very good way to make the difference between internet articles that really offer ideas on how to make more money and ones that only tell you to sell your stuff.)

Finally…

Personal finance is not simply and only about spending less than you make, saving and investing. There are powerful money rules that the most successful players of the Game of Wealth know, and apply, and most people ignore.

Can you think of more powerful money rules that are usually ignored?

Kick Your Heels Up and Save Money on Holiday

Kick Your Heels Up and Save Money on Holiday

save money on holiday

Are you sitting somewhere in the sun, sipping ice-cold beer and racking your brains about ways to save money on holiday?

I am. We arrived on Skiathos and started our holiday last Friday. We are not what you’d call extravagant and still the money is flowing through my purse like a mountain river: fast.

So, I’ve started thinking about how to spend less without threatening the quality of our holiday.

You know me, guys, I consider being frugal only when it is frugal artistry and it doesn’t compromise quality.

Before I tell you what I came up with (and keep your excitement in check here) let me mention that if you are British – or you earn wage in Britain in GBP – being frugal matters little. Whatever you do, you holiday will cost you more than last year. Why?

This is part of the price we Brits have to pay for our democratic choice to leave the EU – a much weaker currency. Just so you know that I’ve checked, exactly a year ago one GBP would have got you 1.42 euro; today, one GBP would buy you 1.15 euro.

Yes, your beer costs approximately 20% more before you even start being frugal. This is true about everything you pay for: food, entertainment, car rental…all of it.

Now that this is out of the way and we all understand that it doesn’t matter how careful we are with out money we’d spend 20% more than we planned to spend, let me tell you my to four tips to save money on holiday.

I’m assuming that you have already booked flight and accommodation and your main spending is on food, booze, transport and fun.

#1. Save Money on Holiday: Food

It didn’t take long to figure out that our main spending here is on food. We all have to eat, right?

We need our protein and we have a son in his teens with us – it takes quite a bit of food to keep him full and happy.

The only way to eat well and to save on food is to go for a combination between cooking simple things and eating in restaurants.

You want an example?

Tonight we have steak and tomato salad that cost 12 euro for the three of us. In a restaurant the same meal would have cost no less than 60-70 euro.

We are not losing out on the local cuisine: we’ve decided to go to restaurants twice a week (and just so you know, I have a Greek cookbook and John claims that many of the dishes he tries in the local restaurants have nothing on mine).

I reckon that this strategy – a mixture between cooking simple and nutritious food and going to restaurants – will save us close to 600 euro over the two weeks.

Not too shabby, I think.

#2. Save Money on Holiday: Booze

This is a tricky one. Again, you’d do best to buy your booze in the nearest supermarket.

What is the fun in drinking it alone, on the balcony (or in your room)?

I don’t do that. I have a drink at the bar; I have one drink per evening (this suits me right since I’m a cheap drunk anyway).

If you want to save on drink, you should also stay away from cocktails – these are delicious but very expensive and full of sugar.

#3. Save Money on Holiday: Transport

save money on holiday

We didn’t hire a car on holiday twice in two decades and we regretted it: having the means to get about gives you a lot of freedom and has great effect on how much you pay on fun and entertainment.

We like to explore when we go places. This is why we hire a car.

This year we hired our car before we left the UK; this way, we saved in the region of £400 pounds for two weeks hire.

As you can see, we ended up with the most ugly car I’ve ever been in; it is also severely underpowered. Still, we can go to the supermarket and to different beaches.

I’ve always fancied hiring a motorbike but John is not that keen; may be I’ll do this when I get my licence.

#4. Save Money on Holiday: Fun and Entertainment

save money on holiday

Do you know the best part about being on a Greek island?

Fun is everywhere and it doesn’t have to cost much.

This island has many beaches – we have a list of the ones we would be visiting again.

I’ll be walking the dogs in the dog shelter again (man, this is a hard one – my heart broke last year and I wanted to take them all back).

The rest needs to be planned – having fun is great when it is planned.

John and our son want to go on a daylong yacht experience – not cheap but good father-son fun and bonding. (I’m not going because a day on a boat is my idea of hell).

Our son would probably do some water skiing and diving.

And of course we will have a lot of fun playing in the sea.

Finally…

Once you’ve accepted that your holiday expenses would be approximately 20% higher than this time last year – because of the weak pound – there are still easy ways to save money on holiday.

You just need to use a bit of planning and imagination; that’s all.

