Can you pay off debt and grow your net worth? Usually, when I come across debt repayment advice it follows an all or nothing approach. Yes, it’s important to focus in on your goal to pay off debt, but this still doesn’t mean you can’t save or build your net worth.
In fact, it’s often more realistic for people to do both at the same time. Your net worth is the value of your assets (things you own like investments, property, etc.) minus your liabilities (things you owe money on.)
If you want to grow your net worth while you’re still in debt, here are 6 ways to do it.
1. Pay Off Some Debt
Some people don’t realize this, but paying off debt increases your net worth. If you have a lot of debt and very few assets, you may find that you have a negative net worth. Well, that number increases as your liabilities (like debt) decrease.
Say you have a negative net worth of -$25,000 due to having $25,000 in loans. If you pay off $10,000 of that debt, your net worth would increase by $10,000 to be -$15,000.
Develop a debt repayment strategy to help you figure out which debt to pat off first and how you’ll make consistent payments. I usually like to tackle high-interest debt but I know some people prefer to start with the lower balance so find what works for you.
2. Grow Your Net Worth By Increasing Your Emergency Fund
While you may want to focus on owning property or investments to grow your net worth, the savings you have on hand is also factored into this number. Your emergency fund is a financial asset that can increase your net worth and provide a nice cash cushion to fall back on.
Financial experts typically recommend saving anywhere between 3-6 months of expenses in an emergency fund but you may want to save a little more depending on your risk level. If you have kids, own a home or have a flexible income, consider saving 6+ months of expenses and keep the savings in a high-yield account.
You can use your emergency fund whenever you feel it’s necessary but it’s best to clearly define which circumstances qualify as emergencies.
3. Start Saving Your Spare Change
While your main focus may be paying off debt, you can still save and invest your spare change at the same time. Apps like Acorns and Digit can help you start investing and growing your net worth without even thinking about it.
Acorns connects to your checking account and can round up all your purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the difference. For example, if you spend $4.30 at Starbucks, Acorns will take $0.70 from your bank account and invest the money. Investing spare change may not seem like much, but it adds up over time. Plus, Acorns lets you set up automatic transfers regularly so you can contribute $5 to $10 per week to start.
Digit is another savings app you may want to try. The app doesn’t help you invest but it does study your spending habits and make automatic savings transfers over time.
Again, you may not even notice the small savings transfers and they are ultimately increasing your net worth.
4. Contribute Something To You Tax-Advantaged Retirement Accounts
If you have a 401(k) that you contribute to through your employer, you may already be growing your net worth without even realizing it. With 401(k) contributions, you use pre-tax money so it’s often taken right out of your paycheck before you get paid.
You don’t have to max out your 401(k) especially if you’d rather put more money toward debt. Still, you can aim to contribute a smaller amount each month or just enough to get your employer match. If you have an employer match, this means your employer will also contribute to your retirement account up to a certain amount. Try to contribute enough to receive the employer match but if you can’t right now, realize something is better than nothing.
If you don’t have a 401(k) you can open an IRA on your own. IRA stands for Individual Retirement Account and you can set up automatic transfers to grow your net worth and investments. There are lower annual contribution limits with an IRA.
Right now, you can only contribute up to $6,000 per year or $7,000 if you’re over 50. A traditional IRA has great tax advantages because you can deduct contributions from your income and earnings can grow tax deferred until you withdraw them during retirement.
5. Open an Online Brokerage Account
You don’t need a 401(k) to invest and grow your net worth. A brokerage account allows you to buy and sell securities like stocks, bonds and securities. You may want to talk to your financial advisor about opening a brokerage account or you can open online with major names like Vanguard or TD Ameritrade.
I prefer to invest in index funds because they are diversified and low-cost, which is great for people who want to grow their net worth over time. Again, make sure you talk to your financial advisor or a financial professional to help you make the best decision for you if you go this route.
6. Get a Retirement Side Hustle
One of the best things I did to pay off debt quicker was get a side hustle. With extra money coming in, you’ll have more to put toward your financial goals. If you’re already going steady with debt payoff, consider getting a side hustle for your investments and retirement savings.
That way, you can grow your net worth consistently over time without disrupting your current lifestyle. While side hustles can provide additional income, they can also be fun and fulfilling.
I recently read a book that challenged what I previously thought about side hustles. The book challenged readers to make their side hustle something exciting that doesn’t even relate to their main job. It could be a passion project or a way to serve others with your unique talents.
Whatever it may be, make it good and set income goals too. Even earning an extra $200 per month is $2,400 per year that can go directly toward investing in retirement, real estate, or something else to grow your net worth.
Improving your finances doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can still pay off debt and grow your net worth. You may save at a slower pace, but at least you’ll be setting something aside for your future while getting out of debt simultaneously.
Have you ever tried paying down debt and building your net worth at the same time? What steps are you taking to grow your net worth?