How We Track Our Net Worth

There are a lot of tools out there to help you track your finances.

Most arrived after I started working (I never got into Quicken) and after I started tracking our net worth, so they are useful but they aren’t my “core system.”

For that, we use an old fashioned spreadsheet. 🙂

Our Net Worth Record is the first document in our family’s personal finance “binder” (the second is a word document I call a Treasure Map).

Table of Contents
  1. Why We Track Our Net Worth
  2. What Goes Into Our Net Worth
  3. What Doesn’t Go Into Our Net Worth
  4. Final Thoughts

Why We Track Our Net Worth

There are two reasons – to track our progress and to force a monthly check in on our finances. It also helps keep me sane when the world seems crazy.

(as an aside, it seems that on a daily basis I read horror stories on Reddit’s r/personalfinance forum where someone learns that for the last X years, his or her investments have sat in cash or some equivalent because they weren’t checking in on them -that’s your fault! Check in!)

Our Net Worth Record, as the Excel file is titled, is our financial dashboard. In seconds, I see a snapshot of our financial situation. I know how much cash we have to the performance of investments in the last month.

More importantly, I can leave notes each month to put it all in context when I read it later.

This document dates back to June 2003. That was my first month of full-time work, when I had a net worth of $8,745.69 ($4,519.44 of which was in a Roth IRA I started in college). Northrop Grumman just deposited my first paycheck and my signing bonus, which accounts for the other four grand. Without notes, I wouldn’t have remembered something like that from over 20 years ago. πŸ™‚

It’s fun to watch the progression over the years and that’s one major reason for the document.

Since I update it monthly, I must log into our financial accounts to collect the numbers. When I log into each account, I review the transactions for the last month. Anything suspect is immediately obvious because I check in each month. I’m not seeing a 90-day old transaction and wondering what it was for, everything is within the last thirty days.

I use Empower Personal Dashboard (formerly Personal Capital) to help track our net worth, it’s one of my favorite tools and a great alternative to older systems like Quicken. It collects the data for me so I don’t have to log into each account separately. This saves me a ton of time each month while still letting me analyze all transactions. I don’t miss logging into each account and I love all the analysis tools it gives me to know if I’m saving enough for retirement. Best of all, it’s free.

Finally, it’s important to have a list of all of your financial accounts. This record is that list for us.

What Goes Into Our Net Worth

Here's a template built off our Net Worth Record. [Google Docs]
Here’s a template built off our Net Worth Record. [Google Docs]

Click to download a copy
(I won’t make you join our newsletter to get it but if you want to, click here to join!)

Every number gets included, from the value of our home and cars to bank statements.

Why do I include home value? Including home value is a big debate in some circles but it goes back to why I’m tracking our net worth – it’s to give us a snapshot of our situation. I set the value of our home at the purchase price and I include our mortgage as a liability. I opted to set it there for simplicity, but here are a few other ways to value your home.

As we’ve made improvements to the home, I’ve added those to the home value so that it roughly estimates our tax basis. This will be useful when we sell the home so we take advantage of the home gain exclusion.

If you were to include one and not the other, it would mess up your numbers. Include a liability with the asset you purchased and the numbers look lower than they should. Include home value but not the liability and the numbers look bigger than they should.

The same goes for cars and other non-income producing assets, which people often exclude from their net worth.

We don’t “mark to market” the value of the home. Unlike stock market investments, which you can sell “immediately” for the market price and a small commission, our home is the reverse. You can’t sell it in an instant for a small commission, it takes about a month and a few percent and the price depends a lot on local factors.

Given all those variables, re-evaluating your home’s value, up or down, doesn’t help and is a waste of time — so I don’t do it. I will include improvements but I don’t make changes based on the “market.”

We update the value of our cars. Since it’s constantly going down and the market is somewhat more liquid for vehicles, we include the slow decline in the value of our cars based on the Kelley Blue Book value. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t looked up the value of the car in several years so they’re actually valued at like 2019 KBB values. 😂

What Doesn’t Go Into Our Net Worth

Credit card balances do not get included. Since the credit cards are paid off in full each month, the balances are reflected in our bank accounts with each payment. I don’t mind the one month lag.

I still log in to look for fraudulent transactions (and I get transaction notifications) but I don’t record balances.

This means that our net worth is slightly inflated because our credit card balances, which should be a liability, are never and never included.

