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10 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Net Worth

kill your net worthYour net worth – simply described as what you own minus what you owe – is hands-down the most popular gauge for wealth. There are people in this world that have never earned more than $50,000 in a given year, but they’re worth millions. And then there’s a whole other class of people that earn $200k+ a year and are worth absolutely nothing. Whether you earn hardly anything or you make a ton, there are 10 things that will absolutely kill your net worth and I strongly urge that you watch out for them, avoid them, and prosper heavily because of it.

10 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Net Worth

When I was 23 years old and living on my own, I made a profound realization that changed the course of my life forever.

  • The bums living near my neighborhood earned very little, they owned practically nothing, and I assume most of them had very little debt. Their net worth was basically zero.
  • Then, there were couples in their late-30’s that lived in my development that owned a nice house, had a couple of nice cars, and often took a lot of vacations. But, with their student loans and credit card debt, their net worth was actually -$50,000 or worse!

…The homeless man had a better net worth than the educated “rich people”.

This happens all the time, but many of us don’t stop to think about it. We just see people’s shiny stuff and immediately assume they’re doing incredibly well financially. It’s often not the case. You know why? Because they weren’t aware of these 10 things that will absolutely kill your net worth. Either that, or they just stupidly chose to ignore them…

Don’t be an ignoramus. Take note of the 10 things that will absolutely kill your net worth below and avoid them like the plague.

1) A New Car

How much does a new car’s value really go down once you drive it off the lot? According to Trusted Choice…11%. And then how much will the car depreciate after just 3 years? 46%.

So, a brand new $35,000 car will be worth about $31,000 two minutes after you’re handed the keys. Ouch, that’s an expensive 2 minutes!! Then, after just three years, your car plummets down to a value of $18,000.

You single-handedly lost $17,000 just by driving a car. Yikes! Not to mention all the extra money you spent on maintenance and insurance because you have a more expensive car. All in all, by driving a new car (even a “cheap” domestic car), you’ll lose roughly $7,000 a year! Yup, this move will absolutely kill your net worth!!

Related: How Much Is That New Car Costing You?

2) Expensive Home

Houses are great…until they suck all your money away from you….for 30 years. Womp wommmm…

According to a recent CNBC publication, the median home price is $200,000 today….which means that quite a few people (25% or more) own houses that cost $300,000 or more. If they borrow $300,000 from their bank at 4.5% over 30 years, guess how much they’d pay each month? And guess how much in total they’d pay in interest?

  • Payment per month: $1,520 + property taxes + home insurance = $2,000 a month
  • Total paid in interest: $247,000

So there are two reasons your expensive house will kill your net worth:

  1. It’s leaving you cash poor each month because your mortgage payment is more than 25% of your take-home pay (that’s a lot!)
  2. Half of the money you put toward your “house payment” actually goes straight into the bank’s pockets in interest!

Related: How Much House Can I Afford?

3) Restaurants

You know that spaghetti dish you get at your favorite Italian restaurant? It costs you $14, which doesn’t sound too bad…until you realize you could have made it yourself for $6 (or less).

And those potato wedges that you could just die for? $8. But, only $2.50 at home.

When you go out to eat and buy a meal, you’re not just paying for the food, you’re paying the:

  • Chef’s wages
  • Waitress’s earnings
  • Busboy’s hourly salary
  • the building’s mortgage, taxes, and upkeep
  • as well as the owner’s profits!

For every meal you buy at a restaurant, you could have easily made it yourself for less than half the cost.

So how much does this kill your net worth?

Probably more than you realize.

According to a fantastic write-up by Simple Dollar, the average person spends $232 on food outside of the home. If there’s two of you, your monthly spend is $464. That means every year, you’re blowing $5,500 of your hard-earned money on restaurant meals. What if you invested that money instead of spending it for convenience? How much money would that develop into over 40 years?

You seriously don’t want to know… (but I’m going to tell you anyway because I just can’t help it… $2.1 million)…

4) Delaying Investments

So you’re eating out, you’ve got a nice car, and you live in a better-than average house that you probably don’t need. This of course means that you’re not investing like you should either.

