Net Worth: What It Is, How to Calculate It

Net Worth: What It Is, How to Calculate It

What is Net Worth?

Net worth is the value of assets owned by an individual or corporation after subtracting liabilities. It serves as a crucial indicator of financial health, offering an overview of the entity’s economic standing.

Also referred to as net wealth, this metric plays a key role in financial assessments, determining eligibility for specific investment options such as hedge funds or structured products. It has permeated popular culture, with rankings showcasing people with the highest net worth alongside that of celebrities.

Key Points:

  • Net worth quantifies the value of an entity, applicable to individuals, corporations, and even entire sectors or countries.
  • It offers an overview of the entity’s current financial standing.
  • In business, net worth may be known as book value or shareholders’ equity.
  • Individuals with substantial net worth are often termed high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs).
  • Elon Musk currently holds the title of having the highest net worth globally.

How is Net Worth Computed?

Net worth is calculated by subtracting liabilities from assets. Assets include possessions with financial value, while liabilities comprise commitments that consume resources, like loans, accounts payable (AP), and mortgages.

Net worth may be characterised as either positive or negative, where the former denotes assets surpassing liabilities, and the latter indicates liabilities exceeding assets. A positive and escalating net worth signifies sound financial well-being. Conversely, declining net worth warrants attention, potentially indicating a decrease in assets relative to liabilities.

Enhancing net worth can be achieved by either diminishing liabilities while maintaining or increasing assets, or augmenting assets while liabilities remain constant or decrease.

The concept of net worth is applicable to individuals, businesses, industries, and even nations.

The Significance of Net Worth in Business

In business, net worth goes by various terms, including book value or shareholders’ equity. The document that encapsulates this financial metric, the balance sheet, is also referred to as a net worth statement. Essentially, a company’s equity is determined by the disparity between its total assets and total liabilities. It’s important to note that the figures documented in a company’s balance sheet often reflect historical costs or book values rather than current market values.

Lenders meticulously assess a business’s net worth to gauge its financial well-being. If total liabilities surpass total assets, a creditor might harbour doubts about the company’s capacity to repay its debts.

A consistently profitable company should witness a steady increase in its net worth or book value, provided that these profits are not entirely distributed to shareholders as dividends. In the case of a publicly traded company, a rising book value often correlates with a rise in its stock price.

Understanding Net Worth in Personal Finance

An individual’s net worth is essentially the remainder obtained by subtracting liabilities from assets.

Liabilities encompass several financial obligations, such as mortgages, credit card debts, student loans, and car loans, as well as recurring expenses like bills and taxes.

Assets, on the other hand, encompass items such as balances in checking and savings accounts, the value of investments like stocks and bonds, real estate holdings, and the market worth of vehicles. The net worth is what remains after liquidating all assets and settling personal debts.

Those with considerable net worth are often referred to as high net worth individuals (HNWIs) and represent a key demographic for wealth management services and investment advisors.

Dealing with a Negative Net Worth

Having a negative net worth occurs when an individual’s total liabilities exceed their total assets. For example, if someone’s cumulative credit card balances, utility bills, mortgage payments, auto loans, and student debts surpass the combined value of their cash and investments, they will have a negative net worth.

A negative net worth serves as an indicator that an individual or household should prioritise reducing their debt. Implementing a stringent budget, employing debt reduction tactics like the debt snowball or debt avalanche, and potentially negotiating with creditors can assist people in escaping a negative net worth situation and initiating the process of wealth accumulation.

In the early stages of life, it’s not uncommon to have a negative net worth, particularly due to student loans, which may lead even financially prudent young individuals to owe more than they possess. Also, familial obligations or unforeseen health issues can push individuals into debt.

When other strategies have proven ineffective, declaring bankruptcy to discharge certain debts and halt creditor collection attempts may be necessary. However, it’s important to note that certain obligations, such as child support, alimony, taxes, and often student loans, cannot be absolved through bankruptcy. Furthermore, it’s important to recognise that bankruptcy will remain on an individual’s credit report for an extended period.


What amount should be saved?

How much you should aim to have saved varies based on factors such as your age, profession, lifestyle, and personal situation. For instance, a financial planning firm suggests targeting three times your annual salary in retirement accounts by age 40.


Examining net worth provides a clear insight into the true wealth of a person or enterprise. Solely focusing on assets may present a skewed picture, as it often involves balancing against liabilities, such as debts. Thus, increasing assets and minimising debts and other liabilities can increase one’s net worth.

DISCLAIMER:  This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace official financial advice. 2EZI has no affiliations with any company mentioned in this article. Please consult a financial advisor and wealth planner.

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