Tag Archives: financial literacy

What is Your Net Worth?

When it comes to understanding your finances, a good place to start is by calculating your net worth.

Net worth is the total value of everything you own, minus the money you owe. It is a measure of your wealth and an indicator of your financial condition. It can also provide you with valuable insight as you start developing your financial plan for retirement.

How to Calculate Net Worth

The formula for calculating your net worth is simple:

net worth formula

Assets and Liabilities

Your assets are items of value that you own, including:

  • Your house
  • Other real estate (a vacation home, rental property)
  • Money in checking and saving accounts
  • Retirement savings, such as a 401(k) or Deferred Compensation account
  • Stocks, bonds and other investments
  • Your car and other vehicles
  • Jewelry, furniture and household items

Your liabilities are your debts. Your mortgage, credit card debts and loan balances factor into your total liabilities.

If you owe more than the value of your total assets, you have a negative net worth. A negative net worth may not necessarily mean you’re in financial trouble — it just means that at the moment you have more debts than assets.

If you’re just beginning your career and still have student loans, you may find yourself in negative territory. But your net worth is likely to increase over time as you pay down debts and save money.

Knowing Your Net Worth Can Help You Get a Handle on Your Finances

Your net worth shows your current financial status. When you know where you stand, you’ll be better prepared to make decisions about spending, saving and investing, which will help you achieve your short- and long-term financial goals. Your net worth can show you where you’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement. For example, it may indicate a need to curb your spending or reduce your credit card debt.

Your net worth is likely to change over time, so it’s a good idea to calculate it periodically. With this updated financial information, you’ll be able to track trends and make adjustments if necessary.

To learn more about net worth and what it means, you may wish to read What’s Your Net Worth Telling You?

Financial Literacy and Retirement

April is Financial Literacy Month. But what is financial literacy? Basically, it’s the ability to understand and use financial skills to make wise decisions about your finances.

Financial literacy encompasses a variety of skills, but we’d like to focus on some basic skills that are relevant to planning for a successful retirement. Whether you’re just starting your career, planning on retiring soon or already retired, mastering these skills will help you and your future financial security.

financial literacy

Taking Stock of Your Finances

A good place to start building your financial literacy is by getting a handle on your current financial situation. Ask yourself some basic questions:

  • How much do you earn and spend each month?  
  • How much debt do you have?
  • Do you have any major expenses on the horizon?

If you know where you stand, you’ll be in a better position to plan for the future.

If you’re planning for retirement, you can estimate your pension by using the benefit calculator in Retirement Online. (You can also check your future Social Security benefit online.)

Creating a Budget

This financial planning tool helps you track your income and expenses. Having a budget can help you make better financial decisions, avoid debt, prepare for emergencies and save money.

If you don’t know how to get started, here are some tips on creating a budget. If you plan to retire soon, you can use our worksheet to create a post-retirement budget.  

Understanding Interest Rates

Interest is great if you’re on the receiving end, but not so great if you are paying it. Unfortunately, consumers can pay very high interest rates on credit. The average interest rate on a new credit card account is nearly 18 percent, and many consumers pay 20 percent or more on their credit cards.

If you have credit card debt, and only pay the minimum each month, you’ll make little progress on reducing the balance while the interest you pay every month adds up. For example, if you owed $1,000 on a credit card with an 18 percent interest rate, and made payments of $40 a month, it would take you 71 months to pay off and your total interest cost would be nearly $500. On the other hand, if you paid $100 a month, it would be paid off in half the time and your total interest would be about $160.

Managing Debt

Debt is not necessarily bad, but it can easily derail your financial plans if you’re not careful. Credit cards pose a particular risk because they are so easy to use, but you can learn strategies to avoid credit card debt.

Saving

As a NYSLRS member, you’ll receive a lifetime pension that will be based on your years of service and earnings. But your personal retirement savings can be an important supplement to your pension and Social Security. It’s never too early or too late to start saving for retirement. To learn more building your savings, read our recent blog post Saving for Retirement. Is Now the Right Time?

Follow our blog for future posts on retirement savings and related topics.