I last updated my net worth in April after years of not updating. As I said back then, this was no longer going to be a monthly exercise. It’s a bit tedious, and I’m not sure a month by month comparison is all that telling.
I just finished updating my spreadsheet a little more than 4 months later, and I’m still not sure it’s all that telling.
So how am I doing? Well, according to the numbers, my net worth is up 10%! That’s huge!
But I’m not sure this is a realistic number. Let’s discuss some of the changes.
First off, my house value is up 3%. That is a HUGE change. I use Zillow to determine the current price estimate for my house rather than just use the purchase price. (If you’re curious, Zillow has my price down about 2.5% from when I bought it.) Did my house really improve that much since April? Well, I did improve the closet. But Zillow doesn’t know that. A house on the next block over went on sale for a ridiculously high price. According to the sign in the yard, it was under contract, then it was back on sale, then the listing appears to have been removed. That could mean many things, but it ultimately means the house did not sell for that price. I’m wondering if this is why the value went up though.
Next, my investments are doing quite well. This includes both my regular investments and my retirement funds. That always makes me happy.
However, these two increases are kind of meaningless. First off, the home value is kind of an arbitrary number. Besides, I’m not looking to sell anytime soon. It just makes sense to include the number to offset the damage done by the mortgage.
As to the investments, I don’t do day to day investing. My investing style is more “set it and forget it.” Sure, I check in from time to time, but I’m not in it for short term gains. I’m in it for the long haul. Especially when it comes to retirement accounts. Retirement is a long, long time away.
Now, let’s look at the decreases.
My car value went down. Kind of meaningless. I plan to drive that thing into the ground.
My mortgage also went down. This is a good thing, since it means I’m actually making my mortgage payments.
But my day-to-day cash accounts also decreased. Not only did I spend a chunk of money on my closet, but I also have been spending more than I should be. I’m not putting myself into debt – but I’m also not saving money like I should be either. In fact, this month, the only savings I had was in the form of retirement. I didn’t put anything into my long term accounts. As a financial blogger, I’m embarrassed to admit that. But it is what it is. I’m going to own my mistakes and do better next month. And the month after that and so on.
So while the net worth experiment appears to be going in the right direction, what looking at those numbers ended up telling me was that I need to get it into gear and work harder and try to get the more meaningful numbers up.
I’ll probably update again around the end of the year. And I will do better.
Has your net worth went up or down in the last few months?
A number of years ago, I discussed the cash or credit question on this blog. And I have to say, my opinion hasn’t changed much. But in the intervening years (I say that as if this is something I have been pondering since 2008), I realized that I missed something in the discussion – debit!
Let’s break it down very simply. When you go to a store and pay for an item, you have three basic ways to pay for something: in cold hard cash, by swiping your credit card, or by swiping your debit card.
Cash, Credit, or Debit?
It’s pretty obvious how cash works. You exchange it for the item you are purchasing. In a way, debit is similar. To oversimplify, when you swipe your debit card, the money is taken out of your bank account and given to the merchant. Credit is a little different. You swipe your card and the credit card company pays the merchant. By swiping your card, you are promising the credit card company that you will pay them back for the transaction. If you do it within a certain period of time, the transaction is free (to you, anyway). If you prefer to pay only part of the amount, the credit card company will charge you interest on that payment. You’re essentially borrowing money from the credit card company that you have to pay back.
(As an aside, this explains how people get into trouble with credit cards. With debit cards or cash, you can’t really spend more than you have. With credit cards, you can spend up to your credit limit. I don’t know about anyone else, but my credit limit on my cards is stupidly high. I could get into a lot of financial trouble if I spent to my limit.)
So it sounds like credit cards are bad and I probably just use cash and debit, right?
Nope! In fact, I rarely use either!
My Pick: Credit Cards for the Win
I am kind of afraid of debit cards. I’ve had my credit card number compromised before, and it’s no big deal. The credit card company takes care of any fraudulent charges, and they send me a new card with a new number. Easy peasy. But I have heard horror stories of debit cards being compromised. I’m not talking about situations like the Target breach, where most people didn’t have money taken out of their account, but rather situations where someone gets their hands on your card info and withdraws money. Sure, the bank will ultimately get you that money back if you catch it fast enough, but until all the paperwork is done, that money is simply gone! That could cause real problems when it’s time to pay the mortgage and you don’t have the funds available. Therefore, I pretty much never use my debit card.
