Before creating a plan, setting new goals or adjusting your career, business or life strategy, it’s important to assess what you have already achieved. Just as we review our current financial position before making new money decisions, we should regularly assess, manage and grow all our personal life assets.
Personal Life Assets and Holistic Wealth
When we think about our financial portfolio we expect that the stocks, funds or other assets will generate income and investment returns. But there is so much more we all possess that creates and holds value, and these life assets contribute even more to the true sum total of our what some people call holistic wealth.
In her 2019 book Holistic Wealth: 32 Life Lessons to Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity, and Happiness, author Keisha Blair put a term to an idea that many have considered but not acted on. The concept here is to expand the scope of wealth to include financial security and independence but also physical health, emotional wellness, and principles like doing meaningful work and having more agency over your life, among other things.
“The traditional concept of wealth solely measured by net income and material possessions needs to be revised…” –Keisha Blair
I would propose to take this further. Don’t just change your concept of wealth and adjust your lifestyle going forward. Consider all of your skills, achievements and life experiences as stores of value; assets, just like retirement savings, real estate or rare collectables. And manage your personal life assets just as carefully as you would traditional financial assets.
Life Balance Sheet: True Net Worth is More Than Your Finances
When most folks hear “assets” they think about things like the funds held in checking or savings accounts, the value of stocks or related instruments in brokerage or retirement accounts, and real estate or other “tangible assets” like a car or a boat or jewelry. Art and antiquities or collectables such as rare stamps or, more recently, NFTs would also fall into this category (although NFTs may not really qualify as “tangible”).
But your personal net worth — the true value you bring to the world and can leverage in life — is made up of far more than the financial assets you collect along the way. In many cases, your other life assets are much more valuable and can generate far greater returns. Yet it’s still helpful to manage these like traditional financial assets.
One key aspect of financial assets applicable here is whether it is liquid (referring to how easily the asset can be converted to and from cash). Another is to consider whether the asset produces an income, as with stocks that pay dividends or real estate with rental income. Keep these ideas in mind while considering your personal life assets: whether their value can be easily converted, or be used to actually generate income.
Origin Stories and Your Starting Capital
Our childhood and family experiences, and key external events when we were young can have a foundational influence on us. Especially for experienced professionals well along in life, it might seem odd to begin with early life experiences, but these very much contribute to the sum total of who we are.
What aspects of your upbringing and early life had either a positive or negative impact on you? What was your school experience like when you were young? Keeping these factors in mind will at least help you understand yourself better. These stories can also be powerful reference points you weave into your work and life interactions.
Skills, Education and Continuous Learning
And in this order. We intentionally call out skills first. This is the practical, applicable knowledge we all have. Know your skills and areas of expertise, and understand the relative worth and potential value to others. These may be things related to your current career (which you may want to move away from). But you must include them in your self-assessment.
Your education is more about schools, diplomas and programs. The efforts and areas of study that you have pursued, and achievements around the same are the focus here. Both professional and non-work related learning is important, and should be considered.
Whether it be broad areas of study and formal education, or the practical skills that often come from real life hands-on experience, it is also critical that we seek to continually learn and grow. So, our in-progress and planned learning activities (and not just the skills and knowledge they produce) contribute to our aggregate value.
Work, Career and Business Experience
Your work experience is a more obvious defining factor of life. Often, these assessments are done when seeking a new job or heading into an interview. Many people, therefore, directly associate their past job experience with the value they bring to a new job.
Of course, your primary career and directly related accomplishments are key assets in this category, but are often the only thing people focus on. Those many jobs you had earlier in life that might not have been related to your career pursuit or interest are also part of the mix.
Any business startups or other entrepreneurial activities can also add a lot to the mix. Experience starting and operating a business, whether successful or not, demonstrates all sorts of valuable skills.
Personal Experience, Activities and Milestones
As with our early life experience, our current family and personal life usually are core part of who we are and why we do what we do. We may not share all these details with others but it is critical that we understand and accept our own circumstances and that of our family.
To acknowledge this means, at a base level, to recognize basic health, security and mental wellness needs. Such circumstances can happen in life unexpectedly, such as an illness. Others may be planned, such as having a child. These can be small or major life changes, but they can all contribute to your ability as a life (or business) manager.
Personal interests and hobbies are also in this category. Such activities might seem secondary but everything we do and learn is an asset we can potentially leverage elsewhere. All of our life assets taken together make up our full life portfolio.
Community and Life Goals
The last area to consider as you inventory your life assets is community and legacy. Not everyone will have significant experience in this area but most people eventually consider it.
Community will broadly include any volunteer activities, charitable efforts, work with local educational or social service groups and the like. Obviously, doing extensive overseas volunteer work would be both life-changing and inspirational to others.
Legacy is, again, more personal in nature but most definitely can shape our outlook and how we do things (which adds to our value). This is about what we leave behind. Of course, proper estate planning should address the essentials. But when you think about all that you do and seek to achieve, how will these things impact the world, now and in the future?
Reflecting on such questions helps us focus on doing the right things and giving our best effort when we do. It also reminds us to value the people and pathways that made them possible, which is something we all should do more often.
Assessing and managing all of our personal life assets in this way helps us make the most of them, which then makes them grow and increase in value. And that is something you want all assets to do.