Net Worth: Why and How to Track It (Free Printable Tracker)

A funny thing happened to me this week.

Let’s start from the beginning. I left my old job in August 2016 to prepare for teaching abroad. Last week, the payroll & benefits manager from my old job hit me up on LinkedIn.

Something told me on Wednesday to actually read the message.

She asked for a new address for my 401K benefits.

I’m thinking, “I don’t have any. I rolled over everything into an IRA before I left for China.”

So I rushed to Fidelity’s website, got my username, reset my PW and “SURPRISE!” $1,060 was waiting for me! WOOT WOOT!

In March 2017—a full 7 months after I left—the company put another lump sum into the accounts of employees from the previous year. I HAD NO IDEA!

After calculating my net worth in October, I knew I needed to pay off, at least, $1,713 in loans to finally break even.

With this newfound money, I recalculated. My other investments went up enough that I finally became NET WORTH-POSITIVE. Ya girl is worth $13.83, as of November 6, 2019. Got a long way to go. My 20s were a mess!

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Overall, I’m pumped! I remember a day when I thought I’d never get to $0. The increase is due to shifting my mindset and habits and hard work.

Since January 2017, my net worth has turned around by almost $38,000! I can’t wait to see it climb higher.

So why am I so geeked about this number?

What is net worth? 

Your net worth is a snapshot of your financial situation at the time. It is the sum of your assets (what you own) minus your liabilities (what you owe). The goal is to always have more assets than liabilities—own more than you owe—to have an increasingly positive net worth.

Click here to get the net worth formula and more.

The Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist (Free Printable)

You can’t get anywhere without clear, specific goals. Here’s the ultimate guide to writing crystal-clear goals that will help you improve any area of your life: career, financial, physical.

 

13 Tips to Making Awesome, S.M.A.R.T.-er Goals

Get crystal-clear and start crushing your goals with this checklist.

 
 
 
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  1. Is it your goal—not someone else’s goal or expectation?
  2. Does it have a strong, emotional “why”? In Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says all thoughts which have been emotionalized (given feeling) and mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent or counterpart.
  3. Is it specific?
  4. Is it measurable? For example, $100 each month for 12 months or 3 workouts a week. Anything that’s tracked usually grows.
  5. Is it attainable? Reach and dream, but understand what you really need to do or have to achieve your goals.
  6. Is it relevant to your values or a bigger vision? This goes back to your “why”.
  7. Does it have a deadline? Giving yourself a deadline helps you reverse engineer your goal into smaller, easier-to-comprehend pieces. For example, if you want to save $1,000 in 6 months in a vacation sinking fund, then you need to save $167 at a minimum each month. Also, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. Time management is largely psychological. We naturally pace ourselves to finish a project in the nick of time, for example, clean the whole apartment in 90 minutes. So giving yourself a deadline could subconsciously make you complete your goal on time.
  8. Is it written on paper or typed? You become 42% more likely to achieve goals just by writing them down on a regular basis, according to a psychology study from Dominican University.
  9. Is it somewhere you can see it every day?
  10. Did you share it with another person? An American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) study found you have a 65% chance of completing a goal of you committing to someone.
  11. Did you list specific tasks you must complete to achieve the goal?
  12. BONUS: Is it written in the present tense? In No Excuses, Brian Tracy writes: “Write them down in the present tense, as if you have already achieved them.” For example, replace “I will earn $100,000 a year by 2021.” with “I earn $100,000 a year by December 31, 2020.” These goals activate the law of expectation and law of attraction, Tracy states. He believes your subconscious mind is only activated by goals that are stated in the personal, positive and pretense tense—the “3 P’s.”
  13. BONUS: Did you list potential obstacles and how you plan to overcome them? In Exponential Living, Sheri Riley writes “Preparation is the key to getting through the NOs, and getting through the NOs is the key to victory. Preparation equals expectation. To prepare is to have a plan. That means thinking about the obstacles you might face ahead of time, and having contingency steps ready to implement when those obstacles arise. You will face obstacles; the key is to not let those obstacles come as a shock to you. … if you mentally prepare for obstacles and have a plan in place for dealing with them, you’ll be able to remain engaged.”

Click to read more about goal-setting.

6 Things I’m Glad I Unlearned About Money

Thank heavens for enlightenment! When I think about how ignorant I once was about money, I cringe. My face scrunches up like something stinks. 

Here are 6 things I’m so glad I unlearned about money. Can you relate?

1. Budgets are the devil.

Dang! I can’t believe I was really in these streets without a budget. 

Budgets are liberating! Budgets are bae!

They’ve been the foundation for everything good in my life—saving thousands of dollars, paying off over $25,000 in debt, funding my $6,000 teaching certification and paying cash for international trips. 

Once I got a budget, I stopped living just to pay bills and started achieving my goals. My “anti-budget” helps me reach short- and long-term goals while still having some fun. Get a free printable to start planning your next paycheck and your life. 

2. YOU Must be rich to save, invest or crush debt.

After reading how regular folks with regular jobs became wealthy in The Millionaire Next Door, I understood that saving, investing and debt elimination stems from the habit of managing money you earn, not just the amount of money you earn.

An annual salary of $100,000 is “rich” to me. Someone banking $100,000 a year could be spending $150,000 a year. Little ol’ me, making less than half of that could have 10 times the net worth of the other girl because of careful planning, taking action, persistence and discipline. 

Click to read the 4 other money myths.

9 Reasons Why Your Budget Sucks + How to Fix It

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Budgets are bae! There is no way I could crush debt or save thousands without them. Once I tossed out the negative connotation of a budget, figured out my budgeting style and actually put one in place, my debt payoff kicked into high gear.

Through practice, I’ve learned that you can’t just slap numbers on a spreadsheet and go on about your day. You have to craft each month’s budget with care. If you can’t stick to your budget, see if any of these pain points hit home and try out the solutions to relieve the stress.

1. It’s not tailor-made for you.

Ladies, think of how you feel wearing that dress that fits every curve the right way. That dress that makes your ass look fabulous. Yeah, that one! You never get tired of it.

Well, that’s how your budget should feel. It should fit just right for you—not Suze Orman, not your mama, not that boss lady you follow on Instagram. These folks may offer you great tips and tools, but you have to use this budget, so make sure it’s your own.

Solution: Find a style that fits you and include budget lines you’d actually track.

There’s a variety of budgeting methods:

  • the 50-30-20 budget (50% needs, 30% wants, 20% savings)
  • the 80-20 budget (20% savings, 80% everything else)
  • the anti-budget (My favorite. No percentages. Income – Core Expenses = Everything Else is left for guilt-free spending. Click here for details and a free printable.)
  • the zero-sum budget (Accounted Income – Accounted Expenses = $0. It doesn’t mean you spend every dime and have $0 before your next pay period. It just means every dollar has a job in your budget. You can have money left over. All budgets could be a zero-sum budget.)

The budgets that look like spreadsheets on steroids give me the hives. I’m not gonna use a line item for “hair accessories.” That’s too granular, and I hate being micro-managed.

I like the anti-budget because you simply subtract savings, giving and essential expenses from your take-home pay. What’s leftover, a.k.a. the monthly nut, is yours to spend on whatever you want (hair accessories). And you don’t have to track every penny because you know bills, savings and giving are already taking care of. When that leftover money runs out, it just runs out. But that’s too loosey-goosy for me. I need a few more categories to track my spending.

I use a hybrid that allows me to track the details I want to track and nothing more. A line-item like “hair accessories” just goes into a bucket called “Entertainment and Everything Else.” It works for me. Find what works for you.

2. Your budget isn’t aligned with your values and goals.

Heck! You may not even have values and goals. We probably all have budgets we created a few years ago that never quite stuck. Why didn’t it work out? Maybe it’s because you didn’t have a strong enough reason or vision to stick to the plan. Start with your values and the rest will fall into place.

Find 8 more ways to fix your budget.

The Miracle Morning: 6 Habits and My Personal Tools for Success

My quest to be better with finances is also a question to simply be a better me. A good way to do that it to put self-care and self-improvement at the start of the day. That’s what The Miracle Morning routine is all about.

The Miracle Morning, originally published in 2012, aims to give you the “not-so-obvious secret guaranteed to transform your life before 8 a.m.” Yep, BEFORE 8 a.m. If you’re not a morning person, stick with me.

Author Hal Elrod credits The Miracle Morning routine with getting him out of depression when he was in debt and at a standstill with work. Six basic steps—dubbed the Life S.A.V.E.R.S. — helped him return to the path to success. He claims to have helped thousands of other people transform their lives.

