A lot of personal finance bloggers write about net worth. I am not one of them. If you follow this blog, you know I am still in loads of debt (circa 44k now compared to 81k), so I don’t think it’s necessary to write about my net worth.

It would be a hilariously large, negative number.

I don’t own a car, a house, have nothing of financial value, and I’ve depleted my savings. When I look at my financial value, I can easily get depressed and think I’m so behind, and that I have nothing after almost 30 years on the planet.

Although I have no noteworthy material possessions, I have to remember that I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences, most of them travel and work related. I’m also rich in love and friendship, and in my eyes that is priceless.

Everyday I have to tell myself that my self-worth is not my net worth. I am defined outside of my income, outside of my possessions, outside of my job. Our society places so much value on these things, it’s really hard to separate yourself from those identifications.

I know this because recently my side hustle income has been the worst it has been in months. I’ve made $100 extra this month out of my $400 per month goal. I’m looking for work, applying and trying to hustle and I’ve come back with nothing.

For two years I was also looking for a full-time job and I was struggling to find that, too. My confidence was shaken, and even though I have found a job, I’m still dealing with those ramifications as well.

It’s hard to work really hard at something and feel like you are going nowhere. I am trying to look at things differently, try new tactics and be open to possibilities. I am also telling myself it’s okay if I don’t meet my goal. A goal is something to strive for, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t meet it. We live in a world where a lot of things are dependent on others. In the end someone needs to hire me to have extra work. I may send out emails, make follow-up calls, but if people don’t respond, there is only so much I can do.

To not go insane from the radio silence, you have to keep going. Be your own source of confidence outside all the external meanings and definitions. I’m learning that is really hard to do. I’ve always seen myself as a hustler, but if I’m not hustling successfully, who am I? I want to get to know that person better. I want to find comfort in the uneasy, and not languish in the unpredictable.

In the end, your self-worth is not your net worth. How much you make or how much you have in the bank doesn’t make you a good person. It doesn’t mean you are better or worse off than someone else. We all have our own goals and dreams, and that is what we need to be defining ourselves by. At this point, my main dream is to be debt free. I’d rather have a net worth of $0 than my laughable negative number. I can’t wait to pocket all the money I am now throwing toward debt. I want to learn to relax, share the wealth and reach my full potential. Money is a tool and it doesn’t mean everything. But for me, money means freedom of choice, more opportunities and less fear.

Do you ever compare your self-worth to your net worth? For my debt fighting warriors, how do you deal when things are slow?


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

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35 responses to “Your Self-Worth is Not Your Net Worth”

  1. Melanie, thank you, thank you, thank you for this!! I really needed to hear this today. 🙂 BTW, it’s been slow for most everyone this month, I’m told, so don’t despair. Things should pick up back to normal in a week or two. Apparently the holidays are still keeping people sidetracked.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Best Personal Finance Articles for the Week Ending 1-18-14My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      I needed to hear it too! Glad it made you feel better. It’s good to know it’s not just me — it’s just so bizarre. Last January I was working almost every weekend. I’m ready to get this year into full swing and keep hustling, paying off debt and enjoying life.

  2. Isabella says:

    Oh, it is so true that our worth is not determined by what we own! As a follower of Jesus, I take heart that He said, “A man’s value is not in the abundance of his possessions.” Yes, love, family and friendship count for so much more. How we live, what is in our heart, how we treat others count for so much more. What we own and possess mean nothing to God. You are in good company if you feel you don’t have a lot. So many lost so much during the great recession recently. And when we look around, we see a lot of poverty in America.

    But it really does help to focus on what we DO have! Look around and you will see homeless people, people who struggle daily with disabled children, those who have severe physical limitations. Have you ever been thankful just for eyesight? Even Bill Gates said he would not trade his entire fortune for his ability to see.

    So, don’t lose heart. You will get there in time, and you have already made amazing progress. Have you thought of waiting tables as a side hustle with a more steady income? It can be a pretty good gig. I know that lots of places want experienced wait staff, but you might even be able to work into it by applying as a seating “hostess.” From there it could be a steady job as a waiter. Just throwin’ that idea out there. Keep fighting the good fight!