I don’t record “petty cash,” or cash that we have in our wallets. It’s a small amount and not impactful, so I don’t bother to go to that level of detail.

Final Thoughts

There’s no single right way to calculate your net worth, just your way. Just a way that gives you the information you need.

When you weigh yourself, do you take off all your clothes? Do you wear the same thing each time? Do you disrobe at the doctor’s office when they weigh you? Jeans are heavy. Your clothes weigh a few pounds and increase the end number… but do they make a difference?

It’s the same with net worth.

You can track different versions for different purposes. For example, we track our liquid net worth, which is my estimate of our net worth if we converted (“liquidated”) to cash and cash equivalents.

Do you track your net worth? If so, how? What do you include or exclude, and why?

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  1. J.D. Roth says

    I track my net worth. Sort of.

    What I mean by that is I don’t track my net worth on a regular basis — such as every week or every month — but I keep the numbers that go into the number readily available so that I can run it. Plus, after ten years of writing about money, I’ve run my net worth so many times that it’s sort of an automatic action!

    Also: Haha. I was checking to see how many folks use /blog/ (like I did at GRS) and I thought to myself, “Self, I’ll bet Jim is sandboxing his blog behind his sign-up page.” And indeed you are. As I will be doing soon.

    Really want to exchange ideas at Fincon!

    p.s. Having trouble getting the mailserver set up for Not sure why. So, don’t use that email address JUST yet…

  2. Denise says

    I track my net worth using the Mint app. I no longer use credit cards and pay for everything with cash. Car was paid in cash and mortgage almost paid off.

  3. Paul says

    I pay for whatever I can on credit card. BUT, my secret is that the money comes out of relevant bank account and is deposited into the Visa payment account and is paid on the day. Win for me.

    Some bills are paid by direct debit and comes out of the check account. I have yearly bills, think firewood, rubbish bin etc. I deposit $x per payday into the firewood savings account, wheelie bin account etc. That way I’m not scrambling for the money come yearly bill time.

  4. Brett says

    I also do something similar with and have had great success. However I am intrigued by the excel spreadsheet. Is it something you would be willing to post/share (sanitised of course!).

    • Jim says

      I went through and looked at the spreadsheet, it’s really just a row for each account and a recording of the balance at the start of each month. I have some calculations that I find interesting but overall it’s not a very exciting document. πŸ™‚

      • David says

        This spreadsheet is very helpful and has helped me identify what category of money is moving most each month (Credit Cards, Physicals, Investments, etc.)
        one note for those that download it. column E on the assets tab is double included because it is a summary of Column F and G. so in the totals column (column B) it will be more accurate if you remove it.

        Editor’s Note: This has been fixed in the spreadsheet.

        My wife and I have been using this system to review our financial progress for the past couple of months.

  5. Al says

    I like working with spreadsheets as well. I have a net worth worksheet where I track everything coming in and mostly everything going out. I also include a percentages column to see what percentage of each category comprises my overall income and expenses.
    I also track my investments on a separate tab to calculate yearly returns, cumulative returns and compound returns for the past 8 years. I only have to do this once a year but it’s always interesting to see how I’m doing compared to the S&P500.

    • Jim says

      It’s extremely valuable! Automate as much of the data collection as you can… the value is in the analysis, not the collection. πŸ™‚

  6. Lazy Man and Money says

    I update my car’s value with Kelly Blue Book every month. I created a deep link in the spreadsheet to KBB’s site to get me the new number right away. It’s faster than getting bank account numbers because there’s no logging in :-).

    I don’t update the mileage very often. That actually approaches “work” and the estimate is close enough.

    • Jim says

      I use a deep link too, I just think updating too frequently doesn’t have a benefit… plus it makes the number go down. πŸ™‚

      • Lazy Man and Money says

        It’s sad with things go down. I’m depreciating solar panels over 25 years and they go down. Fortunately a formula makes that easy and they don’t go down that much on a monthly basis.

