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Is Your Net Worth Below Average?

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I often wonder how well I’m doing financially in my life. I look around at people that are driving Mercedes and BMWs and sometimes I think that I’m way behind in the net worth category. But, do these people actually have a large net worth (assets minus your debts)? Or, are they deeply in debt and just trying to appear wealthy? There’s just not a good way to know!

As I was perusing CNN Money the other day, I realized that they had a helpful calculator related to the median net worth of U.S. citizens. After typing in my age (the spry, young age of 26) and my yearly income, this calculator gave me the average net worth for my age bracket and also the net worth for our household income.

Here’s the link, try it for yourself! http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/networth_ageincome/index.html

So, according to this CNN Net Worth Calculator, those that are between the ages of 25 and 34 have a median of $8,525. How do you measure up? When my wife and I first got married, we had a negative net worth (as many newly weds do I suspect). Why was it negative? College debt! Upon graduation, those degrees were worth absolutely nothing (I couldn’t take my degree down to the pawn shop and sell it – after all, it’s really only a piece of paper), and we still owed the government about $18,000! I think our net worth at that point was probably about -$15,000. I actually remember when we were all excited to have a positive net worth! We thought we were really big stuff. 🙂

Today, I am 26 and my wife is 24, and we have worked hard to get out of debt and build up a net worth with our savings, our paid-for vehicles, and our fixer-upper house. We aren’t anywhere close to saving up a nest egg that will sustain a retirement lifestyle, but we’re doing all we can to make sure we can retire someday without having to think about the cost of our next meal.

How Can Some People Have a Net Worth That’s Less Than $8,525?

Even though my wife and I have managed to develop a net worth that’s greater than the median, I think it would actually be quite easy to reside below the average net worth early in life. Let’s say you went to school to become a doctor. You may have just graduated from medical school and have over $100,000 worth of debt! That’s going to take a while to pay back! And, until you do, your net worth won’t be anywhere near positive, let alone $8,575.

Perhaps you bought a house in 2005 and the value has completely tanked since your purchase. You owe $150,000 on the loan and you house is only valued at $100,000. This puts your net worth at -$50,000 and you thought that you were making a financially wise decision by buying that property!

Getting back to the Mercedes and the BMW example, you might be driving these vehicles, but guess what, the value of these cars is reducing at a faster rate (initially) than the reduction in your loan amount. After two years, your car might be worth $20,000, but you still owe $25,000 in payments over the next 3 years! This scenario gives you a negative worth as well!

There are quite a few ways that a negative net worth can occur, so if you currently rank below the average, don’t worry about it! But, please do everything in your power to change your situation and improve the future of your finances. Good luck! I can’t wait to hear about your success!

Money

AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

43 Comments

  1. I agree. We can find ways to live below that. Several countries do it fine but there is always a sacrifice. I had a mercedes… Not as great as I thought I would feel.

    • I wouldn’t say that we want to live below the national net worth average, but was merely stating why it’s easy to be below average in this area. All of us should take control of our finances and change our current situation. It really shouldn’t be that difficult to be above average.

  2. Well actually, there are a lot of people who are below average right now and yet they can still live a not so bad life..

    • Very true, but what does their future look like? If they are saving less than these averages, their retirement years won’t seem so golden.

  3. Going to college may incur a lot of debt for you but I wouldn’t trade it for not having the debt. In most cases the interest is tax deductible and can help you get a job you would have not been eligible for without a degree.

    • I actually think that’s a poor way of thinking. In my mind, I would say that a student should get through school without debt – yes it is possible. As for the tax deductible interest payments, that never made sense to me either. I’m going to overspend by paying interest and then the government is going to pay me back 20% of the money I spent foolishly? First of all, that really makes no sense why they would do that, and secondly, I’m still 80% in the hole on that interest that I shouldn’t have been paying in the first place.

  4. Interesting calculator. My net worth is above the median for my age, and at the median for my income.

    • Sounds like you’re doing a great job Jackie! Keep up the awesome work!

  5. Nice post, there is also the living pay check to pay check syndrome that keeps many asset poor!

    Or those who choose not to build assets with a philosophy of the homesteader living on very very little a year due to their cash needs being so much lower than the average.

    Or of course those that strugge at the poverty levels most if not all their life 🙂

    As you said, there are many many ways to be below average in assets.

    • Those that are living paycheck to paycheck probably do not rank well here. After all, all of their money is going toward depreciating assets – clothing, cars, food, entertainment – all of these items are basically worth nothing, especially if you fast-forward 10 years.

  6. Im above the median on net worth for my age but well below the median average for my income. What’s that mean? Im doing well for my age but should be doing better for my income level?

    • That’s exactly what it means David. I’m actually in the same boat. Since I’m 26 years old and my wife and I make a decent income, our net worth number based on income is quite high and we’re obviously not there yet. Since that number is the average for income, it covers all age groups and most likely is the average for an early 40s individual. So, if you’re younger than 40, I’d say that you have some time yet.

