What is Your Net Worth, and Why Should You Care? Steve Knudson Quoted

One of Intermountain Financial Group’s financial advisors , Steve Knudson, was quoted in the article, “What is Your Net Worth, and Why Should You Care?”

You probably know how much you make each year, and maybe even what you spend each month, but do you know your net worth? And more importantly, how to use the information in a way that matters?

Knowing your net worth can have a significant impact on your budgeting, spending, and retirement plans.

What is net worth?

Simply put, net worth is everything you own minus what you owe. While online calculators can be used to run the actual numbers, it’s important that you determine assets from debts accurately, to arrive at the most accurate breakdown.

Create a personal balance sheet with two categories: What you own (assets), and what you owe (liabilities). The “owned” category should include checking, savings, certificates of deposit, investment and brokerage accounts, retirement and college savings plans, and the value of vehicles you own outright (which can be found using Kelley Blue Book).

If you own furniture, electronics, art, technology, or jewelry worth significant value, those items are assets, as is the equity (what you own) in your home or investment property. (It is not the market value of your home — unless you own it outright).

Conversely, the “owed” category should include the balance you owe on your mortgage loan, student loan debt, auto loans, credit card bills, taxes owed, alimony or child support, and lease obligations you may be bound to for a car or rented dwelling.

Though actual calculation of net worth is simply subtracting what is owned from owed, it’s imperative that your balance sheet “inputs” are accurate.

Financial expert Steve Knudson of Intermountain Financial Group says that relying too heavily on net worth becomes problematic when based on unrealistic projections of unpredictable forces.

For example, if you’re invested in stock markets and the economy is booming, so is your net worth. Market values plunge one day — your net worth goes with it. An overstated net worth analysis can lead to borrowing things you can’t actually afford, and underestimating what you need to put aside for retirement.

“I have seen far too many portfolios trashed due to over aggressive valuations on real estate and private company stock valuations that have never materialized,” Knudson says.

Here are three simple ways to put your net worth balance sheet into action:

See where you stand with retirement

Forbes contributor and financial adviser David John Marotta, president of Marotta Wealth Management, says that saving 15% of your take home pay each year throughout your working life should theoretically provide sufficient savings for retirement, even with the ebb and flow of the market. Obviously, the exact number that percentage amounts to will change with your salary throughout the years.

Using your net worth balance sheet, you can easily arrive at a very basic spot check of how well you’ve planned for retirement so far.

Let’s suppose you started contributing to retirement five years ago, and your annual take home pay has been $40,000 for that time. Sticking to basic math, you should have about $30,000 earmarked in a retirement account. Of course, you may have more, or less, based on the investments you’ve made and employer matches, but the 15% rule is a simple way to see where you currently stand. If you’ve fallen short, you’ve got some catching up to do, either by spending less, saving more — or a combination of both.

Start a debt elimination strategy

Retirement planning is about strategizing a way to live in an essentially income-less scenario, aside from what you’ve saved. Ideally the “owed” section in your net worth balance sheet will be blank when you retire — even if that’s far from your reality today.

The steps you take now to eliminate debt can be just as important as what you contribute into retirement savings, particularly if the debts you carry have you paying far higher interest rates than your investments earn.

Using your “owed” column, formulate an action plan for long-term debt elimination that will allow you to eventually enter into retirement debt-free. Start with the highest interest rate loans first, and work your way down. As you whittle loans away, you’ll free up more funds to build liquid assets, and invest for retirement.

Focus on long-term planning

Knudson suggests a triangle-style approach to net worth analysis that focuses on three critical aspects of long-term financial management: income, access and growth.

To determine income needs, calculate your monthly fixed expenses compared to your monthly cash flow. If monthly income sufficiently covers those costs, Knudson says “there is no need to “burden an investment portfolio with bonds or low performing investments.”

To evaluate access, add up the total of your “owned” assets that are completely liquid, meaning that if a financial emergency happened tomorrow, you could withdraw your money without paying fees or penalties, or selling assets that may or not be worth peak value.

If most of your “owned” column consists of property, stocks, bonds or mutual funds, consider shifting some assets into more liquid savings tools to protect your long-term financial affairs. Once you’ve determined income and access, Knudson suggests investing the balance of cash in a long term growth portfolio to hedge against inflation, provide for appreciation, and invest for opportunities.

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Steven Knudson quoted in article regarding “6 Ways to Test Your Financial Literacy Today”

Written by: Stephanie Taylor Christensen

Improving your personal finance know-how is a goal worth aspiring to, but with so much to learn, how do you know where you stand when it comes to financial literacy?

Here are six aspects of money management to test your own financial literacy:

Budget basics

While there are plenty of online and mobile app tools that ease the burden of budgeting, your dedication to managing spending, eliminating debt, and saving as much as you can is key. The longer and more consistently you budget, you’ll begin to identify and plan for those red flag financial events like car repairs, vacation expenses, gifts, and medical bills so you don’t have to turn to using high-interest credit cards.

If you have debts, your budgeting plan should also include eliminating them, systemically, based on the interest rate on each loan. (Hint: Pay down the one that costs you the most, first).

Pre “financial crisis,” budgeting was about not overspending. In light of renewed focus on the risks of living paycheck to paycheck, the advice has shifted not to living within your means, but well under them.

In her book “Money Rules,” finance expert Jean Chatzky  says anyone under the age of 35 should aim to save 10% of what they earn. Anyone older who hasn’t saved yet should strive to save 15%. If those numbers aren’t feasible, identify what you can save — even if it’s $10 a month, and start doing it automatically.

doing it automatically.

