Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thoughts on the NYT Net Worth Obession

So, now that the NYT article "Net Worth Obsession" article has come and gone, I'm going to answer some of the questions and comments that were posed by NYT readers that clicked over to my NetWorthIQ page and this here blog. But first, I wanted to take some time to mull over the comments to the NYT article which fall into about four different categories.

First category - people who track their net worth are confusing their self worth with the amount within their bank accounts.

Your teaser states, "We all wonder how much money other people really have."No, we do not ALL wonder about that. I could not care less. Further, I never ever confuse a person's monetary assets with their "worth."

Um, not really. My self worth is tied up with my relationships, my contributions to the community, my career efforts and accomplishments, how I treat and interact with people in my every day life, etc., etc. But career accomplishments and my education level DO impact my ability to earn money which impacts our net worth.

Second category - people who track their net worth have skewed priorities.

This is a spoof, right? Would it be cruel of me to suggest that a diagnosis of metastatic cancer or some similar tragedy might be a useful corrective to what I regard as a somewhat misplaced set of priorities in the lives of the featured individuals?

Ouch, please don't wish cancer on me folks. I admit to being focused on our finances and admit that I spend more time thinking, tracking, researching, planning, etc. than most of my peers. And one of my top priorities is to have enough money in the bank to (1) cover an emergency, (2) pay for goods and experiences without resorting to debt, (3) provide for our retirement. But the idea that "money" is my top priority is wrong, my top priority is to live a good, fulfilling life with the man I love.

Third category - people who track their net worth in a public forum are showing off.

Tacky. Poor taste.

The main reason I don't post my net worth or blog under my full name is because I do have concerns that people might think that I am bragging about our net worth numbers or passing judgment on others. I've been tracking my individual net worth since shortly after I graduated from college and I posted it on NetWorthIQ mostly for my self. I compare myself to myself, or ourselves to ourselves (our net worth is now a joint number) and my goal is to see progress.

Fourth and final - tracking one's net worth is a valuable tool.

People who don't track their personal finances closely make the mistake of thinking that those who do, are obsessed with money. I'm not obsessed with money, but over the years I've developed ways of tracking my income, spending, debts, and assets, which allow me to know where I am financially, with very little effort on a month-to-month basis. (about 2 hours per month on finances and paying bills, etc) For me, it's the freedom of knowing how much I can spend extra for a vacation, or a gift to a family member. It's the freedom of knowing how much I will need to adjust my budget in order to save for the downpayment on a new car.

Ding, ding, ding. For me, tracking our personal finance habits and keeping track of our net worth helps me stay engaged and therefore I think about the purchases, where our money is going and how we can try to save more.


Anonymous said...

One thing that's confusing is that you don't post how much you earn. Or what the mortgage and other responsibilities cost.

I do pretty okay but my take home pay for the entire year isn't 57K. I'm not sure how this info is helpful if you can accumulate all this stuff earning 4-10 times what the average american does.

Phyllis said...

I'm not sure the actual income or costs is relevant to the concept of net worth. There are plenty of high income earners who are worth nothing and low income earners who are worth 6-figures. It comes down to what you do with what you have.

Step back and study these general concepts for application to your specific situation.