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Net worth is the value of all the non-financial and financial assets owned by an individual or institution minus the value of all its outstanding liabilities. Since financial assets minus outstanding liabilities equal net financial assets, net worth can also be conveniently expressed as non-financial assets plus net financial assets. It can apply to companies, individuals, governments or economic sectors such as the sector of financial corporations or to entire countries.
Net worth is a combination of financial assets and liabilities. The financial assets that contribute to net worth are homes, vehicles, various types of bank accounts, money market accounts, and stocks and bonds. The liabilities are financial obligations such as loans, mortgage, accounts payable (AP) that deplete resources.
Net worth in business is also referred to as equity. It is generally based on the value of all assets and liabilities at the carrying value which is the value as expressed on the financial statements. To the extent items on the balance sheet do not express their true (market) value, the net worth will also be inaccurate. On reading the balance sheet, if the accumulated losses exceed the shareholder's equity, net worth becomes negative.
Net worth vs. debt is a significant aspect of business loans. Business owners are required to "trade on equity" in order to further increase their net worth.
For individuals, net worth or wealth refers to an individual's net economic position: the value of the individual's assets minus liabilities. Examples of assets that an individual would factor into their net worth include retirement accounts, other investments, home(s), and vehicles. Liabilities include both secured debt (such as a home mortgage) and unsecured debt (such as consumer debt or personal loans). Typically intangible assets such as educational degrees are not factored into net worth, even though such assets positively contribute to one's overall financial position.
Balance sheets that include all assets and liabilities can also be constructed for governments. Compared with government debt, a government's net worth is an alternative measure of the government's financial strength. Most governments utilize an accrual-based accounting system in order to provide a transparent picture of government operational costs.  Other governments may utilize cash accounting in order to better foresee future fiscal events. The accrual-based system is more effective, however, when dealing with the overall transparency of a government's spending. Massive governmental organizations rely on consistent and effective accounting in order to identify total net worth.
A country's net worth is calculated as the sum of the net worth of all companies and individuals resident in this country, plus the government's net worth. As for the United States, this measure is referred to as the financial position, and totalled $123.8 trillion as of 2014.
Net worth is a representation of where one stands financially. This can be used to help create budgets, influence wise spending, motivate one to pay off debt, and it can motivate someone to save and invest. Net worth is also important to look at when considering retirement.
- System of National Accounts 2008, published by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations, and the World Bank, p. 49, section 3.109.
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