Knowing Your Net Worth is More Important Than Knowing the Net Worth of Floyd Mayweather

Knowing Your Net Worth is More Important Than Knowing the Net Worth of Floyd Mayweather

net worth

Do you know how much is your net worth at this very moment?

You don’t? And do you know that approximately 20,000 people per month search to learn how much Floyd Mayweather is worth?

Crazy, uh? If you are one of the people who don’t know how much you are worth but are intimate with the wealth of celebrities, you should stop it right now. You should focus on yourself!

Saying that, I was a bit like that myself; except that I didn’t care much about other people’s wealth either. As you well know this disregard for money only led to a lot of debt and heartbreak. In fact, it pretty nearly brought John and me to a complete personal disaster.

You see, here is the deal: if you want to achieve financial health, you really need to get this one right. You have to make sure that your net worth is increasingly positive; you also have to make sure that your wealth is appropriately structured. (And if you are wondering what this is about, I’d like to remind you that when we had £100,000 consumer debt, we also had rather high net wealth. We were just ‘cash poor’; or if you prefer, our wealth didn’t have enough liquidity.)

Since I’ve made it my mission to help as many of my readers as possible to achieve financial health (once you become financially healthy, wealth will follow naturally) today I’ll tell you most that there is to know about knowing your net worth. Including what it is, why knowing it is more important than knowing the worth of Floyd Mayweather, what tools you can use to track it and why you shouldn’t let it define you.

What is net worth?

Your net worth, also known as net wealth, is the total amount of your assets (and possessions) minus your liabilities.

When the value of your assets and possessions is higher than your liabilities, your net worth is positive; and this is very good news, indeed. The more positive your net worth is the more choices you have in your life.

Oh, and remember how I told you that your cash flow is the most important number in personal finance? You can add your net worth as a very close second.

5 reasons knowing your net worth can change your life

“Why is knowing my net worth so important?” – you may be thinking.

One thing is sure: it is important not because knowing may allow you to brag (nicely, of course) or because you could compare yourself to others and fit neatly in clichés. Like ‘I am part of the 10%’ kind of clichés.

No. Knowing your net worth, will serve you well because of the following:

#1. You may be more wealthy than you thought; or not

Whatever you think about your position on the board of the ‘game of wealth’ you are probably wrong. You can trust me on this one. Or we can experiment together.

Let me ask you this: do you see yourself as ‘broke’ or ‘wealthy’? It is important to answer honestly and to write your answer down. You’ll have to get back to this one when you’ve calculated your net worth.

When I did this one for the first time, it turned out that I was way out of step. Because we had a lot of consumer debt, I had grown to see myself (us) as ‘broke’. When I calculated our net worth I had to admit with astonishment that we are ‘wealthy’. I’ve never forgotten this.

The knowledge that we are actually rather wealthy completely changed the way in which I think, behave and make decisions. It was a good surprise.

You may be spot on. Than use the knowledge to change or improve your situation.

#2. You could really plan your life

Ignorance is never a goof foundation for planning. This includes ignorance about your net worth since this is what provides the knowledge (and confidence) to plan for the next week, next month, next year or retirement.

Need an example? Here it is.

I bet you’d choose not to buy a gadget you’d enjoy for couple of weeks if you can see how this money would increase your net worth; with projections.

I bet you’d use your monthly cash flow differently is you know by how much this will increase your net worth when invested properly.

And I’d bet that knowing where you are in the game of wealth would transform the way you do things.

So do me a favour and try this one:

  • Write down where you think you are in terms of wealth.
  • Calculate your net worth using one of the tools I’ll tell you about in the next part of this post.
  • Compare the two.

Now you can either start working towards some really big dreams – like becoming financially independent in X years – or change the course of your finances. It is your call.

#3. Helps you ‘keep your eye on the ball’

Probably better say that knowing, and following regularly, your net worth will help you keep your eye on your money and your life dreams. Long term.

#4. You can take the long view

Knowing your net worth is the only way to be able to make long term life and finances decisions.

Want an example?

I’ve been wondering whether it would be possible in principle to give up work next month. Call me weird but it makes me feel better when I know that I have a choice.

Now, you can decide whether you can afford to go on a holiday using your monthly cash flow. Problem is that here we are talking about a very long vacation.

