Negative Net Worth [6 Money Moves To Avoid It In 2024]

Updated On: 09/18/2023 is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Imagine checking your bank account only to find you in the red. Don't panic – it's more common than you might think, and many people surprisingly find themselves with a negative net worth. While the situation may be daunting, addressing it head-on can position you for a more stable financial future.

You see, negative net worth refers to owning more than you own. It means your liabilities - everything from your mortgage to credit card debt - surpass your assets, such as property, investments, and cash.

It might sound stressful and a bit problematic, but don't fret! It's just an unwanted phase of your financial journey that you need to navigate through. Believe it or not, this is not an impossible task.

What Is Negative Net Worth?

Negative net worth refers to a situation in which an individual or entity's liabilities exceed their assets. This state implies that the value of everything you own (assets) is less than the amount you owe to others (liabilities). In other words, if you liquidated all your assets to pay off debts and still owed money, you would have a negative net worth.

What Is Negative Net Worth?

This situation could arise due to excessive debts, substantial financial losses, or inefficient personal or company finances management. While negative net worth is generally unfavorable, it can also be interpreted as a phase in one's financial cycle when managed correctly.

How Does Deficit/Negative Net Worth Work?

Imagine you're looking at your balance sheet. On one side, you have your assets - everything you own that has substantial value. This includes money in the bank, car, investments, and even home. These elements add to your net worth.

How Does Deficit/Negative Net Worth Work?

Opposing that, on the other side, are your liabilities – all the debts you owe. This includes everything from student loans to credit card debt and what remains on your mortgage.

The difference between these two sides – assets and liabilities – forms your net worth. If what you owe surpasses what you own, you find yourself in a state of negative net worth.

For example, if the total value of all your assets is $50,000, but you owe $70,000 in various debts, then your net worth is -$20,000.

Understanding this equation can empower individuals to discover strategies for repair and growth by identifying areas of vulnerabilities within their financial profiles.

Also Read: Liquid Net Worth: What It Is And How To Calculate? 2024

6 Money Moves To Avoid Negative Net Worth

Navigating your way out of negative net worth and into financial freedom isn't just a dream; it's entirely possible with the right plan. Here are six smart "money moves" that can get you there:

6 Money Moves To Avoid Negative Net Worth

Diversify Your Investments

Understanding diversification is much easier than it sounds. It resembles the adage, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." In simpler words, don't invest all your money in one place.

Diversifying your investments means spreading your hard-earned money across different types of assets, be it stocks, bonds, real estate or savings accounts. This strategy can balance potential dips in specific sectors and safeguard against huge losses.

According to CNBC, the portfolios of high-net-worth individuals are often greatly diversified. They spread their assets over various investment classes rather than focusing on just one. This approach helps to reduce risk while potentially increasing returns.

The goal isn’t to gain quick riches — anybody promising that is likely selling dreams. By diversifying, you're setting up a sort of safety net for your finances. It's about protecting your wealth from the ups and downs of the market over time.

Also Read: 3 Fund Portfolio In 2024 [Diversify Your Investment]

Prioritize Debt Reduction

Dealing with debt can be incredibly stressful. However, by reducing your debt, you can effectively avoid or dig out from under a negative net worth. To be successful, it's critical to prioritize your debts and gradually pay them off.

You might consider strategies like the "snowball method," where you tackle the smallest debts first to build momentum. Or perhaps the "avalanche method," which targets deficits with the highest interest rates first, could fit your needs better.

While these may sound technical, don't worry - they're simple when you look into it! The snowball method refers to starting with small debts and clearing those out before moving on to larger ones, giving you a confidence boost.

The avalanche method involves tackling the loans or credit card balances with high interest rates before moving on to those with less interest.

Consistently making repayments - even if they’re just minimum - will reduce your debt and improve your credit score.

Also Read: 7 Dave Ramsey Baby Steps: Start Saving & Become Debt Free In 2024

Establish an Emergency Fund

Building an emergency fund is one of the best ways to prevent sinking into negative net worth. This is essentially money for unexpected expenses—like car repairs or medical bills—that pop up daily.

Even if you are currently in debt, having such a fund ensures that unexpected expenses don't compound what you already owe.

Aim for an emergency fund covering three to six months' living expenses—a common goal in personal finance circles.

Building this amount could take time, especially if dealing with other financial obligations simultaneously, but every little bit helps immensely.

First, try putting away a small portion of each paycheck until it becomes second nature. Apps and bank services that automatically round up purchases and deposit the difference in savings can help accomplish this without feeling overwhelming—even $5 per week adds up over time.

Live Below Your Means

Living below your means is simple: spend less money than you earn. Yet, it can be a challenging rule to stick with, especially in our society where consumerism is prevalent. However, training yourself to live within or below your means can significantly contribute to avoiding negative net worth.

To start, do an honest inventory of your wants and needs. Needs are essentials like food, shelter, and healthcare. The wants usually throw budgets out of kilter: the latest iPhone, a brand new car when a used one will do, or those expensive shoes that get worn only occasionally.

Look for ways to cut back on spending. This doesn't mean you must deprive yourself of enjoyment - but find a balance that works for you financially. Find free or cheap hobbies and often opt for homemade meals rather than dining out.

In essence, create a spending plan that reflects your economic reality, not your social aspirations.

Regularly Review and Adjust Your Budget

Creating a budget isn't a one-time task - it's an ongoing process. Regular budget review is paramount in maintaining financial stability and avoiding negative net worth.

Your financial situation may change over time due to job changes, salary fluctuations, unexpected expenses, and evolving personal needs and wants. Revisit your budget at least quarterly or whenever you experience a significant financial difference.

Don’t forget - this is also the time to set new financial goals like paying off debt faster or saving for something major (like an emergency fund). Aim for steady improvement, not perfection.

Keep track of where your money goes to identify any areas where you're overspending consistently or where extra savings might be hidden. Be ready to make adjustments as needed; maintaining flexibility in managing finances can help buffer against sudden, unexpected financial changes.

Also Read: 50 Jobs That Will Make You a Millionaire In 2024 [Unique Jobs]

FAQs About Negative Net Worth

What is negative net worth?

Negative net worth means your total liabilities exceed your assets; hence, you owe more than you own.

How do I calculate negative net worth?

To calculate, subtract your total liabilities (debt) from your assets (everything you own). If the result is negative, then you have a negative net worth.

Does negative net worth mean bankruptcy?

Not necessarily. Negative net worth means that currently, your debts exceed what you own, but it doesn't mean that you can't meet your debt obligations or are bankrupt.

Can a person with a negative net worth be considered rich?

Wealth is subjective and not solely determined by net worth. However, traditionally, someone with a negative net worth would not be considered financially wealthy.

How does one increase their net worth if it's currently negative?

You could increase your income, decrease expenses to free up money to pay off debts, sell assets to pay down debt, or use savings to reduce debt. As the debt decreases, the net worth will increase.


In conclusion, facing a negative net worth is not a life sentence; it's merely a snapshot of your financial health at a particular time. This reality underscores the importance of regular economic assessments for foresight and early detection.

Life happens, and there may be times when you find yourself in unexpected financial circumstances. The important thing is to stay motivated, have a plan, and keep working towards better financial health. And with time and consistency, you can turn things around!

Lastly, having proper guidance cannot be overemphasized. It’s recommended to consult with financial advisors or consultants who can guide you through your journey toward positive net worth.

Michael Restiano

I support product content strategy for Salt Money. Additionally, I’m helping develop content strategy and processes to deliver quality work for our readers.

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