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The Personal Balance Sheet is ignored and the Budget is the darling of Financial Consultants and the media. The key to understanding personal finances is that you have to understand your Budget and Balance Sheet individually and also how they work in combination to give you a complete snapshot of your personal finances. Your balance sheet is extremely important because it shows you where the gold is. It is your personal Fort Knox. It is also extremely important because you need to have a stash of gold in your personal financial picture. The gold in your Balance Sheet is not the Assets.
This could be cash or real estate or stocks and bonds or machinery and equipment or accounts receivable or other moneys due to you. It could also include inventory which is product that you have produced but not yet sold. So to summarize assets are usually either cash something that you have bought something that you have made and that you expect to sell or something that is owed to you. Clearly then if you want to make your balance sheet you must have a list of your assets and how much each is worth. The rub lies in the worth or valuation of the assets. "Hmm you think I bought this asset ten years ago at 10 grand I added 5 grand in improvements to it it would cost me 20 grand to replace it and I could get about 18 grand on the open market for it so what value should I put down for it?" Clever question my dear reader! Well as you may have assumed we accountants have put a great deal of thought into these issues and we continue to think about and tweak the ways we value things to this very day.
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There may be an offsetting liability. For a house it would be the mortgage or any other debt secured against the home. For a car it would be a car loan. The difference between the value of the house or car and what is owed is the equity in that particular investment. This is like a net worth for that particular asset. There are appreciating assets and depreciating assets. A home is generally an appreciating asset over the long term. In recent times we have learned that in the short term a home can lose its value rather quickly. However most housing markets recover in the long term and a home should appreciate over time.