What Should Your Net Worth Be?

Dear Readers,

This post is very near and dear to me. As my twenties come to a close and I get closer to the dreaded “dirty 30”, I’ve been doing a lot more self reflection. I’ve been asking myself questions like:

Have I helped people? Have I lived a good life? And how the heck did my 20’s fly by so quick?!

But one question that comes up time and time again for me, is: How am I doing with the promise I made to myself when I was a kid? 

When I was 8, I promised myself I’d be a millionaire by the time I was 30. And although I’m not worth 7 figures yet, I got curious: How am I currently stacking up compared to my peers?

What should my net worth be at 30? And more importantly: What’s a good net worth at 30?

Quickly: What is Net Worth?

Just in case we’re starting from scratch here, your:

NET WORTH = (all your ASSETS) – (all your LIABILITIES)

Think of it as an overall picture of your financial health. Add up the total dollar value of all your assets: your cash, your 401k, any stocks, bonds, market value on your home, car, etc. and subtract from it all the liabilities under your name: credit card balances, mortgages, student loans, personal loans, car loans, etc.

There’s a big difference between being rich and being wealthy. Just because you make a lot of money, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a good net worth! You could be making millions and still have a negative to average net worth for your age if you have too many liabilities. There’s definitely correlation between high income and high net worth, but not necessarily causation.

So What should your net worth be?

Now, I do want to say this question is a little vague.

I’d argue that the question of “what should your net worth be” really depends on your circumstances. I.E. – If you’re lucky enough to receive a $1MM dollar inheritance right when you turned 18, but blew through half of it in a year, you’d be a teenager with a net worth of ~$500k. That figure would still put you in the top 1% of your peers’ when it comes to average net worth by age… but c’mon, it should’ve been higher.

Ok, so that’s an extreme example. But what about for the rest of us? What’s the average American’s net worth by age?

This data was pulled from a 2013 Federal Reserve survey. There’s a lot going on in the graph, but what we’re looking for are the numbers in the middle 50%.

18-24:       $4,400
25-29:      $9,460
30-34:      $19,400
35-39:       $36,320
40-44:      $62,200
45-49:      $72,070
50-54:      $122,100
55+:          $194,700

Are you surprised? Where do you fall compared to the average?

If you don’t already know your number, I’d strongly encourage you to stop and find out what your net worth is today.

The good news is thanks to technology, you don’t even need to break out the pen and calculator anymore. You can find out your net worth for free, in literally just a few minutes. (More on that at the bottom of this post.)

So this answered the first question I had: What should my net worth be at 30? 

Well, it should be at least $19,400. At that number, theoretically half of the 30 year olds I meet would be worth more than me, and half of them less. I gave myself a quick pat on the back since I was already considerably ahead of that number.

But my second question still remained:

What’s a good net worth?

When I was growing up, if I brought home anything less than an A, it would be immediately followed by a swift beating with a clothes hanger. I kid you not, the stereotype here for Asian American 2nd-gen. kids is crazy accurate…

Your net worth is the closest thing you can get to an “adult report card”. So I wanted to know: what is a “good” net worth by age 30? What did I need for an adult A?

Unsurprisingly, the net worths of the top 10% vs. the middle 50% of every age group are not just higher, they’re exponentially higher.

The average net worth of a top 10% 30 year old was $242,450. That’s almost 13x more wealthy than the average 30 year old.

Even more: To be in the top 1% (A++ range) you needed a net worth of $1,373,300 – or roughly 71x more wealth than your average 30 year old peer.

Needless to say, when I saw this data – I was ecstatic that I still had a couple years left to go.

Some final thoughts

(Note: These figures are all median values, which much more accurately portrays the “average” net worth by age groups, since wealth concentration tends to follow a strong power law distribution.)

The numbers can elicit a wide range of emotions. Everything from sadness, to joy, to even feelings of anger. But I think the best response here is to use the data as motivation.

It does no good to look at someone else’s G.P.A. and get angry or jealous! What we need to be focused on, is how we can each individually improve our own grades. Whether that means we study harder or work smarter – we can all takes steps to better ourselves, and help each other along the way.

Many of my peers (millennials) dug themselves into financial holes straight out of college. The vast majority of them were well educated, but completely illiterate in personal finance. I wanted to help!

So when I started this blog, it was with that sole purpose in mind. Call it the “asian dad in me” – but I wanted to help as many people as I could improve their financial grades.

So How can you start increasing your net worth?

The first step is to start educating yourself on personal finance.

Subscribe to my email list at the bottom of this page, and I promise to provide you with the absolute best content I can on that front!

I also wrote an entire 3 part series on building wealth that I highly recommend you read.
It covers some basics on wealth creation and personal finance.
(/End of completely shameless self-Promotion)

Second and most importantly, you need to start tracking your net worth religiously. Knowledge is half the battle here.

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