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I’ve only recently put much time or effort into net worth tracking. Previously, I just watched my general number month to month using one of my robo advisors. If you’re familiar with mushrooms, I’m going to make an analogy… once you balances reach enough high to start seeing the effects of compounding, your net worth can start to grow as quick as mushrooms pop up! You’ll get the joke later.
Why To Track Net Worth
I am going to sing the praises of net worth tracking here. I have only been tracking my net worth since April of 2018, using a combination of free software from Personal Capital and an adapted to my needs version of BudgetsAreSexy.com free budgeting templates.
Since April, my net worth has grown $51,000. I knew my number ticked up steadily, but I really didn’t realize how quick things could grow. I just always expect to see it growing. You can get really “used to” the number you are seeing and lose perspective of how far you have come.
Just since last quarter, or June our net worth has went up $40,000 . We paid off a new roof on a large outbuilding in June and had a few other large expenses, otherwise, the 6 month growth number would be at least 10k higher.
Now that I’m between jobs…
Net worth tracking is really providing me valuable insights.
Due to some slightly clever timing of when I put in for some vacation days and a holiday, one day of paid work netted me nearly 40 hours of pay this month.
You may think I’m crazy here, but 75% of that paycheck still went to 401k! Even though I’m out of work I’m still trying to max out my 401k for the year. Maybe I am crazy, I don’t know… I probably am, but not for this reason. The last thing I want to happen is to be taxed at 22% for my unemployment when those checks finally start coming in! So, I figure it’s a good year to try and take advantage and keep myself in that lower tax bracket if at all possible. The rest of that paycheck went to HSA and insurances, so I barely saw any of it hit my checking account.
I also got about $700 of reimbursement for work travel in the month of August. This plus the 401k and HSA boost are probably what kept me in the positive this month. I ended up with a $1700 increase in net worth for the month, even though I only worked one day.
I also netted $244 dollars for selling wild mushrooms and huckleberries I picked, plus $100 in Amazon gift cards for internet surveys which I did not calculate into my net worth for the month.
True net worth growth for the month was closer to $2000.
Seeing where my net worth was at 6 or even 3 months ago makes me feel a lot better about the prospect of having to actually tap in to some of my accounts if this work search takes longer than expected. My net worth has grown in the last 3 months the amount that I estimate we would spend if we were making even more effort than usual to control spending throughout the year.
Worst case scenario, job hunt wise (barring the market taking a shit, which could happen any time), this time next year I’m looking at a similar net worth to what I had in June of this year. That’s not as bad as I like to think. Simmer down TFP, you’ll be all right.
What I’m lacking is good tracking of my spending
Now, that’s a harder subject. I can see how my net worth is going up over time now, but I don’t have the complete picture to plan for times off of work or perhaps some eventual early retirement. I really should have a better idea of what my annual spending is.
My general method for estimating my annual spending has been to look at my annual credit card statement that tracks all of this for me at the end of the year. Then I add up any extra, large expenses we might have had (such as a tax bill, a new roof paid in check or property taxes). Since I try to use credit card for everything possible, it has given me an estimate that I feel is usually pretty accurate.
I just realized, for all those years I looked at it that way I was never accounting for my spending at Costco! Whoops! I suppose we should add about 3-4k to that estimate. At least Costco takes Visa now, so, that’ll get rolled in to my annual statement.
However, I’m beginning to get in to credit card churning, so I can’t just rely on the statement from one credit card. Personal Capital does have expense tracking, and that seems like it’s going to be the best bet for me. For this year, it won’t have data for the whole year, but it already gives me data and an estimate somehow for the months that I wasn’t using the software.
Just do it!
You don’t have to break out the Excel spreadsheets or borrow one from J. Money at Budgets Are Sexy (just make sure to use my Personal Capital links if you like my suggestion please!). If you’re not already signed up, Mint has options that allow it, as does my new personal favorite (I’ve ditched Mint), Personal Capital. They’re both free. You’ve got now excuse.
Start doing this and in a few months, you might decide you want to take a closer look at things. Part of the reason I wanted to break it down on spreadsheets is so that I could separate accounts that I think of as being earmarked for my son. I don’t want to always be thinking of his college fund and “maybe he won’t go to college fund” and his birthday money account at Ally as part of me and my spouses personal net worth.
Plus, I think it will be pretty damn cool for him to have had his net worth tracking going on since he was a toddler. Maybe if I can show him the value of compounding at age 5 I can turn him on to be a die hard personal finance geek who invests half his earnings from age 10 on and skips the rat race at 18 and buys me a house in the tropics with the money he earns on his passions. Parents can dream.