Guide to Liquid Net Worth

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · November 21, 2023 · 9 minute read

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Guide to Liquid Net Worth

If you’re wondering how your financial health is tracking, you may want to figure out your net worth and your liquid net worth. These two numbers reflect what your assets (what you have) vs. what you owe, helping you see how your personal wealth is evolving.

While totaling up your net worth offers a more big-picture view of your total assets with your total liabilities subtracted, liquid net worth is a slice of that. It focuses on solely the amount you own in liquid assets minus your total liabilities.

This reflects how much cash you truly have access to or could quickly raise if for some reason you needed to.

Here’s a guide to determining your liquid net worth and ways to improve it.

Key Points

•   Net worth is the value of your assets minus your liabilities, while liquid net worth focuses on easily accessible assets.

•   Liquid net worth includes cash, checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and other assets that can be quickly converted to cash.

•   Non-liquid assets like real estate and retirement accounts are not included in liquid net worth calculations.

•   Liquid net worth is important for financial stability and emergency preparedness.

•   Strategies for improving liquid net worth include building an emergency fund, reducing expenses, paying off high-interest debt, and increasing investments.

What Is Liquid Net Worth?

First, know that net worth is the amount of assets you have minus your liabilities, or what you owe. When it comes to income vs. net worth, you see that your worth is more than just what you earn; it’s also what you keep and how you invest and grow your money.

For instance, if you have a high income but spend it all because your cost of living is very high, your net worth could be very low despite your healthy salary.

Now, what is liquid net worth’s meaning? That’s the same calculation as net worth, but only looking at assets that could easily be tapped. So, you would exclude the value of, say, the home you are living in or your retirement accounts which you can’t touch until decades from now.

Liquid net worth reflects assets you could draw upon right now if you had to, without putting your home on the market or pulling money out of an IRA. Net worth vs. liquid net worth, on the other hand, represents all your assets, whether easily tapped or not.

What Counts for Liquid Net Worth Calculations?

Here are some assets that can count when calculating liquid net worth:

•   Cash

•   Money in a checking account

•   Money in a savings, CD, or money market account

•   Mutual funds, stocks, and bonds

•   Possibly jewelry and watches that could be quickly sold, if need be.

Typically, you do not include real estate or retirement savings when calculating liquid net worth as these can’t be cashed in on the spot if that was your goal.

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Net Worth vs Liquid Net Worth

As briefly mentioned above, your total net worth includes all of your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe). When you determine your net worth, you add up all your assets, including non-liquid assets, such as your house, car, and retirement accounts, and then subtract all of your liabilities. The resulting number is your total net worth.

•   Your liquid net worth is the amount of money you have in cash or cash equivalents (assets that can be easily converted into cash) after you’ve deducted all of your liabilities.

It’s very similar to net worth, except that it doesn’t account for non-liquid assets such as real estate or retirement accounts.

•   Your total net worth gives you a picture of your overall financial strength and balance sheet, while liquid net worth shows how much money you have available that is quickly accessible in case of emergency or other financial hardship.

•   Both measures of net worth can give you a useful snapshot of your financial wellness, since they consider both assets and debts. Looking at your assets without considering your debts can give you a false picture of your financial situation.

•   Knowing and tracking these numbers can also tell you if you are moving in the right or wrong financial direction. If your net worth or liquid net worth is in negative territory or the numbers are declining over time, it can be a sign you need to make some changes and/or may want to put off making a major purchase such as a home or a car.

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Why Liquid Net Worth Matters

Your liquid net worth is a measure of your ability to weather a financial storm. Imagine you need money for something important — a major home or car repair, a trip to the ER, or getting laid off and deciding to start a new business.

You need it now… or, at least, within the next few weeks or months. Where are you going to get the money?

You might not want to look at cashing in things like your home, your car, your retirement savings, your baseball card collection, or Grandma’s wedding ring unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Those kinds of assets can be difficult to convert to cash in a hurry — and there could be consequences if you did decide to go that route.

Instead, it may be easier to tap your more liquid assets, such as cash from a checking, savings, or money market account, or cash equivalents, like stocks and bonds, mutual funds, or money market funds.

Liquid net worth is often considered a true measure of how financially stable you are because it tells you what you can rely on to cover expenses. In addition, your liquid net worth acts as an overall emergency fund.

