How Does My Net Worth Compare to Others?

Remember how I told you not to care about other peoples’ net worth? I told you that net worth is personal, that different people have different stories and include different things in their net worth calculation, so don’t worry about other people. Just worry about yourself and how your net worth changes over time.

That was probably naïve.

Everybody wants to know how they compare to other people. Ok fine, I want to know how I compare to other people, so I assume you do to. If you don’t, move on to the next article. But if you’re like me, read on to see how you compare to others tracking their net worth.

Why net worth is so ripe for comparison

Of all the personal finance metrics (net worth, income, expenses, account values, etc.), net worth seems to be the most compared. I think this is because, on the surface, net worth seems to equalize many variables. If you live in a high cost of living area, you income might be higher but your expenses are likely correspondingly higher. This would seem to even out in a net worth calculation. Similarly, you may choose to have a lot of money saved in your IRA, while I chose to save in a 401(k). Net worth combines all accounts into a single value.

But I already told you why, despite these seemingly attractive qualities, you really shouldn’t use net worth to compare yourself to anyone but yourself. So let’s just get on with it and do the thing we’re not supposed to do: compare ourselves to others. It can be hard to find data about net worth, but here I’ll share two sources.

Compare your net worth to the average American’s

A little while ago I read this article from TIME, which provides information on net worth calculated in the 2011 census. 2011 data is slightly out of date at this point, but the lack of inflation recently means that it is probably still reasonably accurate. The article gives a brief overview of net worth, what specifically was included in the census bureau’s calculation (note that even the census bureau has to make decisions about what to include/not include), and draws a few conclusions. I don’t agree with everything in this article – especially the point made at the beginning that comparing your net worth to others can help you determine if you’re on the right track (just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t make it right) – but the data it presents is very useful.

median-net-worth-by-age_large

Source: TIME Magazine and the US Census Bureau

I’ll leave you to interpret this graph for yourself for the most part. The thing that jumps out at me the most is that all ages seem to have an exceptionally low net worth. Granted, this chart looks at the median, so half of all people have higher net worths, but that still means that half of all people have lower net worths! Anyone who thinks they can retire with a net worth of less than $200k is off their rocker.

Compare your net worth to personal finance bloggers

May personal finance bloggers (and there are A LOT of personal finance bloggers) share their net worth. You can read through individual blogs to find this information or access a rather complete list at Rockstar Finance. Here you find a really wide range of net worths, from over $2 million to negative $100k. I don’t follow all of these blogs and haven’t taken the time to find out the stories behind each value, but you could certainly learn more about specific individuals if you so desire.

One important thing to remember here is that these are net worths of people who have decided to blog about their personal finances. It’s a self-selecting group, and these bloggers are likely to spend more time thinking about their money than the average Joe. Just keep that in mind when you read that #1 on this list (Asset-Grinder) is only in his late 30s….

Do you like to look at how your net worth compares to other peoples’ net worth? How do you stack up?


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20 thoughts on “How Does My Net Worth Compare to Others?

  1. Thanks for sharing our net worth tracker! You’re def. right in that those of us who share our #’s def. think and work on our $$$ more 🙂 But it’s exactly why I started blogging and paying attention more myself – I saw others share their net worth back in 2008 and was like – WOW! Finally – people talking about money in the open! This is great!! But def. good to keep in mind all the variables of how and why we track our worth too… it’s easy to get jealous/down on ourselves. Hopefully it motivates people more so than the other though 🙂

    • I think it is such a great resource you’ve put together! It definitely motivates me, especially when I dig in to what a specific blogger is saying and find parallels with my own life.

  2. Ooh, I like this chart! There is a huge jump when you go from under 35 to over 35. I have a rough idea of my net worth, but have never taken the time to put it on paper. I don’t really worth about comparing myself to others. Based on my FB feed, a lot of my friends live like millionaires but there’s just no way 🙂

    • Facebook can be so dangerous! Everyone’s life looks very glamorous on social media, but there is always much more going on behind the scenes.

  3. A metric I only see in personal finance blogs is “savings rate”. Most bloggers are saving upwards of 50% of their income and in doing so blow this chart out of the water. In comparison to other bloggers my husband our doing all right for our age but when compared to the average american we are doing fricken fantastic!

    • It is really crazy to see how poorly the average American is doing (and how great so many bloggers are doing!). Nice to feel like you’re in a good place compared to the average!

  4. I’ve been tracking my net worth on the site NetWorthIQ since 2007. If the site looks abandoned, that’s because it is, but it was never terribly busy to begin with. I don’t know how many active users there actually are today, but I religiously enter my net worth stats each month and take a look at where I stand in my age group. The results usually aren’t good! But that’s because this is a self-selected group of people, and their numbers are pretty high. Too bad I’ve never found a more active site that has more users.

    Still, NetWorthIQ is useful to me because whenever I look at sites like the CNN article or government-published reports, my only takeaway is “Most people really aren’t concentrating on this area of their life.” That and “Hey, I’m worth more than your average 60 year old!”

    I’m not likely to ever share our net worth publicly. Seems a little gauche and braggy. And I’m definitely not interested in comparing myself to other bloggers on a one-by-one basis. There’s a difference between checking on how you’re doing amid the population at large vs. making it into some kind of competition.

    • I haven’t heard of NetWorthIQ before but it sounds like an interesting tool. I agree that net worth should not be a competition. There are so many factors that aren’t accounted for in net worth, without all the details you really aren’t getting an accurate picture.

  5. I feel like it isn’t useful for most people to compare their net worth to others, especially not the median for all Americans. Not to discount the discussion as meaningless, but the data itself isn’t valuable. There are too many variables that come into play such as WHY people have high/low net worths, what their income is, education level, earnings potential, etc.

    • I don’t disagree, which is why I started by saying that you shouldn’t compare your net worth to others, only compare it to yourself over time. But I think it is such a human compulsion to want to see how you compare to others, weather or not it actually offers any value.

  6. I enjoy being part of the rockstar finance list and being able to compare where I am to others. There are a ton of variables, which is why that can’t be the only factor you rate your situation by. Net worth helps you see the total picture, but it isn’t the total picture. 🙂

  7. I can’t say that I’ve ever really calculated my net worth, but I have a general idea of where I sit… and I’m pretty happy with it. I obviously want to improve it, but it’s a work in progress… I’d be afraid to compare too much though, I don’t want to get discouraged by my slow progress. That being said, the data in that graph is shockingly low… and sort of makes me happy that I’m doing better than the median… but also sad that the median is so low…

    • It is sad that the median is so low. I think the fun/interesting thing about tracking your net worth is to see if grow bit by bit over time. Then when you look back to five years ago, you’ll be able to see the great progress you’ve made!

  8. Gosh…can that graph POSSIBLY be right? How on earth do people survive through retirement? Could it be that most people just don’t retire? But how is that possible, since after about the age of 60, getting a job in this country is almost out of the question???

    This makes me feel incredibly lucky.

    • I think it indicates that a lot of people are relying/planning to rely on Social Security or pensions when they retire. It is a scary picture and I agree – it makes me feel so lucky!

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