So this month, I’ve declared is S.A.V.E.R.S. September. I’ll take on this 30-day transformation challenge in hopes to make the rest of my days the best of my days.

“Start every morning with a personal success ritual. That is the most important key to success.” —Eben Pagan

What are the miracle morning steps? How do you do the miracle morning? 

The Miracle Morning Life S.A.V.E.R.S. are what Elrod calls “a set of six simple, life-enhancing, life-changing daily practices, each of which develops one or more of the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life, so that you can become who you need to create the life you want.”

Discover the 6 habits for your Miracle Morning.

How to Use Trackers to Get Out of Debt and Save

Paying off tens of thousands of dollars in debt is no walk in the park. Thankfully, I’ve found a surprising, yet sure-fire way to keep me motivated—coloring.

I’ve used coloring pages and charts for saving, paying off credit cards and eliminating college loans. There’s no way I could reach my goals without visual trackers. Here’s why I love them so much.

Visuals make the impossible possible.

For my daunting savings goal of $10,000, I made a chart with 10 gray money bags. Every time I saved $1,000, I colored a money bag gold. 

The chart helped me clearly see how my small efforts were feeding into the bigger picture. It was exhilarating to save 20 percent, then 50 percent and then 80 percent. Every time I was feeling low, the chart allowed me to see how far I’d come and helped me stay motivated.

in 2008, Heidi Ifland Nash, creator of Debt Free Charts, made basic charts with several lines to help her pay off credit cards and a HELOC. The rows represented a portion of the debt balance. Nash and her husband would color each row as they got closer to debt freedom. 

“I needed something to see—not just in numbers—how far we had come and how far we had to go,” Nash writes in an email. “Before I made that first chart, it felt like attacking a mountain with a toothpick. But with the chart, I could actually see the progress. It didn’t feel like throwing money into a black hole anymore. It felt like winning a game.”

The couple paid off nearly $65,000 in three years, Nash says.

Find out more reasons why visual matter.

28 Life-Changing Books + Free Printable List

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Do you believe books can change your life? I surely do! Books are bae! 

My fondness for a good page-turner came after leaving college. That’s when I realized no one was gonna save me from my debt or give me the life that I wanted BUT ME!

The local library became my pusha and books, my drug of choice. Books taught me how to dream bigger and manage money better.

This year, I decided to read all of the 28 life-changing books curated by @FutureNow, formerly @FutureSuccessors, of Instagram. I had already read 8 by coincidence. So 2019 is marked for reading the remaining 20 books on the list. 

I’ll also apply, at least, one thing that I learned from each book. Knowledge alone isn’t power. Applied knowledge is power.

Do you want to join me? You don’t have to read all 28 books this year, but start by reading 12 (an average of 1 per month). 

SIDE NOTE: How cool would it be if my debt freedom book, The G.O.O.D. Life Start Set, made a list like this one day?!

Click to see the book list and my recommendations.

7 Reasons to Pause Your Debt Snowball

The debt snowball method is an effective way to pay DOwn debt until you’re finally debt-free. But do you think there are reasons to Pause Your Debt SNOWBALL?

The well-known debt snowball method suggests listing your debts in order from the smallest balance to largest balance. Then you throw extra money—”the snowball”—at the smallest balance while making minimum payments on the other debts.

After crushing that first debt, you roll over that payment into the next one on the list. The snowball gets bigger and bigger with each debt you eliminate.

By the time you reach the final debt with the largest balance, you will have amassed a giant snowball that will help you crush that debt faster than you initially imagined.

That good ol’ debt snowball is hard to stop when it gets rolling. But there are times when it’s perfectly fine to press pause. Really, it is.

We can get tunnel vision when focusing on a goal, but life happens and we must reconsider where to put our energy and our money.

7 reasons to pause your debt snowball

To pause your debt snowball means to continue making minimum payments on your debts, but putting any extra money toward other goals instead of making extra debt payments.

For example, you’ve been putting a combined $500 towards debt payoff each month: $300 to cover minimum payments and $200 toward your Visa credit card (the debt with the smallest balance). When you pause the debt snowball, you continue paying $300 to cover minimum payments and put that $200 towards another goal, which will be explained below. After you reach that short-term goal, you start paying $200 extra each month to Visa again.

The main reason to pause your debt snowball is to avoid going deeper into debt. Here are specific scenarios that fall under that umbrella.