    • deardebt says:

      I do feel very grateful in so many ways. The gift of sight, walking, being able to read my bike. I can’t imagine being without! Thanks for the encouragement; I need to stay focused and remember the end goal. I would very much like to hostest and waitress, but people do want experience here and it’s a foodie culture. I am going to try a local restaurant and seek out opportunities. Then another part of me things doing my side hustle thing is more flexible, which could mean more income/less time, but then a real second job would be more consistent. It’s a balance, as I still need to devote 100% of my energy to my day job. I will get to where I need to be. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Isabella. I always love hearing from you.

  3. I don’t compare my self-worth to my net worth. I know I’m behind where I “should be” but feeling emotion behind that isn’t going to change anything. All I can do is use that as motivation to keep trying to make good decisions. I think often times people feel so frustrated with life, that’s when they cave in and make bad spending decisions. I even feel somewhat prey to that this past month with being so busy I paid extra for things. You have a lot going for you, great friends, a good relationship…you are also an awesome human being!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…How Do You Challenge Yourself?My Profile

  4. Amanda says:

    I’m in the same boat as you. I know my net worth would be a monstrous negative number, so there’s no point trying to figure out what it is – it’s depressing, that’s what it is!

    It’ll be another year til my car is paid off, and at the rate I’m going it’ll be another 8 years *at least* before my student loan is gone. And by then, who knows if there’ll be a house and/or tiny mouths to feed too?

    I’m aiming for that magical $0 too!
    Amanda recently posted…My Money in 2013My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      At least you have a plan! And 8 years isn’t that bad in reality. I know it can be overwhelming, but just know you are not alone and that we still have lives to lead aside from all this debt.

  5. Morgaine says:

    Very good post, Melanie! I just posted my NW update last week and while it was interesting to see how things have changed over the last few years, it really doesn’t tell the whole story. That in 2012 I got married to a wonderful man and we saved for the wedding in cash so I didn’t increase my NW as much as in 2011. Or that we bought a house last year (I don’t include it) and that’s why my savings were drained but I love my house, its not just a place to live, its where my family is. Its easy to feel behind when I see other bloggers post their NWs but I love my life and I wouldn’t trade it for an extra few dollars on a balance sheet! 🙂
    Morgaine recently posted…Weekly Spending: Jan 13-19My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Hmmm yeah, when you think of just the numbers it really doesn’t give you the big picture. It doesn’t account for all the good and the bad. Glad you are doing well and happy 🙂

  6. I have at times been depressed about my net worth and equated to my self worth to some extent. But you are right, they are not the same. Just because we make financial mistakes, does not mean that we are worth any less. Everyone makes mistakes. Thankfully we have learned our lesson and are on a much better track today.
    Well Kept Wallet recently posted…WKW 28: How I Plan to Graduate from High School a Millionaire with Houston GunnMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      We all make mistakes, make different choices that affect our financial future. At the core of that, we are still people who are worth something outside of what all that means.

  7. I will admit that you are my favorite “hustler” Melanie but that isn’t all that you are! Just from our exchange through comments and emails, I can tell that you are a very thoughtful, sensitive, caring human being. 🙂 Like you, I also do not define myself by my net worth because that would be very depressing lol. Some months will be better than others, but that debt will still be paid off Girl. 🙂
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted…Are You Addicted to Blogging?My Profile

  8. Wow! I feel exactly what you’re feeling. I felt like I was reading my own life. I really enjoyed reading this. It can make me feel behind at times when reading other blogs. Ive got a long way to go and I have nothing to show for my age either. I sigh when I think about what I could be saving or doing with my money instead of paying debt.

    Great perspective though, now I’m focussing on my experiences rather than money.

    • deardebt says:

      Yes, focus on experiences and what your life has been so far. What do you want to change? Where do you want to go? How and where will you spend your money, once your debt free? Those are the questions that keep me motivated. Glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post.

  9. Gina says:

    This is a great post; thank you for writing it! I have about $5 in my checking account right now, not to mention a good amount of debt. It’s depressing to think about, but I need to remember that doesn’t make me a bad person, and very soon, I’m going to change my financial situation around. 🙂
    Gina recently posted…The Wrath That Is UnemploymentMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Oh, girl I know it’s depressing. I’m so glad you are turning things around and have a positive attitude. That counts for so much and helps you move things along.