Saving strategically

Building savings is the hallmark of financial security and is important in financial literacy, and it’s important no matter how much money you make.

Though saving can be as simple as putting money in a savings account, true financial literacy is about saving strategically, and staying current on what savings tools pay you for your business, while costing you nothing.

Search current deposit interest rates on checking, savings, money market accounts and certificates of deposit using a comparative tool like Bankrate.com, and consider only accounts that don’t require an account minimum, or charge fees to access or transfer your money.

If you’re comfortable with online banking, you’ll typically find higher rates than brick and mortar institutions offer.

Although  deposit interest rates have been paltry over the past few years, the idea is to make savings systemic, and consistent. Take advantage of automatic savings plans (also called ASPs), or automatic deduction options that an employer might offer so that a portion of each paycheck goes directly into savings, without giving you the opportunity to miss it.

Understanding fees

Banks got hit hard with regulatory legislation following the 2007 financial crisis, and they’ve got to make up for lost revenue in the form of fees.

It’s estimated that banks need to recoup, on average, between $15 and $20 a month from each depositor just to earn what they did in the past, according to an analysis on checking accounts by Oliver Wyman, a financial consulting firm.

If you’re unsure whether you’re paying fees to bank or use a credit or debit card, educate yourself by examining statements and the latest terms of your accounts online. If you’re in a product that doesn’t fit your needs, be proactive and seek one that is a better fit — before you dish out hundreds of dollars on a year on pointless fees. If you can’t find one at your current institution, a credit union may be a less expensive alternative.

You may never see an actual “bill” from a financial planner and wealth adviser, but rest assured, they don’t work for nothing. However, different advisory firms have different policies. Some get commissions from trades made on your behalf, others work on a flat- fee, and others take a percentage of the value of your portfolio, in a “ “you don’t win if I don’t win” approach.

The fee you are paying will be reflected in some shape or form on statements you receive, but it may be clear as mud. If you have no idea what you’re paying a financial adviser, ask. If you feel the value of their services is worth what you’ve paid, you’ve developed a good relationship. If you don’t, move on. The beauty of being financially literate is the power to make informed decisions.

The importance of expecting the worst

You probably know you need auto, renters, and homeowners insurance, but long-term financial planning and wealth building is highly correlated to an understanding of insurance as a risk-management tool that can protect you, your family, and your wealth for the long-term.

Familiarize yourself with the major benefits and drawbacks of different kinds of insurance, like term-life, disability, and long-term care, even if it seems like they don’t impact your life today.

Steven Knudson, financial adviser at Intermountain Financial Group, says that not having adequate life insurance is a disaster waiting to happen, and that anyone in their 50s and beyond should “obtain some level of long-term care insurance to avoid the catastrophic loss of a chronic illness in later years.”

Though employers may offer some level of insurance coverage, including for death and disability, it may not be enough to cover your survivors, and/or your assets. “Even if you have a group long term disability plan at work, pick up a personal fixed income protection in a non-cancellable disability insurance plan,” Knudson says.

Savings is largely based on preparing for the unexpected, and undesirable, aspects of life, too. Henk Pieters, certified financial planner and president of Newport Beach, Calif. based Investus Financial Planning, says that regardless of income, all clients should have at least 3-6 months worth of living expenses covered in an FDIC insured savings account — provided they have a very stable career.

Business owners and those in industries or salary tiers that present higher degrees of professional uncertainty need to save an entire year’s worth of living expenses.

Impact of tax laws

You know that taxes take a chunk out of your paycheck but the more you understand about them, the more you can leverage taxes to your advantage and increase your financial literacy.

There are many expenses that the government allows as deductions for tax reasons, including business-related travel, entertainment, and mileage. Education costs, child-care credits, mortgage fees, and expenses related to job-hunting, relocation, or a home-based business can mean paying fewer taxes, too.

Some charitable gifts and donations, including items made to qualifying non-profits, and funds that you “gift” to relatives or loved ones, whittle your tax burden too.

If you sell assets that appreciate in value, like stocks or bonds, you’ll need to pay capital gains taxes on them, but a qualified financial adviser can help dentify the best strategies to keep the most amount of money you legally can.

Use credit for good

Credit is often blamed as a reason people struggle financially, but when used as it was originally intended, it’s one of the greatest means of financial empowerment you can access and a key to financial literacy.

Building and maintaining healthy credit habits opens opportunities to borrow from lenders who can help you to build wealth, whether you choose to start a business, buy property, or invest in your future.

Steve Knudson, one of our highly respected and experienced financial advisors was interviewed on WebTalk Radio

The New Retirement – Predictable Engagement


Last Updated on Thursday, 12 July 2012 10:01
Written by billschiffler
Monday, 16 July 2012 12:01

–>One key retirement goal is financial security. We get this when we have ample and reliable income and predictable expense. As long as you can manage both sides, income and expense, your retirement can become sustainable. Steve Knudson a financial adviser with thirty years of experience shares his insights on how to manage both sides of the ledger. Sometimes predictability can lead to boredom. Spending twenty to thirty years in retirement with little or nothing to do can drive many people stir crazy. New retirees will need to be engaged in matters of personal importance. Lisa Taylor CEO of The Challenge Factory tells us how to shift into successful, meaningful and balanced ‘Legacy Careers’. Learn what questions to ask and how to structure your approach to the next phase of your life.