Then I came across question response by Doug Massey on Quora where he told about the F.T.I. coefficient (F*ck That Index) he developed to make fast decisions about whether or not he could retire. It is simple and you can calculated like this:

(your age x you net worth) / your annual expenses

You see; you need to know your net worth, not simply the size of your pension fund. (Oh, and if the coefficient is over 1,000 one can ‘retire’.)

I did the calculation and you know what?

I can leave my job tomorrow if I want to. Feels good to know. On the other hand, if my coefficient was lower than 1,000 I would have started looking at my net worth, thinking of ways to increase it or change its structure; or reduce my annual expenses. Whatever.

#5. You’ll feel more financially secure

Knowing and following regularly, your net worth also increases the level of control you have over your long-term finances (and life).

And high level of control usually makes us feel more secure in life and finances.

Best tools to track your net worth

You can go all ‘professional’ and use one of the really sophisticated tools like Personal Capital or YNAB. Problem is that these work best for people in the US (particularly Personal Capital).

Or you can use some of the free (and fairly basic) tools like the CNN Money one. (Yes, these are mostly in $$$s and are not very versatile).

There are also some interesting apps that can do that; just have a look and test them.

I still prefer good old-fashioned spread sheets to the more fancy tools and apps – it does the job, usually is free and is versatile enough to allow you to change it to reflect your life.

Here is a selection of the spread sheets that my blogging friends use and I believe are versatile enough to be immensely useful.

  • Sexy Net Worth Tool: Yep, you guessed it. This is the link to the tool that my friend J$ from Budgets are Sexy uses to track his net worth. And he has been doing this for eight years now.
  • Personal Balance Sheet (Net Worth Calculator): This net worth calculator is used and offered by Todd from the Financial Mentor. I like this one a lot because of its clean designs and nuanced approach.
  • Net Worth Calculator (Budget Breakaway): Finally a net worth calculator that has pound rather than dollars in it (not that it matters that much; it is all money, after all). What concerns me with this one are some of the assumptions and the confusion between ‘assets’ and ‘possessions’ (example: the house you live in is not strictly speaking an asset).
  • The Money Principle Net Worth Calculator: This is the net worth calculator we developed and use to follow our net worth. It is fairly detailed and assumes a difference between ‘non-income generating possessions’, like you house and your cars, ‘assets’, ‘cash and savings’ and ‘retirement assets’. This matters when you assess the structure of your wealth. TMP Net Worth Calculator also allows you to include, or not, the value of your life insurance in the calculation.

Now it’s your turn to choose one of these calculators. Please make sure that you choose not the one you think you’ll fill in fastest but the one that allows you most opportunities for wealth building decisions.

To make these decisions, you need to be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much am I worth?
  • What is the constitution of my wealth (including: liquidity, possessions, income generating assets etc.)?
  • How can I mobilise my wealth better to generate the regular income I need?

Words of caution…

Finally, I’d like to offer the following words of caution.

Don’t be duped by the size of your net worth

Where net worth is concerned, the saying ‘the bigger the better’ fully applies. Still, it is possible to have a very decent, even large, net worth and be in financial trouble. I know; this is what happened to us. To make sure this never happens, I had to completely change the structure of our wealth. Analyse your net worth carefully and watch for the following:

  • Proportion of net worth that is liquid and easily accessible. What proportion of your wealth to keep liquid changes with age but you cannot afford to be ‘cash poor’ at any stage of life.
  • Proportion of your wealth in non-income generating possessions. You need to live somewhere and you need to get around; true. But at any stage of life you have to make sure that the wealth you have tied up in non-income generation possessions is no more than half of your total net worth.
  • The other half of your wealth ought to be invested in income generation assets. If you don’t at least aim to achieve this, you are missing a trick and, as much as I hate to say it, deserve all the financial problems you are going to hit.
  • Remember that you can always transform a ‘non income generating’ possession into an asset. Example: if you rent out a room in your house, you’ve done it. Now, invest the rent and you are on your way to prosperity.

For building true wealth you need to continuously increase your net worth and check it’s structured for optimal growth.

Your net worth is not your self worth

You may be thinking that this is a cop out in case you found that your net worth is very low or even negative.

It isn’t.

My net worth is very positive and I’ll never allow it to define me. In fact, my self worth is what defines my net worth.

Or as Macklemore said:

“Make money, don’t let money make you.”

That is it!

Now, go and calculate your net worth! Analyse its structure and come back to tell us what did it tell you about your life and your finances.

photo credit: Colorful Stones Texture – HDR via photopin (license)