  10. Mackenzie says:

    Have I told you how much I love your writing? 🙂

    Your post resonated with me, as I feel like I am fighting the debt monsters and they are winning and I see other people getting ahead, and I am not. It is indeed frustrating…
    Mackenzie recently posted…A Smile I Don’t RecognizeMy Profile

  11. anna says:

    I don’t really think of my net worth as part of my self-worth, but rather through intrinsic qualities. I do at times get down about my net worth (since I feel pretty behind the ball with things), but I just do my best to remind myself that I at least “woke up” to the realization that being in debt forever doesn’t have to be a lifestyle since I had normalized it before. You’ve come so far, Melanie, especially with your starting point at $80k. So proud of you, my friend, and I hope some side hustles pick up soon for you!
    anna recently posted…No Debt is BoringMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      You’ve come so far, Anna! And you are about to embark on a crazy new awesome life adventure. Glad you are better than me at not conflating your self-worth and net worth. I practically wrote that post to remind myself of that.

  12. E.M. says:

    I don’t bother calculating my net worth either as it would be in the negatives. I don’t even think about it. Sure, sometimes I get a little jealous when I see the net worth of others, but it definitely doesn’t tell you everything about a person. Like you, I have a lot of great relationships and experiences to be thankful for, and in the end, that’s what counts. When I’m looking back on my life, I want to remember those, not the number in my bank account or “what I’m worth.”
    E.M. recently posted…5 Reasons I Chose to Live with My Parents After GraduationMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      I easily get jealous too and always feel behind, but I have to remember I’ve made choices to get here. I chose school, I chose moving, I chose adventure. Those things have made me rich in a different way. Everyone calculates their worth differently, but I think the currency should be fulfillment and happiness.

  13. YES!

    They are so diffeent – our identity is NOT our debt! Our identity is so much richer than that.

    Great post, thankyou!
    Katy @ katytrackslife recently posted…step two: first appointment – recapMy Profile

  14. Our net worth was negative for a looooong time. Fortunately, we didn’t really track our net worth then, nor did we know what that really means. I don’t think it matters that much as long as your numbers are moving in the right direction. Don’t be down on yourself!!! =)
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Credit Card Rewards: What I’m ChurningMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Thanks, Holly! Yes they are moving in the right direction and I’m almost half way done. Half-way seems so far away though. I know I am rich in so much more! 🙂

  15. Kathleen says:

    You’re so right — but if you start tracking your net worth, you’ll see a cute lil graph shooting up so high to the right that it might motivate you even more! Your net worth is not your self worth, and while we’re at it, it’s not a number on the scale, either.
    Kathleen recently posted…An AnnouncementMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Because I’m neurotic, I sort of track it in my mind already. But it gives me more stress than motivation so once things get better, maybe I will. I also agree we can’t let other numbers rule our self-worth, especially weight! I don’t even weigh myself and haven’t for years — I don’t see the point. I do want to stay healthy and fit, but my weight won’t tell me that, either.

  16. This is a very important post for me to hear. I feel like I have gotten caught up in the ‘rate race’ and comparing myself to others my age based on net worth. While it has given me motivation to work on my side hustle and work hard at work, ultimately what I really should be doing is reminding myself that regardless of my net worth, I have self worth. Whether my net worth is high or low, I need to tell myself that it’s not ultimately what matters.

    Thanks for such a great post! It sounds like your job search was similar to what my wife is going through right now. I definitely can see how that can shake someone’s confidence.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…Best Credit Card for Book Lovers – Barnes & Noble MasterCard®My Profile

  17. Melanie, this is so true – all the money is the world doesn’t make you a good person. I’m realising more and more that money does not define who we are as people. In the end, what really makes us happy? Love… Experiences… Memories… Laughter… I haven’t bothered working out my net worth because I know it will be a big fat negative too. But at the end of the day, that’s fine. I’m making positive changes elsewhere in my life. As are you! Thanks for an inspirational post!
    Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt recently posted…The emotional stages of debt: DenialMy Profile

  18. I mostly use my net worth as a way to track my progress. But you’re absolutely right – net worth has nothing to do with what you’re really worth! Being rich in experiences and love is really all that matters.
    Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans recently posted…Choose to be DifferentMy Profile

  19. Jim says:

    Great post deardebt, yea your self-worth should not be influenced by your net worth. Its unfortunate that our society places so much emphasis on monetary successes, when we would be far better off if more glorification were made on those who make a positive difference in people’s lives. The media tries to define success so I say shut the tv off and frame your own opinions!
    Jim recently posted…Burned By The Residential Property InspectorMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      I agree! Thanks for stopping by, Jim. What if our self-worth was more important than our net worth (to the rest of the world, media, etc)? We might live in a radically different world.

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