Your net worth is not only a financial status marker, but is also an important symbol of your family’s economic stability and freedom. Between 2007 and 2010, the crux of the recent financial crisis, the average net worth of the American family dropped 40% according to the Federal Reserve. As we climb out of this crisis, it is now more important than ever to recover lost gains and take any steps to immediately increase net worth as we try to rebound over the long term. There are two main ways one can increase net worth: by increasing our assets, such as cash, or decreasing our debts, such as credit card bills. The following tips touch on both of these points to show how to increase net worth right away.
1. Prioritizing Debt Payments & Investing
This will apply to almost everyone. Most households have multiple loans – mortgages, car loans, credit cards or other bills to pay, but with a limited amount of cash to pay them. You need to decide how you will spread that cash to cover these payments and incur the least amount of interest that will be paid. If you have extra cash, you also need to decide whether you will invest this money or use it to pay down outstanding debt. Carefully look at the historical returns for your investments. If you are averaging only 4% return on your investments, but you are paying 5% APR on a car, it would make more sense to pay off your car first because the money you save on interest will be higher than your return from those investments. It’s always best to pay off higher interest loans, such as credit cards, over lower interest ones. This will serve to immediately keep money in your wallet.
2. Refinance Property
You cannot read this fact enough, refinance rates are lower than they have ever been. If you bought your home more than a few years ago and are planning on staying in your home for the next 3-5 years, you need to talk to your mortgage loan officer about getting a better rate. As of 10/25/2012, the average mortgage rate according to Bankrate.com is 3.47%, you can’t beat that. You will have to pay closing fees though, which is why you must decide how long you plan to keep your current home. Your mortgage payment will be lower, immediately adding money back into your wallet.
3. Revisit Taxes
If you find that you are paying too much tax throughout the year and receive a large refund, look into adjusting your withholding. This will provide you with more money every month instead of at the end of the year. You can then make this money work for you more quickly by paying down debts or investing it.
Also, throughout the year you can think about deductions that will reduce your tax liability in April. Some ones you may have missed are: charitable contributions, job search costs, student loan interest, moving cost for your first job, medicare premiums if you’re self employed, child care credit, higher education expenses, state & local taxes, energy saving home improvements, tax and investment expenses.
4. Optimize Insurance Plans
You should routinely be reevaluating your insurance plans, including car, home and health insurance. Recheck rates every year or two for the latest car and home insurance rates. Using an insurance broker may save you time and help you get the best rate.
If you are young and healthy, consider changing your health insurance plan from a low deductible to a high deductible plan. Make sure the high deductible insurance plan covers any major medical expenses that may arise. Chances are you will not only save money in the long run, but you will immediately add money back into your wallet. Take advantage of FSAs (Flexible Spending Accounts) if your employer is offering them. Or you can have an HSA (Health Savings Account) if you’re enrolled in a qualified high deductible health plan. In both plans, unused funds carry over through the years, and both have the benefit of offering tax savings on the money contributed to the account.
5. Make a budget
This may be an obvious one, but if you don’t have one by now, create a budget! Mint.com is one place to do just that and it’s free. It’s brought to you by the same company as TurboTax and is really a time saver when it comes to budgeting. You can combine all of your credit cards, bank accounts, and loans in one place to see how much you are really spending each month. It’s important to remember that if you already have a job and have cash flow, the absolute best way to increase your net worth is to reduce your spending!