        • Jim says

          As long as the drift downward is orderly, I suppose I’m OK with it. I just don’t feel like checking another thing even if it’s just clicking a link! πŸ™‚

  7. Ally says

    My net worth and money field manual are part of one, albeit a large one, password-protected spreadsheet. The first tab is sort of “the money field journal” where I include instructions on where the important documents are, instructions for what to do with life insurance proceeds, financial plan, family priorities, etc. Then a bunch of tabs: each year by month with income and expenses, list of accounts and encrypted passwords, insurance tab with numbers, amounts and insurance company contact info, tabs for the main mortgage amortization table and investment property amortization table, tabs with monthly estimates for each investment compounded monthly at a low end of the conservative rate of return (401ks, roths, 529s, IRA). The investments and mortgage tabs feed into the net worth tab which is a multi-year projection of monthly net worth growth. I automated as much as I could (amortization tables, compounded returns, gross to net paycheck calculations), so the only tasks to do are to update expense totals from the Quicken summary – which at this point is still a manual entry. I don’t mind though because it forces me to analyze it that way. I absolutely include the house and investment prop value in the net worth because without, it would be a much smaller number :).

  8. Matt says

    G’day Jimbo,
    I have not used personal capital as it is not available in Australia. However, it comes across as though it includes net worth tracking capabilities… just wondering why the need for the spreadsheet?
    Thanks, Matt.

    • Jim Wang says

      The spreadsheet predates Personal Capital and I like keeping the continuity. It also contains a few other numbers (calculations) that I like knowing even though it’s not actionable – like total taxes I’ve paid, effective tax rate, etc.

  9. Jay says

    We are in the same boat in our household. I keep a spreadsheet for keeping track of all of our account balances which I update at the end of each month. I use Personal Capital as well to get all of the balances in one place, as well as track net-worth there.

    I like the spreadsheet because it allows me to track budget and net-worth in one place. I found the budgeting function in Personal Capital doesn’t allow the level of granularity I want or need. Twice a month I copy and paste all of my expenses in, categorize them, check spend against my budgeted max for each category to see if we are on track to come in over/under and adjust accordingly. At the end of the month, if we came in under budget, we allocate more to an investment or savings account. If we came in over budget, we take some out of our “cushion fund” (different than our emergency fund) and focus on replenishing that difference next month.

    At first, it took a bit of time to update this each month. Once I got the spreadsheet set up with all the correct functions and layout that is most useful for us though, it’s become a breeze. All-in, it now takes about half an hour total a month.

    • Pat says

      I wish I could see your spreadsheet (without the numbers of course) to see how you did it. I’d also love to see how you incorporated your budget in it. I’ve got a very detailed spreadsheet for my budget. But looking to see how I can create a spreadsheet to put in all my income and expenses in and compare it with budget to make adjustments.

      Sounds great!

      • Jim Wang says

        My spreadsheet isn’t very different than the one I share in the post, other than having more columns and obviously not being generic data. πŸ™‚

        I don’t incorporate a budget though. We no longer budget actively, it’s more of a retrospective “look back” at the previous month’s spending.

  10. Manoj says

    Hi Jim,
    Why don’t you use Mint OR Personal Capital to track networth?
    I use both and also have a spreadsheet.

    • Jim Wang says

      I use Personal Capital to collect a lot of the data, I still use a spreadsheet because I’ve had it for so long and I like the continuity.

  11. Pat says

    Many great ideas. I wish there was a place to download templates for some of these. I’d pay for them. Even if I could just look at some of them, I could create them myself.

  12. Mark says

    Thanks for sharing your approach. I am older than you and have done an annual net worth calculation via spreadsheet.

    One idea I would share that I found helpful was a projection of net worth growth. It included non-retirement and retirement assets, 401k, options, etc. I included college cost estimates at the appropriate time to capture that. I did so for 15 years and it is amazing how accurate it tuned out to be, and kept me focused.

  13. Jon says


    Some of the formulas are either broken or missing on the Summary and a annual summary worksheets. Not sure if that was intentional.

    what do you mean by the triangles used. ie colunm C and D on the Annual Summary worksheet.


    • Jim Wang says

      Yeah, it’s not really intentional but the equations don’t really work when the data isn’t fully populated (and rows/columns are missing).

      The triangles just mean “delta” – change from the previous period.

  14. Dave Henning says


    Another great post. I always used to do a spreadsheet almost exactly like yours. I even avoided omitted the home value because I don’t consider that my net worth (until I am ready to move full time on a sailboat of course.)

    Then, I switched to and I actually regret not keeping up with the spreadsheet. There is a good discipline to doing the spreadsheet and looking at each account directly. It forces you to remember your logins, see if there are any notifications and also see what has been happening in the last month.

    However, the real value to the spreadsheet is the instant history that you can see. I really wish I could go back and see everything from 2003 like you can. It would be a great education.

