There are lots of ways to calculate what a benchmarked net worth should be. You can read all of my posts on Net Worth here.
The data can be broken down in various ways.
- Net Worth With a Home
- Net Worth Without a Home
- Average Net Worth With and Without a Home
- Median Net Worth With and Without a Home
- Top 1% Net Worth
After all of the charts, I have listed out all of the major factors that go into net worth differences, basically a short analysis of why an average might differ from the median.
NET WORTH – WITH A HOME
NET WORTH WITHOUT A HOME
AVERAGE NET WORTH BY AGE GROUP
Here’s a comparison of average net worth with and without homes.
MEDIAN NET WORTH BY AGE GROUP
Here is the median net worth by age group with and without homes
TOP 1% NET WORTH
WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR THE NET WORTH DIFFERENCES?
There are so many factors that go into net worth differences, but I will try and cover some key points based on observations and personal experience.
There are OBVIOUSLY way more factors that go into this, and each person has their own individual differences of how they got to this point, even with the same net worth at the same age.
1. Student Debt
A lot of us (myself included) started with a lot of student debt. I started with $60K in the hole, and if I did not have that over my head at 23, I’d have invested that amount instead and would be at a much higher net worth today.
If you’re interested, this is how I reached my first $100K milestone, including a budget (of what I could remember), my mindset/thoughts during those times and what I did to get creative in saving money.
2. External Help
I find this comes into play not just with student debt, but also buying your first home, or getting a start in life. If you have parents who are fortunate enough to be able to help you, this is a huge advantage.
I personally will be this parent for Little Bun, not having had this help when I was younger. He is 6 years old at the time of this post, with a little over $33K ready to go for his education fund.
This is how much I am calculating he will need for university, along with different scenarios of where he might go.
When he graduates, if he has student debt, after a year, I may consider helping him clear it to give him a clean slate (if I have the means without jeopardizing my own retirement), and when he buys his first home, same thing — I’d like to help out and gift him with money if I am able to.
All of this is a serious leg up in net worth building. If you start with parents like me, who are able to help you early on, it makes a big difference.
3. Money Origins
If you started in a wealthier or at least, more stable family, you are better off in all sorts of ways.
You didn’t have to worry about food on the table (let alone good food), you had parent(s) who cared for you, and spent time with you, teaching you things as they likely didn’t have to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.
Maybe you also had parents who were not alcoholics, drug addicts, workaholics, abusers, etc. The list, frankly… goes on.
I grew up with parents who put food on the table, love me, and tried their best, but they were and still are definitely no good with money. Their financial literacy is near to zero and I grew up with a Money Origin Story I had to change for myself, by reining in my shopping tendencies (learned from my mother), and trying to re-learn what proper money management and frugality meant.
You also may have had parents who cared very much about making sure you were financially independent.
These are ALL THINGS I will be and am for Little Bun right now. I am teaching him the basics of personal finance, I am teaching him how to take over his own accounts when he is older, and I am going to be right there as his resource every time he needs to figure something out (I will help, not do the work for him).
4. Age of Financial Literacy
Did you start thinking about money at the age of 10? 16? 20? 30?
The sooner you start, the better. I started off thinking about my money (sort of) at 23. I made lots of mistakes for the first 5 years, and am now in a good position more or less, but if you don’t know what a budget is, investing, or know any basic money management principles, it can be hard to dig yourself out.
The age you start talking/thinking about money, matters a lot. It means you have time on your side to help you supercharge your net worth.
Making a high income, I do not need to tell you… is much easier to use to build wealth when you keep your expenses low, than if you make a low income and your expenses are already cut down to the nub.
If you’re making $30K trying to save $10K, that’s a lot harder than making $60K saving $10K, it’s just basic math.
A high income helps a lot. We tend to focus only on cutting expenses and saving money, but we should really be looking at how to make MORE money in terms of negotiating, creating side income streams, and the like.
I have 11 side income streams, all of which I list in my monthly budget roundups.
The 3 main ones are:
- Books I have written – On Blogging, Investing, Managing your Money, Publishing a Book, etc
- Dividends – Dividend Investing 101
6. Cost of Living
If you live in a low cost of living area, you’re golden. Things are so much cheaper. Rent for instance, is $700 not $2000.
I lived in NYC for a short period of time, and paid $5000 USD a month in rent, and when I moved back to Montréal, I paid $2100 CAD in rent, which is $1500 USD.
Even food where you are, amenities, even temptations like shopping, going out to restaurants and so on — all of that can tempt you into spending more than what you have or want to, and/or make you feel resentful you’re staying inside when you could be out having fun.
Or even services, like yoga. It is cheaper in a smaller city (less demand), and more expensive in a bigger one as it is cheaper for the studio to rent (lower overhead) and they also have lower costs of living, which helps keep their prices low.
In a bigger city, rent is way more expensive, teachers are more expensive, and all of that drives up the cost of yoga passes.