Most financial experts advise people to invest 15% of their monthly earnings for retirement. Guess what the average is? 3.8%. That’s pretty sad. And it’s exactly the reason this country is headed for a crisis. More people will need help in their retirement years than those that can provide it…all because of stuff that’s forcing us to delay (or ignore entirely) our retirement saving.

And, as you learned from the above example, $464 a month can get you $2M into your retirement in 40 years. What if you waited just 10 years of the 40 and started investing then? You’d still have $1.5M, right?


Instant gratification can really cost you… Instead of $2,000,000, if you spent your money today and starting investing just 10 years from now, you’d only have….

$827,000 in retirement…

kill your net worth - work too far away5) Living Too Far From Work

This is one that most people don’t think that much about, but I certainly don’t take it lightly. Living too far from work means:

  • Less time for myself,
  • Fewer precious moments with my family, and
  • Less opportunity to make side-hustle money!

At the end of this year, I’ll have earned nearly $50,000 from my side hustles alone (blogging and a house flip). That’s almost the average for a household income!

Am I just that special? Am I just that brilliant? No…it’s all because I live just 5 minutes from work. So, instead of listening to music and the news and wasting two hours of my life each day in the car, I’m making money and piling it into my net worth!

6) No Delayed Gratification

We live in a society today that tells you,

  • “You only live once!” (aka “YOLO”…)
  • “Watch out for numero uno!”
  • “Live for today because you never know if you’ll have a tomorrow!”

While it can be healthy to treat yourself in the moment once in a while, living by these principles each and every day will almost certainly mean a pretty crappy tomorrow.

What do I mean by this?

Well, if you’re constantly upgrading your car for the newest model, putting mini-vacations on your credit card, and treating yourself every night for this and that (ie. going further in debt), then you’ll never have any money saved for when you’re older. Soooo, when you’re 75 years old and can’t work anymore and the only income you have is Social Security (which will pay you about $1,800 a month…whoopie), your life is going to flat out suck until you die.

Learn to delay gratification and you might actually have some money (and some fun) when you’re older.

7) Staying in Debt Too Long

I can’t believe how many 50 and 60 year-olds I’ve heard talking about their mortgage payments. I paid off my student loans when I was 27, and then I had my house paid off before I was 30. No matter what those fancy financial advisors say, I’m a huge believer in getting rid of all your debt as quickly as possible. Today, my wife and I have absolutely no bills other than property tax, insurance, utilities, our phones, and food. That’s it.

So what do we do with the thousands of dollars left over each month?

  • We invest the majority of it,
  • Give a fair amount away to those in need, and
  • We have a ton of fun with the rest of it (vacations to Sanibel Island, many weekend trips up to Northern Michigan, and pretty soon we’re going to buy acreage and horses! (that exclamation mark on the horses was for my wife…not necessarily for me :))

If you want to grow wealthy, one of the best ways to do it is by kicking your debt to the curb as quickly as possible and then investing heavily for your future.

8) Excessive Recreation

Most people are freaking stressed. They’ve got car payments, a house payment, student loans, maxed-out credit cards – they just need to get away from it all sometimes to get their minds off of it. So what do they do? They sign up for softball!

Oye vey…

So…this debt that will kill your net worth can be solved by spending more money and taking up all your available time where you maybe could have made some more money…?? Yeah, that sounds logical.

If your net worth is next to nothing and it’s really starting to freak you out, then it’s not time to recreate. It’s time to find an extra job, make that extra money, and clear out your debts!!

Related: 50+ Practical Ways to Pay Off Debt Faster 

9) Investing Too Aggressively

About one out of every 40 people (based on my non-scientific observations) think they’re God’s gift to the stock market. They believe that they can hop in the market at the exact bottom and out of the market at its peak. Not only that, but they also think that their stock picks always beat the market.

According to Andrew Hallam in his book, “The Millionaire Teacher,” people that jump in and out of the market earn far less than those that just stick with an index funds — 5% vs. 8-9%. Sure, you might have a few big wins that you’ll remember for life, but on average, you’re losing.

10) Paying Too Much in Taxes

Paying taxes here and there won’t kill your net worth, but ignoring your tax liabilities all together certainly will.

