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We hear a lot about net worth when it comes to the rich and famous, but we don’t hear too much about net worth when it comes to the average American. There’s no conspiracy here. The reason we don’t hear much about the net worth of ordinary folks is because their net worths tend to be, well, not worth mentioning.
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We’re living in notably tough times when just filling our cars with gasoline is simply too expensive to do without stretching our budgets. The cost of food and other essentials is soaring. Homes and cars, both net worth staples, are pricier than ever. The middle class is being squeezed out of existence. All of this is enough to make you think, “Well, I guess I will live my entire life with a measly net worth.”
But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are a few solid moves you can make to elevate your net worth. It may not be the exact net worth of your dreams (Hello, Jeff Bezos!), but it can definitely be a lot higher than where it stands today.
Know Where Your Net Worth Stands Now
“The first step you need to take to grow your net worth is to take a snapshot of what your net worth is currently,” said Deacon Hayes, a personal finance expert with Well Kept Wallet. “You do this by writing down what you own and subtracting what you owe. This will show you what your net worth is right now. Then you can start making moves to improve your financial situation.”
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Save Early and Save Often
“In your early working years, it matters much more how much you are saving and how regularly than the return that you are getting on your investments,” said Daniel Patterson, CFP, founder of Sweetgrass Financial Planning. “If you have a thousand dollars in an investment account and you get a 10% annualized return, then you’ve increased your net worth by $100. If you save $250 a month over the course of the year, then you’ve increased your net worth by $3,000. There will come a point where your investment returns will start to matter more as your net worth begins to grow, but you have to start by saving money so that your investment gains become more meaningful.”
“Many people believe that they cannot achieve a high net worth, but through investing, especially when your money has enough time to compound, it is very possible to become a millionaire or even multi-millionaire,” said Kaci Schmitt, a licensed mental health counselor and wealth-building mentor for therapists and other healthcare workers. “For example, a 20-year-old who invests $300 per month in index funds tracking the US stock market could become a millionaire in 36 years based on a 10% annual rate of return.”
Don’t Get Tripped Up Thinking You Need a Lot To Start Investing
Think you need a lot of money to start investing?
“Not the case,” said Shang Saavedra, financial expert at Save My Cents LLC. “You can buy stocks for dollars. It is time that is more important.”
Saavedra added that almost everyone who became rich and did not inherit their wealth did so via investing.
“You might already be investing even if you don’t think so. This could include:
– Employer-sponsored accounts, such as 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), Thrift Savings Plan
– A traditional or Roth IRA
– A taxable brokerage using companies like Fidelity, Vanguard, Charles Schwab.”
Live Below Your Means
“Admittedly, living below your means, and spending less than you make, may seem limited to some people at first, but the results are motivating and exciting for those that embrace it,” said Alissa Krasner Maizes, JD, a financial planner and the founder of Amplify My Wealth. “Ultimately, spending less than you make empowers you to lay a solid financial foundation allowing for more flexibility and less stress.”
Explore Multiple Streams of Income
“One of the most important steps you can take to build your net worth is to explore multiple streams of income,” said Alyssa Davies, author of “Financial First Aid: Essential Tools for Confident, Secure Money Management” and the founder of Mixed Up Money. “There are seven potential streams: earned, business, interest, dividend, rental, capital gains, and royalties. You probably already have more than you think.”
Davies stresses that it takes time to build multiple income streams, but that most of them can be accomplished by opening new accounts online, like a high yield savings account or a robo advisor for your investments, which makes them more accessible.
“How do you start? The best thing to do is determine what options you have: whether you want to monetize a talent, find a part-time job at a company, or otherwise,” Davies said. “Then determine how much time you realistically have to allocate without pushing yourself to the extreme versions of ‘hustle culture.’”
Multiple streams of income are important not only in building your net worth, but in serving as backup plans should your primary income source fall through.
“If you suffer unexpected job loss tomorrow, you know that you have a backup plan or a place to reach for more income if you need it,” Davies said.
Eliminate Bad Debt and Embrace ‘Good’ Debt
“Bad debt is a killer, good debt is leverage,” said Michael Ryan, a financial coach.
“[Bad] debt such as credit card debt means you are spending more than you can afford to, and comes with an astronomical interest rate. You become the hamster in the financial wheel, running in place.”
Good debt, on the other hand, reflects valuable assets such as a house or even a business and, if wisely managed, will help you grow your net worth dramatically over time.
Celebrate the Wins and Read Personal Finance Books
“Whether keeping track of your increased net worth on a spreadsheet or chart or tracking your accounts, celebrate the wins along the way,” Maizes said. “I also recommend reading such books as ‘The Next Millionaire Next Door: Enduring Strategies for Building Wealth‘ as they set forth how people that increase their net worth live and are a great reminder that you are in good company and that social media is not necessarily a measure of wealth but rather spending.”
Here’s a look at some other great personal finance books for summer that can help you get yourself (and your net worth!) on track.
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About the Author
Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She’s a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, “Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray” received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.