    When I did my spreadsheet, I oriented it such that each month was its own column, not its own row. Your way is better because it makes it easy to put a comment on the right so you can explain why their might be a blip (for example, a big home improvement or a big transfer of money from checking account to an investment account.)

    Thanks, as always.

    • Jim Wang says

      Thanks Dave!

      I do enjoy being able to see all the data in one spot without having to navigate menus and whatnot. I kept up with it because I know startups come and go, services change, and I didn’t want to tie my financial data with just one company. I felt like the spreadsheet was a good backup… plus you’re right, the manual entry was part of the process and part of the appeal to me. (it forced me to simplify!)

      You can always start over again… or continue the existing spreadsheet with the gap. It’ll be annoying at first but over time it’ll just be some dark period when you were tempted by Mint. πŸ™‚

  15. Michael says


    Very useful information. I have been doing a similar thing in about the same level of detail for just over a year now and to some extent since I was in College. I guess I prefer the analog method as like you said it forces me to check in monthly with all of my accounts and there is something about me trusting the “privacy” of things like Mint and the endless variety of options there often bog me down. I’d much rather create exactly what I want and need and nothing more.

    I do add in a few plots in the spreadsheet which allows me to easily share things with my fiancee who is not a numbers person. It also allows me to project into the future a bit with trend lines so encourages us to be more vigilant if there was a big dip or cautious if a large spike. Both are often the result of market swings but the long term trend line helps keep us in check in the good times and motivated in the bad times.

    You could do an annual update on your home value through something like Zillow in the same way you use the Kelly Blue Book for your car.

    • Jim Wang says

      I’ve debate updating the home value with Zillow (that’s what other tools do, like Personal Capital) but we plan on staying in this house for 20+ years and I don’t like the idea of imaginary gains (or losses) clouding my net worth figures. I know I’m doing something similar to the paper gains in the stock market, but being able to realize those in a few minutes through a sale makes them feel more real, even if they are similar.

  16. Anil @ says

    I have YNAB and Personal Capital for tracking my networth, but nothing beats a good old spreadsheet. I update my spreadsheet last day of every month. I have done that every month for the previous five years without missing a month. I get this weird satisfaction updating my spreadsheet every month regardless of the networth going down or up.

    • Jim Wang says

      Tools are useful for pulling the data but I also enjoy updating the cells each month, also pushes me to become closer to my money.

  17. ward139 says

    A little late to the party…but I enjoy spreadsheets and hearing about how people interpret/like to see their data. I hadn’t thought to include tax return data but will consider compiling to see what it might teach me.

    I have my spreadsheet setup to track % of networth in respective categories (Cash, Taxable, Retirement, Home Equity) as well as show mutual fund/cash allocations for Taxable/ROTH/Retirement Accounts as well as a Cash to Taxable Investment Ratio (this has been helpful to gauge investment behavior during home renovations).

    I agree with including home asset and liability (primarily because it helps me stick with a systematic overpayment I feel comfortable with — i.e. knowing where the money went).
    I similarly use the sales price paid when I got into the home despite home value appreciation.

    I wish I had been more systematic about tracking income and contributions within the spreadsheet to see what was being saved vs. what was a return/and to look at % saved/invested relative to total income.

    I have my spreadsheet setup with the individual accounts running in the rows w/ date running across the columns. With the accounts column frozen, I only need to scroll down/not across…and have percentage breakouts described above calculated below the data inputs along with a final net worth figure. I also utilize a notes row. I was hiding rows to have annual year end numbers next to each other…but pulling these to another sheet to run some graphs/% change makes a lot of sense.

    I’m enjoying your writing. Thanks for making it available.

  18. Tom says

    So LIQUID net worth is cash and quickly-turned-into-cash assets minus all liabilities? I track my liquid that way – excepting the mortage/market value -15% like I would for net worth.

  19. Dan McDOWELL says

    I know that this mail is very late, but I am proud of our Net Worth Tracker.
    I put it together using the OpenOffice platform. It tracks:
    1. Our Net Worth including all of our investment, bank and credit union accounts;
    2. Our equity in our vehicles and house;
    3. Cash value of our life insurances;
    4. Monthly recurring expenses against Monthly income (Soc.Sec. X2 & RMD); &
    5. Next year’s expected RMD.
    Yes. I am sort of a numbers nut, too.

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