Let’s say you earn $100,000 a year. If you do absolutely nothing, you’ll owe about $20,000 in taxes (between federal and state), leaving you with $80,000.

Now what if you actually paid attention?

  • And maxed out your 401k contributions for you and your spouse ($18,500 per person in 2018)
  • Maxed out your HSA contributions ($6,900 for families in 2018)
  • Claim your $2,500 tax credit for college expenses

Just these simple acts will reduce your taxes from $20,000 down to approximately $4,000. It pays to pay attention.

Related: Never Pay Taxes Again

Don’t Kill Your Net Worth – Start Paying Attention Instead

To be completely honest with you, it’s pretty easy to lose focus and grow stagnant on your net worth. Heck, any one of the 10 things above could derail your net worth growth if you’re not careful. What you’ve got to do is:

  1. Decide that you’re going to grow your net worth
  2. Set a goal for what you’d like your net worth to be in retirement
  3. Then, set mini goals every year or so to make sure you’re staying on track

It really is that simple, but by no means is it easy!

Don’t kill your net worth. Decide, set a goal, and track it!

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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.


  1. Great Advice! If there was one thing I could share with those in their 30’s or 40’s, you have captured it.
    You don’t want to “have to” work when you’re in your 60’s. That’s when you’ll really appreciate saving when you were younger…

    • Yup, I’m sure plenty of people will feel that way once they hit their 60’s! So many people think it will get easier to save later in life, but in reality it just gets harder. Start today!

  2. Normally when I comment I’d say something like “#4 was my favorite”…

    But this list is so perfect I’d have to tell you how all of them are my favorite.

    • Boom!! Avoid them all an you’ll likely have millions in retirement!!

  3. GREAT article here Derek! man I love to see something new and refreshing! keep up the amazing job sir! I will for sure be back to see what new and invigorating posts you put out.

    • Thanks DD! There’s definitely more articles to come! Stay tuned!

  4. I think you left out probably the biggest one of all: Divorce. There are not too many things out there that can kill you net worth by half or more (plus add to future ongoing expenses with child support and or alimony) than Divorce.

    I actually started a Divorce and FIRE series on my blog addressing this. I had a painful divorce before I turned 40 and had about a 7 figure hit to my net worth (I actually included 2 posts about it in my 5 part series, I Made Every Mistake in The Book on my blog.

    • Oooooo, good point. Let’s make it 11 things that will kill your net worth. I went through a divorce 6 years ago and it definitely cut my net worth in half. Luckily, I was only worth about $40k back then and we had no kids.

      So what takeaways would you have from your experience? Choose a partner wisely? Focus more on relationship building? Never get married? 😉

  5. How was YOUR net worth cut in half?? You walked away with half a couple’s net worth which was equal to your net worth.
    BRW, Women are far more likely to live in poverty after divorce than men are.

    • I call it mine because my wife spent every penny that I didn’t hide. Then she took half of that money in our divorce. Any other questions….?

  6. Great post! You hit the nail on the head with this list. I can personally identify with 3, 4, 5, and 7 (I’m fixing this one though, debt free by 2020.) Nice to meet another Michigander in the PF world. I look forward to more post from you.

    • Glad you liked the post, Danell! Way to take charge of your debts. Be sure to let me know when you slay them all!!

  7. My advice regarding marriage is to make sure your partner and you are both on the same financial page and financially compatible. Can’t have one who is a saver and one who is a spender and expect to make any financial headway. Looks come and go but core beliefs are pretty steadfast.

    I disagree with Leah in terms of net worth staying the same post divorce by saying YOUR net worth is unchanged when couples split. I have never seen a married couple mention net worth in his or her terms. It’s one number. That number dramatically takes a hit when a couple splits and you then have to use what you received post divorce.

    Sorry you went through a tough divorce too Derek. If you are up for it would love to share your story on my blog. Here is the guidelines for what I am looking for:

    • Agreed, and thanks for backing me on my net worth comment. I’ll definitely consider sharing my story on your blog. Stay tuned on that one!

  8. Nice article. Another one could be owning a timeshare which is a money pit.

    • Yup, that’s a good add too! Timeshares are pretty much the biggest money pit out there.

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