7. Money Mindset
Kind of related to financial literacy, but if you don’t lock into a rich mindset early on, you’ll lose out on a lot. I definitely have not had a rich mindset for a long time. I know it sounds very odd to say that, as I became a millionaire at 36, but I really could have become a millionaire earlier.
Instead, I decided to spend my money buying clothing at retail (BIG MISTAKE! I love secondhand designer shopping now and should have done this years ago), which made me spend a lot more money than I should have, and I am definitely someone who veers more towards the Spendy side than the Saving side.
Still, I came out okay, but that’s because my excellent income has buoyed up my spending to the point where I still ‘made it’ and absorbed these extra expenditures without it really jeopardizing my future.
A rich mindset is key. You need to really consider what is conscious spending for you, and at my current state now, I wish I had done this 14 years ago and been more conscious and deliberate about my spending.
Ah well. C’est la vie. We are always learning, aren’t we?
8. Luck – Unpredictable and Created
There’s always a modicum of luck involved. Did you graduate at the peak of the market or during a terrible recession? These things affect your salary at the start, and can have long-lasting effects before they’re smoothed out (or maybe never!)
Did you also happen to get on a project and see an opportunity to learn a lucrative skill? This is what we also refer to as “planned luck” or “created luck”, because I definitely took risks and created my own opportunities / was very very open to all sorts of different, creative ways to save money and make lots of it.
I made my own luck, but I also had some to begin with as well.
9. Your partner
Having a spendy partner and being a spendy person yourself, won’t help. You need a balance. Your partner can sink your ship or swim alongside with you to greater wealth.
If you’re both always spending, not watching money, it ends up just being a harder slog through life.
If you’re both always saving, not spending money, you may end up rich, but are you happy?
Your partner is key to your success. They motivate you, help you, and support you to reach your full potential in income, to help you get out of debt and/or save money.
They can also really screw everything up, like steal money from joint accounts, gamble it on the stock market or on screwed up investments, or basically not work to bring any income in to help, like in these cases when they refuse to take a job ‘below’ their degree and would rather not work.
10. Type of employment and tax efficiency
If you own a business, the income source is limitless. You could start off at $1 a year, and soon be at $50K a year.
If you’re an employee, you’re sort of capped where you are within their salary pay grades, unless you’re in upper management and/or earning sales commissions and big bonuses every year (think: investment banking and consulting).
Business owners, TEND to have a higher net worth because the income keeps rising but perhaps their costs stay just about the same.
I am a small business owner, and I also have tax efficiency that employees cannot take advantage of. I for instance, can write off my mileage when I am going to a client site against my income, or claim back sales taxes or credits on equipment like a new laptop for my business, or even a car, but an employee has to pay all of that NET out of their pocket after taxes if they want a new Macbook Pro.
All of these things, add up over time.
I also take my salary in tax-efficient ways like ineligible dividends instead of in a salary, and I may lose out on the RRSP contribution room, but I make up for it by saving a heck of a lot more in taxes (thousands of dollars) which I then turn around and reinvest into the market instead.
I am saving thousands in taxes a year, and reinvesting it instead, with the ‘same’ income as someone who takes a salary instead. All of this stuff adds up to big savings and compounded investment growth over time.
WHAT IS NET WORTH?
Simple. What you own minus what you owe.
What you own = $575K
- $500K = Home (at market value)
- $25K = Savings
- $50K = Investing
What you owe = $410K
- $400K = Mortgage
- $10K = Credit Cards
$575K – $410K = $165K is your net worth
You don’t count future values of things, like life insurance in your net worth. Just what you can see as an actual balance to your name.
WHY IS NET WORTH IMPORTANT?
It helps you determine if you are on the right path or if you need to save more.
In some cases, it helps me realize I should take my foot off the pedal and just coast a little because I don’t need to hustle so hard to save and invest so much and I can afford to enjoy my money.
Net worth helps you see where you are at, and what you can aim for, which is key in setting money goals.
I for instance, see that I am well above any median and average net worths. I am however, not even close to the 1% net worth without my partner’s net worth factored in.
I have a little over $1M, and he has a bit more over $1M. Together we are at about $2.2M or now, perhaps $2.3M, which puts us in the Top 1% Household.
That said, I am not PERSONALLY in the Top 1% and that motivates me to save even more to see if I can reach that threshold, or at least come close to it. It’s a challenge for me.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEDIAN & AVERAGE?
Average = Mean (another word for ‘average’), and it takes all of the data points in one area and averages it out.
Example: 50, 60, 100, 40, 34 .. is calculated as:
50 + 60 + 100 + 40 +34 = 284
284 / 5 = 56.80
56.80 would be the average of those 5 numbers.
Median = The middle number in the entire set of data points.
Example, ranking lowest to highest: 34, 40, 50, 60, 100
50 would be the median of those 5 numbers, or the middle number.