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[Special Issue] Have you calculated your networth before?
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
This is a special non-news issue. It was sparked by a conversation on personal finance.
I was having a casual conversation with my girlfriend’s brother, Daud, who started investing in robo-advisor platforms and unit trusts. Then I commended him on starting the investing journey early. Many will begin the investing journey but may not see any growth despite the monthly top-ups into their investments. Subsequently, they might give up investment altogether which is unfortunate.
What did I do when I started my investment journey? I was told to create a net worth table and update it weekly. It was the most important thing in my investment journey.
I doubt Daud would create a Google Sheet to tabulate his net worth because it can be quite a hassle at the start, so I created a template on Google Sheets for everyone to use instead!
Let’s break it down via Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle — Why, How and What.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. — Peter Drucker
By calculating your net worth, you can keep track of your progress. You can know which assets are increasing in value or have increased their weightage in your entire portfolio.
The networth table serves as motivation — to see how far you’ve come and how close you are to your goal.
Set a goal. How much do you want by what age? How does financial freedom look like to you? When I started my journey, I was told to hit RM100,000 net worth by 30. It’s a decent goal given my circumstance.
It serves as your north star — i.e. FOCUS. As you progress in your journey of life, you will get promotions and pay increments.
You will experience the lethal disease — lifestyle inflation. Suddenly RM4 sushi doesn’t cut it for you anymore, you need Omakase sushi. Your 3-year old Perodua Myvi seems lacking compared to a brand new Mazda 3. Both cars have five wheels anyway.
The net worth table reduces distraction. Suddenly your Europe trip doesn’t seem so enticing anymore when it’ll make a 25% dent to your networth — you’ll be further from your goal. Don’t sacrifice 25% for a much richer experience in the future. If you need a holiday, travel locally or within Southeast Asia. Go for your Europe trip once you’ve hit your goal.
You can change your strategy — see which investments are going your way (up) and which aren’t (down).
There are a few things you can do to spice things up — take risks, invest in volatile asset classes. Adjust your own portfolio as you see fit. If you have big-ticket items (e.g. wedding, renovation) coming up, you might want to move more of your assets into safer assets (FD, cash).
Another way to increase your net worth is to increase your income. Change your job or find a side hustle. I wanted to reach my goal earlier so I applied for a secondment (with expat salary) stint in my company. Because you get a sense of how close you are to your goal, you will want to reach it as soon as possible. Imagine without any visibility of your net worth, what can you strive for?
However, changing jobs or careers solely because of money can be a double-edged sword. That’s a story for another time.
The toughest thing to do in life is to start. Starting a new job, starting a new career, starting a new thing. How do you start calculating your net worth?
There isn’t one single right way to do it but here is something effective I do. Find some time this week and do the following:
Calculate your liquid assets only. Exclude car and house.
Calculate all obligations, from credit card balances to hire purchase. I excluded the housing loan because it’s a long-term obligation (35 years). I included anything less than 10 years.
Calculate any borrowings to or from your family and friends.
Once you have done the above, tabulate it into the TCB Networth Tabulator. Go to File > Make A Copy.
Once you have done the work, you’ll be able to see your net worth (screenshot below). If it’s positive, that’s a good start! If it’s negative, don’t give up. It is not the end of the road for you. In fact, it’s just the very beginning of your journey.
With the information you have above, what are you doing to do next? We’ll give you a few options:
Celebrate — You have a positive networth, you are “rich.”
Sulk — You have a negative networth, you are “poor.”
Inspired — You have tabulated your networth, you are aiming for what to do next to hit your goals or to make your money work harder for you.
Hint - Option 3 is the best.
Oftentimes, rich and poor is a state of mind rather than circumstance. It is how you behave with your money. Morgan Housel wrote a really good piece here on the Psychology of Money.
Take some time to look at your networth and think about what you want to do next. Some people will change jobs or chase for promotions to increase their networth. Some will buy a normal car now in exchange for a better car in the future. Some will invest in risky assets or meme stocks to reach their goal faster.
Susan with RM1 million networth will do things differently compared to Karen with RM100,000. Susan and Karen will have different risk appetites. Susan can franchise a business to build her cash flow whereas Karen will need to continue working.
Where you sit determines what you see. Your circumstances matter.
Think about your next steps. Do not rush these decisions.
A few things to keep in mind:
This is not financial advice.
The calculator is flexible, you can move it around in your own copy.
Paper gains are not realised gains.
Have fun with your journey. Don’t take it too seriously.
We hope the calculator will help you to think about your personal finance journey in a different way. The purpose of this is to help Daud to think about his wealth differently. He will continue investing in unit trusts but if he doesn’t see progress in his wealth, he may give up altogether.
Let us know if we can improve the calculator in any way. Drop a comment or email us.
If you’ve found this useful, share it with your friends and family too!
Thank you and stay safe.