Zero Net Worth

By badlemming
October 6, 2000

The setting: Pink Floyd, seafood lasagna, black light, and glow-in-the dark drip candles. Paper play money and gold chocolate coins on the table. Quotes about money all over the walls. A Monopoly set in the next room. Oh -- and that Pink Floyd song you hear playing is "Money," kicking off the dinner party. Money... it's a hit...

That was the look and feel of one small Fool's zero net worth party last month (sorry I forgot to invite you). We all had a blast, by the way, burning most of the paper money in the candle flame and pretending to be in Bonfire of the Vanities.

Zero net worth... it may not seem worthy of a celebration to most of you Fools. After all, many of you are retired and/or worth, well, something positive, whereas I (on the night of my party) was in debt to the tune of my life savings. In the fiscal eyes of society, I was, well, worthless at age 23.

Can zero be worthy of a party? Would anything change if you knew the same Fool was worth about $-20,000 at 22? Direction, I hope, becomes the metric to watch, but you have to pick celebration points somewhere.

As with a company, an individual should have good reasons for being in debt, and we should be very, very selective about those reasons. Mine was an Ivy League-equivalent education at a school I'd been dreaming about since I was seven -- the one thing for which I would have sold my soul and my financial standing (luckily, I got away with one out of two). It hurt to see my balance sheet, but I'm now settled comfortably into a budget that saves 40% of my take-home pay. Even with the stellar 0% return I've gotten out of the market so far, the times are finally a-changin'.

True, I still think zero's not much to brag about. But for all those Fools out there who for their own good reasons are not worth as much as they'd like, I'd like to spread the idea of celebrating victories -- yours, not anyone else's. Celebrating is good for the soul, and it helps spread the Foolish word of hope to those friends who (count on it) will show up for the seafood lasagna.

Fool on and prosper,