Fewer people seem to be making financial resolutions for 2015.
In its annual New Year’s resolutions poll, Fidelity Investments found that only 31 percent of survey participants were considering setting a financial objective, down from 43 percent in 2014.
Similarly, Allianz Life Insurance found people were more concerned about their waistlines than their wallets — their description, not mine. Only 30 percent of respondents in Allianz’s survey chose financial fitness as a top goal for 2015.
Both companies surmise that Americans are more confident about their financial situations and aren’t feeling the pressure to focus on finances. The economy is healthier. Interest rates are super low. The percentage of people saying now is a good time to find a quality job jumped to 36 percent in December, a long way up from the 8 percent level of confidence that Americans had in the job market in November 2011, according to Gallup. And the stock market has been roaring, boosting investment portfolios and, in many cases, erasing the losses of the Great Recession.
While certainly one’s health is important — I know I’m promising myself to get more sleep and exercise — your financial well-being is equally vital. But we can’t forget the past. The recession and its trials and tribulations should be a constant reminder of how low things can go. Don’t get cocky by letting your confidence lead you right back to mistakes that left you more vulnerable than you should have been.
One exercise that can humble you is to take a key financial assessment. After you do this checkup, you’ll know what, if anything, you’ll need to do to improve your financial situation.
So, when was the last time you calculated your net worth?
It is different from your income. There are a lot of pretenders, people who appear rich but are really paupers because they have a negative net worth. Net worth is the difference between your total assets and liabilities or, simply put, what you owe minus what you own. The more you own, the larger your net worth.
There is a huge gap between the net worth of upper-income Americans and families who are either middle-income or lower-income, according to findings by the Pew Research Center. It is the widest wealth gap in 30 years, Pew notes.
In 2013, upper-income families had $639,400 in net worth compared with $96,500 for middle-income families and $9,300 for lower-income families.
Net worth “is an important dimension of household well-being because it’s a measure of a family’s ‘nest egg’ and can be used to sustain consumption during emergencies (for example, job layoffs) as well as provide income during retirement,” wrote Pew researchers Richard Fry and Rakesh Kochhar.
Although the recession pushed down the net worth of upper-middle-income families, they’ve seen their wealth double since 2003, according to Pew. The same can’t be said of so many other families.
“The Great Recession destroyed a significant amount of middle-income and lower-income families’ wealth, and the economic ‘recovery’ has yet to be felt for them. Without any palpable increase in their wealth since 2010, middle- and lower-income families’ wealth levels in 2013 are comparable to where they were in the early 1990s,” wrote Fry, a senior research associate at Pew’s Hispanic Trends Project and Kochhar, associate director for research at Pew.
Bankrate.com has an online net-worth calculator that is nicely organized and does the math for you. There are a lot of things I like about the calculator. It explains the various items that go on the assets and liabilities side of your net-worth statement. It can estimate how much your assets might change in value over 10 years by allowing you to select an average annual rate of increase — or decrease, if you know you’ll be taking on some debt in the near future.
You’ll have to estimate the value of household assets. For your major assets, such as your automobiles and home, you’ll have to find out the current market value. For your home, try Zillow.com or Realtor.com. For your car, there are a number of online resources — Consumer Reports, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, AutoTrader and CarGurus — to help determine how much you could get for your vehicle.
Once you’ve calculated your net worth, you have a starting point to see how you’re doing. If you want a comparison with others at your age or income level, use CNNMoney’s calculator atmoney.cnn.com/tools/networth_ageincome.
Although you shouldn’t be in competition with others, if you don’t like your net-worth figure, make some changes. And those changes can start with making some financial resolutions for the new year.
Write Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary.