Net worth is an important measure of wealth. For individuals, net worth is total assets minus total debts. So, net worth is the value of the assets remaining after all debts are paid. Net worth is one of the most important metrics in personal finance.
Net worth definition
Net worth is a measure of wealth. It is the sum of the assets owned by a person or household, minus any debts. If assets are higher than debts, the net worth is positive. If the liabilities are larger than the assets, the person has a negative net worth.
Net worth is important because it is a measure of financial health. If a person has a negative net worth, they owe more than the sum of their assets. This indicates poor financial health.
As net worth grows, the person’s financial health improves. Tracking net worth over time can show how much a person’s financial health has improved.
The formula for net worth is net worth = total assets – total liabilities. Net worth is also called net assets because it shows the assets remaining after the debts were paid.
For example, assume John’s assets are $120,000 and his debts are $50,000. So his net worth is $70,000. See the example below.
To calculate net worth, households need a list of personal assets and liabilities.
The following assets are typical personal assets:
- cash in bank or money market accounts
- value of cars and other vehicles
- retirement accounts such as a 401k, IRA, and Roth IRA
- investment accounts with stocks and mutual funds
- value of a house or other real estate
- collectibles, antiques, or jewelry
- value of ownership in a business
The following list shows a list of personal liabilities:
- car loans
- student loans
- mortgage loans
- credit card balances
- other personal loans
From the total assets subtract total liabilities to calculate net worth.
Net worth example
Assume Mary, age 35, wants to calculate her net worth. First, she needs a list of her assets. Her assets are:
|Cash in bank accounts||$ 10,000|
|Value of car||$ 20,000|
|Retirement account||$ 55,000|
|Total Assets||$ 320,000|
Second, Mary needs a list of her personal liabilities. She has the following debts:
|Credit card balance||$ 5,000|
|Student loan||$ 30,000|
|Car loan||$ 15,000|
|Home loan||$ 175,000|
|Total Liabilities||$ 225,000|
What is Mary’s net worth? Since total assets are $320,000 and total debts are $225,000, Mary’s net worth is $95,000. Mary’s calculation is below.
|Total Assets||$ 320,000|
|Total Liabilities||$ (225,000)|
|Net Worth||$ 95,000|
U.S. average net worth
In the U.S., the average net worth is shown in two ways: the mean and the median.
However, the median net worth in the U.S. is $121,700. So, which one should we use?
One of the problems with calculating a mean is that means are skewed by large numbers. In this case, large net worth numbers would increase the mean significantly. So, the $748,800 does not show the typical household.
In contrast to the mean, the median is not affected by large or small numbers. The median is the middle number of the data set. So, the median is more representative of a typical household than the mean. The median shows the middle value. 50% of the households are above the median and 50% below it.
So, we use the median for financial metrics like income and net worth.
U.S. median net worth by age
In 2019, the median U.S. household net worth was $121,700. This is the overall median for all ages. For most people, that number isn’t very helpful. So, what is the median net worth by age?
The following table and graph show the medians by age. The youngest age bracket, 18-34, has the lowest median net worth. One reason for this is because this is when most people start their careers. Another reason is that some young people have negative net worth because of student loans early in their careers.
To understand the chart, find the median for the age category. From the previous example, Mary is 35 years old with a $95,000 net worth. The median for her age is $91,300. This means half of the households are above $91,300 with half below.
Mary is in the top half of her age category. She has a higher net worth than the typical household. So, she is doing better than most households.
|Age||U.S. Median Net Worth|
|75 +||$ 254,800|
The following graph shows the same information as the previous table. As people get older, the median net worth increases until the retirement years of 75+.
Net worth calculator
This calculator is an easy way to calculate your net worth. You need an estimate of the value of your personal assets. You will also need to find your loan balances for your debts.
You can use different amounts for different dates to start tracking your net worth. Knowing your net worth is a great habit to start.
Can you have a negative net worth?
Yes, negative net worth is when the debts are greater than the household assets. To improve the negative net worth, pay off debts or increase assets.
Does every person or household have a net worth?
Every household has assets and/or debts. So, yes every household has a net worth. It could be negative or positive, but it would still be net worth.
Adults who own assets and debts would have a net worth. Typically minor children do not own assets and do not have a net worth.
What is a millionaire?
A millionaire is a person with a net worth of at least $1 million dollars. So, their assets exceed their liabilities by at least one million. Technically, net worth is calculated by households. However, the term millionaire usually refers to individuals.
What is a high net worth individual?
A millionaire is also called a high net worth individual (HNWI). Some definitions of HNWI require at least $1 million of liquid investments not including home equity.
- High net worth individuals (HNWI) have liquid assets between $1 – $5 million.
- Very high net worth individuals (VHNWI) have liquid assets between $5 – $30 million.
- Ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWI) have liquid assets greater than $30 million.
What is a billionaire?
A billionaire has a net worth of at least $1 billion. So, their assets exceed their debts by at least one billion. There are an estimated 2,700 billionaires worldwide.
What is another name for net worth?
Net worth for an individual is called net assets, or simply wealth.
Net worth for a company is called stockholders’ equity, equity, or net assets.