The economy is chugging right along, interest is cheap, jobs are there for the taking, and Americans ... have apparently learned nothing from 2008, because with a new year looming, a pair of surveys shows that only about one in three of us are setting financial objectives. And while losing 10 pounds might seem a lot sexier than, say, sitting down and figuring out your net worth, Michelle Singletary recommends you do the latter anyway. Writing at the Washington Post, she says "there are a lot of pretenders, people who appear rich but are really paupers because they have a negative net worth."
It's more than just your income: It's the "difference between your total assets and liabilities or, simply put, what you owe minus what you own." The recession zapped a lot of wealth for lower- and middle-income families, so it's particularly important for these groups to figure out what their baseline is so "you have a starting point to see how you're doing." The differences between the haves and the have-nots are drastic, she says: Last year, upper-income families claimed $639,400 in net worth, middle-income families had $96,500, and low-income families had just $9,300. So once you have your number, the real work begins: "If you don't like your net-worth figure, make some changes. And those changes can start with making some financial resolutions for the new year." Click for her full column. (Read more money stories.)