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Calculating Your Liquid Net Worth

The difference in calculating net worth and liquid net worth is understanding which of your financial assets are liquid assets.

Liquid assets are cash and assets that could be converted to cash quickly. The following are considered liquid assets.

•   Cash: This includes the money that is in your wallet, as well as the cash you have in any savings, checking, and money market accounts.

•   Stocks: Any equity in a brokerage account, such as stocks, index funds, mutual funds, and ETFs, is considered a liquid asset. While you might have to pay taxes and other fees if you sell equities to convert to cash, you could liquidate these assets fairly quickly.

•   Bonds: Like equities, any bonds or bond funds are also liquid assets. Again, you may have to pay taxes on your profits when you sell, but the translation is relatively quick.

Non-liquid assets include anything that cannot be converted to cash quickly or for their full value, such as:

•   Retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs.

•   A house or other real estate holding (which could take a while to sell and the actual sales price is not known).

•   Cars (while you may be able to liquidate a car relatively quickly, cars generally don’t hold their original value; they depreciate).

Liquid Net Worth Formula

For a liquid net worth calculation, here are the steps to follow:

•   List all of your liquid assets: The cash and cash equivalents you could easily and quickly get your hands on if you need money.

•   Next, list your current liabilities, including credit card debt, student loan balance, unsecured loans, medical debt, a car loan, and any other debt.

•   Subtract your liabilities from your liquid assets. The result is your liquid net worth.

4 Tips for Improving Liquid Net Worth

If your liquid net worth is too low to cover at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses or is in negative territory, you may want to take some steps to bolster this number. Here are some strategies that can help boost liquid net worth.

1. Building an Emergency Fund

If you don’t already have a solid contingency fund set aside in a liquid account, you may want to start building one. Having enough cash on hand to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses can be a great place to start building your liquid net worth.

An emergency fund can help keep you from getting behind on your bills and running up high interest credit card debt in the event of an unexpected expense, job loss, or reduction in work hours.

It’s fine to build towards this slowly. Automating your savings to deposit, say, $25 per paycheck into an emergency fund can be a good starting point if money is tight.

2. Reducing Expenses

For every dollar you save each month, you are potentially increasing your liquid net worth by that amount. One way to cut spending is to take a close look at your monthly expenses and to then try to find places where you may be able to cut back, such as saving on streaming services, lowering your food bills, or shopping around for a better deal on home and car insurance.

3. Lowering High-Interest Debt

Debts add to your liabilities and therefore lower your liquid net worth. Expensive debt also increases your monthly expenses in the form of interest. This gives you less money to put in the bank each month, making it harder to build your liquid net worth.

If you’re carrying credit card debt, you may want to start a debt reduction plan (such as the “debt snowball” or “debt avalanche” method) to get it paid down faster.

4. Increasing Investments

Investing money in the market for long-term savings goals, such as a child’s education, can increase your liquid net worth. While there is risk involved, you’ll have more time to ride out the ups and downs of the securities markets when saving for the longer term.

Recommended: Average Net Worth by Age

The Takeaway

Liquid net worth is the amount of money you have in cash or cash equivalents after you’ve deducted your liabilities from your liquid assets. It doesn’t account for non-liquid assets, such as real estate or retirement accounts.

Your liquid net worth can be a valuable measure of your financial health and stability because it shows how prepared you are to handle a change in plans, an unexpected expense, or a true emergency.

One easy way to boost your liquid net worth is to start building an emergency fund. If you’re looking for a good place to start saving, you may want to consider opening a high-interest bank account.

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Does a 401(k) count as liquid net worth?

When calculating liquid net worth, you typically do not include retirement accounts nor real estate. Liquid net worth’s meaning involves assets you can quickly tap without paying a large penalty.

How do you calculate liquid net worth?

To calculate your liquid net worth, add up your liquid assets (cash, money in the bank, stocks, bonds, and the like) and subtract your liabilities (credit card debt, student loans, car loan, etc.). When adding up your assets, do not include real estate or retirement accounts.

What is the average liquid net worth by age?

Figures for average liquid net worth are hard to come by. Rather, total net worth is what is typically tracked, which was recently found to be approximately $76,300 for those under age 35, $436,200 for those 35 to 44; $833,200 for those 45 to 54, and $1,175,900 for those 55 yo 64. It may be helpful to also consider the media values for these age brackets, which are significantly lower than the average.

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