  7. I am not really sure how they can lump a 34 year old with a 25 year old…usually at such different points in their life.

    I was so excited when I crossed over the positive line a couple years back mostly from my house increasing in value and just saving as much cash as I can for the next purchase.

    • I agree. There is a big difference in financial status between that age range. Many 20 somethings are still in college these days and haven’t had a chance to make a regular salary yet.

      We are doing great with our net worth and it keeps going up. If we keep up doing what we are doing we should be just fine.

      • Those 20 somethings start life at the bottom, and sometimes it’s hard to battle back, but for those that do, they can quickly get out of debt and build their net worth to a six or seven digit number within 10-20 years!

    • Yeah, a 25 year old and a 34 year old should have a huge difference in net worth, but I think the honest truth is, they probably aren’t that different. With those student loans, most people probably don’t enter into a positive net worth until they’re 32 or 33.

  8. I’m on the verge of two age brackets, so I feel pretty good about my net worth right now (higher than average). In about a year, though, I’ll be below the average. I think it’s important to look at where you’re at in their age ranges to determine if you’re on track.

    • Sounds like you’re doing pretty well Christa. Don’t settle for being slightly better than average though. Make sure that you’re fighting for your future financial goals so you can live how you want!

  9. Sometimes I think net worth is a weird thing to measure, especially with cars. Maybe I don’t see my car as an asset?

    • That is a good point FP. Cars do depreciate in value, and most likely in 20 years it will be worth practically nothing, but right now at this moment it holds value and can be sold to another individual. Therefore, it adds to our net worth.

  10. Since I’ve started calculating, I’ve never had a negative worth. When I got married and integrated my wife’s stuff in, the net worth did drop because she was coming in with a negative net worth (due to student loans). With her staying at home with the kids plus having had the full impact of the housing drop, ours definitely has not risen as fast as I would have hoped, but we’re moving in the right direction and taking the right steps and I would think we’re higher than the average based on the info provided.

    • Yep. With house values on the rise again, you should start seeing your net worth rise again! 🙂

  11. It’s true, everyone’s situation is unique and where we live has a big impact on our wealth status as well. According to that site I’m also above median. But compared to the average household net worth in Vancouver, which is more than half a million dollars, I’m actually quite poor :0(

    • I think the second chart is tough to beat, especially if you’re young. Mine showed about $250,000 and we’re nowhere near that yet! Soon though, soon. 🙂

  12. Net worth and earnings are score cards. Just ask Donald Trump! We all start off in various situations and it is up to us individually to do something about it. If you don’t, your future is dim.

    • I wish people would talk about their scorecards more in life. It’s always such a mystery…

  13. Very good points. I like the link to the caluculator. Oddly I was planning on publishing an article on networth very soon in my Personal Finance blog.

    • The calculator is incredibly simple, but it does the job to get you thinking about being better than average!

  14. When I first passed into positive net worth, I needed a car, which dropped my net worth back to the negative. My net worth is now again positive and has never been higher. I love calculating it each month and watch it continually grow.

    • It is a fun measure to watch isn’t it? Since our house value is rising again, our net worth is increasing faster than ever. It’s nice to see a number that’s not zero, but it’s also nice to see a number that’s larger than you ever expected.

  15. This is a very interesting post! I would assume that most people under the age of 35 would even have a negative net worth because of house, car and student debt! I am surprised and happy to see that we have an above median net worth, and I hope that will continue to increase as we pay off our house by next year! We use the app: YNAB and it’s very easy and fun to track our net worth that way 🙂

    • That’s awesome that you’re tracking your net worth! I think it’s the best way to gauge how you’re doing financially in life.

  16. Well, it turns out that I am better off for my age but behind on the income portion. I figured that is the way it might end up since I had a real good idea of where I might fall. I will be working to improve my position over the next several years especially when it comes to the debt portion of the equation.

    • Sounds like a plan CFM! I’m right there with ya!

  17. Apparantly the average net worth for a 22 yr old is less than $2,000. So pretty much as long as you have any non-negative wealth, you’re doing pretty well relatively speaking!

    • Sounds about right! Keep it up and I’m sure you can do way better than the average!

  18. Actually, I see net worth as a vanity measure. I mean if you have a high net worth because of your house, it doesn’t really impact your day to day. I like to look more at monthly income that is recurring. At least for retirement purposes : )

    • However, in your retirement years, you could sell your $500,000 house and suddenly, you’ve got a ton of money to live on. I think that net worth is a good measure.

      • Hmm, but where will you live after selling your house? Unless you downgrade to a lessor town or to a smaller place, the prices you need to pay for the new house will be around what you sold your original house for.

  19. Can anyone tell me if net worth includes monies accrued in retirement plans?

    Not counting retirement plans (401k & TSA) my net worth is still slightly above the norm for my age group, but if these monies are also considered then I am going to feel a lot more at ease.

    thanks.

    • Yes, your net worth includes everything that has a monetary value, so your retirement plans definitely qualify! Congrats on being ahead of the average Steve!

      • thanks for the response.


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