Are You Getting Your Piece of the Pie?

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Elenathewise

The Federal Reserve provides us with a quarterly report of household net worth. The latest number is $85 trillion, up 51% from the financial crisis year of 2008. I don’t care who you are, that’s a lot of wealth—and a nice increase.

The distribution of our wealth from person to person is the subject of some political debate, which we will leave to the politicians. It always has made sense to us to focus on the things within our control; let’s see what we can learn from the numbers.

Our $99 trillion of assets includes homes ($22 trillion), money in the bank ($10 trillion), bonds ($4 trillion), common stock ($13 trillion), mutual funds ($8 trillion), pensions ($20 trillion), and small businesses ($10 trillion).

We owe $14 trillion, including $9 trillion in mortgages and $5 trillion in consumer debt (vehicle loans, credit cards, etc.)

Net worth is simply the value of our assets minus our liabilities, or what we own minus what we owe. $99 trillion minus $14 trillion is our $85 trillion in net worth.

Here are the pertinent points, as we see them:

1. Having wealth in different forms is a good thing, a form of diversification. We the people have money in the bank, different kinds of investments, homes and businesses.

2. Debt can make sense when it helps us own assets of enduring value that we can afford to pay for over time. $9 trillion in mortgages is a large pile of debt, but that helps us own and enjoy $22 trillion worth of homes.

3. Since debt or liabilities are subtracted from assets to determine our net worth, it makes sense to minimize debt over time. One who pays off a car loan and then keeps putting the payment amount in savings each month might get by with a smaller loan the next time a vehicle is purchased.

4. Because assets are the starting point for determining net worth, one should seek to invest effectively for growth and income over time. Money does not grow on trees, but it may grow over time.

Our $85 trillion net worth is a very large amount of wealth. The decisions we make play a big role in determining whether or not we each get our piece of the pie. We have written about Four Habits for Financial Success which might help, and we encourage you to call or email if we can be of service.