When I post my financial reports each month, they reflect only a small piece of who I am as a person. My bank account balances are only a small part of my life although they are center stage on Consumerism Commentary. I try to avoid labels for this reason; when I reach a net worth of a million dollars, I will be hesitant to call myself a “millionaire,” a label that would describe only a small part of me.
Even when looking at my finances in whole, net worth is a small piece. You cannot forget about your net income, a number which will tell you more about your financial well being than your net worth. That is, if your net income is positive every month and your net worth is negative, you’re in better financial shape than if your net worth is positive and your net income is negative.
You can take your net worth, income, and cash flow and still have an incomplete picture of your financial wellbeing. That’s because these figures all neglect to include human capital, your ability to earn income in the future, and focus solely on financial capital, your assets.
The New York Times recently shared an article about using human capital to hedge your financial capital. If you have strong human capital, you can afford to take fewer risks with your financial capital, but if your human capital is weaker, you may need to take more financial risks to get to the same place.
The strength of human capital can be judged by the stability of your job and your ability to find work regardless of the economy. Can your skills be marketed across a variety of industries? If you are a mortgage broker, your immediate job security is tied to the real estate industry. That could be a dangerous sign for your human capital. But if you are a financial analyst, you might be able to find a job in any economy in any industry (not just finance).
If you are close to retirement, your human capital will be low. You may not be willing to spend several years training for a new job or career. Young people have a human capital advantage; time is on their side.
This measurement of human capital may be even more important and tell a more complete story about your ability to thrive financially than your financial capital. How would you characterize your human capital?
Published or updated March 9, 2010.