1. you can’t cover your basic needs.

Stop everything! The debt snowball should not be a priority at the moment. Your mission is survival. This should go without saying, right?

Please just pay the minimum on your debts until you can cover your basic living expenses— rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, gas for the car, etc.—with ease. Then you can reintroduce a little fun to your budget, e.g. occasionally dining out and a Netflix subscription. Having a little fun is crucial for your happiness.

After that, you can restart the debt snowball. I know it sucks to not be able to crush debt like you want, but it’s better than not having a roof over your head or food in your belly.

If you can’t make minimum payments on your debts, then please pick up the phone. Call your creditors and try to work out something. Who knows? They might put you on a lower payment plan, move your payment date back, eliminate fees or let you pause payments due to hardship. They can’t help you if you don’t alert them to your situation.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: The 5 Most Important Things I Did To Organize My Finances as a Newbie

Click here to read more.

Sinking Funds: Save Your Budget and Save For Fun (Free Printable Tracker)

THIS POST BREAKS DOWN HOW TO CALCULATE SINKING FUNDS TO PAY FOR FUTURE EXPENSES. KEEP READING TO DOWNLOAD A FREE PRINTABLE TRACKER.

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Let’s talk about that time a sinking fund saved my life. 

Picture it: North Carolina. April 2016 A.D. 

I opened my bill for the 6-month car insurance premium and got hella sticker shock. ✉️😱

This is the testimony about sinking funds I shared in a Facebook group on April 30, 2016.

I thought, “Lawd, not another thing. I really don’t wanna touch my opportunity fund (read: emergency fund) for this. Guess I’ll do some more freelance writing gigs.”

Then it dawned on me that I had already saved this money. I smooth forgot that I started saving about $40 each payday in an online account (completely separate from my regular checking account) months ago. I went from PANIC to PEACE in about 5 minutes. 😩➡️😊

This was one of my very first sinking funds, but I didn’t even know what to call it then. 

I was living paycheck-to-paycheck. A large bill—unexpected or expected—would have caused a panic attack and definitely another dip in debt. I probably would’ve put that bill on a credit card had it not been for the sinking fund. Who knows how long it would’ve taken me to pay off. 

I want you to experience the same peace I did in April 2016. So let’s set up your sinking funds!

What is a sinking fund?

A sinking fund is a fund made for saving small amounts of money over time to cover an expense, often large and expected, in the future. A sinking fund allows you to save to spend. It’s what I created for my car insurance premium. I set up a Capital One 360 account and put about $40 in it each pay period until I had the full payment. 

Isn’t this the same as an emergency fund? Not really.

Click to get the FREE savings tracker & more!

How to Negotiate Salary: 4 Expert Tips For Women (Video)

If you’re like me, then you were never taught how to negotiate salary by your teachers or parents. Negotiating or asking for a raise evokes a host of emotions. For months, it made me cringe. 

But I read an awesome book (get your copy here), talked to other teachers and got the nerve to ask for a raise from a private tutoring client. 

I’m learning so much from this process. You probably could, too.

I asked Dorianne St. Fleur of YourCareerGirl.com to grade my approach and give tips on how us, ladies, can negotiate salaries. Dorianne is an executive coach for ambitious women of color ready to become powerhouse leaders and experts in their industries without losing themselves in the process. She is a wife, mom and veteran HR professional who’s been regularly making six figures.

Dorianne has helped herself and dozens of clients land their dream jobs and increase their salaries by tens of thousands of dollars. In 2017, she helped me decide between three teaching positions here in China. The position I chose boosted my income and quality of life, and accelerated my debt payoff.

Get into the video to catch these gems! 

How to Negotiate Your Salary or Pay Raise

Negotiation Tip No. 1: Get your mind right. 

“There’s this mindset shift that needs to happen even before the conversation about negotiation,” Dorianne says.

There are certainly issues with pay inequality that stem from large, systematic problems, she says. A white woman gets paid 77 cents to every white man’s dollar, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Black women earn 61 cents and Latinas just 53 cents. But women can also perpetuate the wage gap by doubting themselves and failing to negotiate their salaries, Dorianne says. 

“Get your mind in the right spot,” the career coach suggests. “If you don’t own your value, if you don’t truly believe that you’re worth the money, why would your employer believe it?

Click to read the other 3 negotiation tips.