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6 ways you're wealthier than you realize

U.S. News & World Report - Money logo U.S. News & World Report - Money 1/11/2017 Geoff Williams

It isn't difficult to feel as if your finances are falling apart this time of year.

You may have overspent on holiday gifts, and this is a period of reflection and goal-setting for many of you. Yet you may find that your renewed desire to save and make more money in the new year is accompanied by the feeling that you're utterly broke.

The good news? Unless you've hit rock bottom, you're probably wealthier than you realize. Many people have assets they may not equate with wealth. If you aren't sitting on millions of dollars worth of stocks, take stock of what you do have.

Click ahead to read about six ways you're wealthier than you realize.

See: 10 Financial New Year's Resolutions

A current or future Social Security check.

 © Donald Higgs/Getty Images   For now, put aside the predictions that Social Security isn't long for this world. It may not sound like a big deal, especially if you're decades away from getting Social Security, but Social Security is a valuable part of your portfolio. Mark Zoril, an accredited investment fiduciary in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, works with many middle class people, and believes they often don't recognize what a gold mine Social Security is.

"For many people, they would have to come up with several hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase an annuity that would generate the type of income that Social Security will generate," Zoril says.

Pensions and Medicare are also overlooked as assets, he adds. "For people to really understand their true net worth, I think it's appropriate to include a dollar value for any of these," he says. "It's relatively simple to calculate what these assets are and to include them in an individual's net worth."

Employee benefits.

 © Thomas Barwick/Getty Images   Does your employer offer disability or life insurance? Jessica Markham, a divorce attorney in Bethesda, Maryland, says, "I'm in the business of finding assets and income. There are many, many types of assets and benefits and income that people often ignore."

Markham explains that employee benefits aren't often thought of as assets because many workers don't put much money toward them and, thus, rarely have reason to think about them. But if your employer is providing a benefit like disability insurance, Markham advises you to keep in mind that many self-employed people value them and end up having to purchase them on their own. If you don't have to do that, you have an asset many people covet.

"Another asset that people often ignore, is unvested pensions," Markham says. "In particular, young people are not concerned with pensions because retirement is so far away, and perhaps they have not reached the 10 year mandatory minimum for pensions to vest."

She adds that too many employees in their 20s don't value retirement benefits at all.

"They often have employers contributing to retirement funds on their behalf, and they simply change jobs and leave behind valuable 401(k)s. Because that was not their own money that they contributed, they believe it to be totally inaccessible, and so they don't think about it," she says.

See: 10 Money Leaks to Shut Down Now

Health care benefits.

 © Helen Ashford/Getty Images  

This falls under the umbrella of employee benefits, but it's such a big category that it arguably deserves its own section. In any case, people often don't understand the value of health benefits, says Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College in New York.

One of Langbert's specialties is human resources. He used to work in HR and often had to explain the value of health care benefits to employees. People, especially young people, often don't grasp the value of a health plan because, as Langbert says: "Cash is useful today while benefits are useful at the point of a claim."

That, Langbert adds, is why some millennials tend to ignore the value of a 401(k) plan. It'll be a while before the benefits are apparent.

Company perks.

 © Thomas Barwick/Getty Images  

If your company pays for anything like a gym membership or a cell phone reimbursement, or you get free lunches at the company cafeteria, that's an asset, Markham says.

"People want to value these benefits as zero, even though they have a value and have to be taxed by the IRS," she says.

Good credit.

 © KLH49/Getty Images  

If your credit score is a hot mess, you'll want to skip the next several paragraphs and move to the next section. But if you do have good credit, consider it an asset, says Lee Gimpel, co-creator of, a curriculum kit for financial educators who teach classes about credit reports, credit scores and credit cards. Gimpel points out that having good credit can save you a lot of money.

"Imagine getting a car loan at 5 percent versus 15 percent – that's thousands of dollars over the course of the loan," he says.

It may be hard to quantify how much extra money you have or will have due to your good credit, but it is an asset. Gimpel says that it goes beyond loans.

"It can save you money on things like insurance. Bad credit can also keep you from getting the rental you want, it can make it harder and more costly to get utilities or a phone and it can keep you from getting a job, especially where you're handling money or need a security clearance."

See: 12 Simple Ways to Raise Your Credit Score

A job where you have some freedom and flexibility.

 © Hero Images/Getty Images  

This is another often-ignored asset because it seems intangible, says Joshua Wilson, a partner and chief investment officer at WorthPointe Wealth Management, a financial planning firm in Dallas.

And yet, time is money. It may be a cliché, but it's true.

"What's it worth to you to be able to go and come as you please without having to clock in and out – or find someone to cover for you? Would you rather have a job that allowed you to finish up your duties in the evening, so you could take off at 11 a.m. in order to take your sick child to the doctor, or a job that was more rigid?" Wilson asks. "There is real monetary value in autonomy."

Sure, autonomy, Social Security, benefits and good credit may not seem as awesome as having a million dollars in the bank. But they all add to your wealth.

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report


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