I also rarely use cash. Why? Because it’s so much harder to track. In a perfect world, I would track every single financial transaction I make the moment I make it. I have an app on my phone that I can use, so it would be easy. But in reality, I just don’t do it. I never got into the habit. So instead, once a week or so, I log into my credit card accounts and download all of my transactions. It’s a really easy way to see where my money is going. I joke that cash just tends to grow wings and disappear. I can’t ever track back where it went. Sure, sometimes cash is a necessity, and I’m always careful to have at least a little bit of money on my person, but my day to day transactions are all done on credit.
Of course, as I have discussed, this is doable for me because I pay the entire balance on my credit cards every month. I’m not spending money I don’t have and I’m not racking up interest charges. I’m also getting rewards points, which is a fun bonus. But even without the rewards, I think credit would be the way to go for me. It seems safer than debit and is easier to track than cash.
So in the debate, for me, the answer is always credit. Which side do you fall on?
By Jennifer Riner of Zillow
Renters requiring more privacy and space should consider renting out single-family properties instead of high-rise apartments or townhomes. Aside from enhanced seclusion and square footage, private owners often allow their tenants to paint, modernize and customize their living spaces, as long as modifications don’t compromise home values.
Considering renting a single-family property? First follow these five steps.
1. Set a Budget
Typically, single-family homes cost more than apartments or townhomes due to size differences and the inclusion of private outdoor spaces. Lessees must factor these enhanced accommodations into their budgets. Renters who can afford high-end amenities in small apartments might end up paying more for large, dated homes. While single-family properties are costly, it’s easier to negotiate with landlords who both own and manage tenancies. Single-family homeowners make final decisions. Communicating directly with homeowners is easier than going through multiple layers of supervision at large property management (PM) firms. Rent negotiations at multi-unit apartment complexes are not only lengthy, but PMs often enforce stricter pricing policies because of comparable rentals on the market. Due to the limited number of similar properties, single-family homeowners don’t have the same pricing strategies as apartment owners.
2. Research Availability
Similarly to apartments for rent, tenants looking for private properties must adequately research prospective neighborhoods, school districts, commute times and property details before submitting lease applications. Private homes for rent are scarcer because renters opt for long-term leases, especially when they have close relationships with owners. Also, apartment complexes are designated rental units, usually relisted each year. Homeowners might occupy their single-family homes for decades before they decide to rent them out. Availability varies, so don’t become frustrated with sluggish search processes.
3. Submit an Application
Landlords require pay stubs, bank statements, credit reports and references to supplement rental applications. Gather these documents prior to applying for leases to appear prepared and experienced with the rental process. Single-family homeowners seek trustworthy candidates to take care of their homes, and being one step ahead in the process helps prove willingness to cooperate. Further, act promptly to expedite the authorization process for both parties’ advantage.
4. Conduct a Walk Through
Document damages prior to moving into single-family residences. With more space than typical apartments, minor holes and scuffs in full-size homes may go unnoticed, so it’s best to be thorough. Check water temperature controls to make sure hot water is working throughout the home. Make sure to note any water damage in the property, especially stains on walls or moldy odors. Tenants can request immediate repairs prior to move-in and evade responsibility for damages that occurred prior to their contracts.
5. Purchase Renter’s Insurance
To best protect personal belongings, lessees should invest in adequate insurance coverage. Aside from private possessions, renter’s insurance sometimes covers liability. Tenant liability is an essential element of sufficient insurance coverage; otherwise leaseholders are financially responsible for guests’ medical bills. Homeowners (or their insurance) are obligated to cover injuries caused by property faults, such as foundation failure or roof collapse.
Private rental properties are especially good alternatives for large families or couples looking to settle down. Renters who allocate a portion of their monthly savings toward future down payments can one day purchase their own homes and potentially rent them out for profit.
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