5 Personal Finance KPIs You Should Be Tracking

Time To Read 9 MIN READ

Businesses pay close attention to key performance indicators, or KPIs, in taking stock of their finances. Balance sheets compare assets to liabilities. Profit-and-loss statements and statements of cash flow report revenue and expenses.

These kinds of KPIs are just as important when it comes to your personal finances. Knowing how your assets stack up against your debts or what percent of your income you’re able to save each month can help you better understand your financial position.

Even if you don’t have a lot of time to do a deep-dive into your financial picture, here are 5 KPIs you can track regularly to help you reach your goals with confidence, along with recommended benchmarks for each one. 

5 Personal Finance KPIs You Should be Tracking

1. Net worth

At a high level, your net worth is calculated by adding up your assets and subtracting your debts. In other words, if you converted everything you had into cash (without any losses or transaction fees) and paid off everything you owe, how much would you have left? That’s your net worth.

It’s an important calculation because your assets only tell half of your financial story. 

Your bank account, retirement accounts, home value, and so on aren’t a good measure of wealth on their own. Someone who owns a modest house with no mortgage could easily have a stronger financial portfolio than someone who owns a mansion that’s mortgaged to the hilt.

That’s also why there are a few different ways to calculate your net worth, with solid reasoning behind each one.

Your net worth including all assets and liabilities

This first method of calculating your net worth is the most straightforward. It includes everything you own and everything you owe—every asset and liability.

For example, the current market value of your home is an asset, and the balance of your mortgage is a liability. The value of your car is an asset, and any car loan is a liability.

Assets and liabilities don’t always go hand-in-hand. The current value of your retirement account is an asset. Your credit card and student loan balances are debts. Your education is valuable to your long-term earning potential, but it isn’t counted as an asset because you can’t sell it.

You can calculate your net worth on paper, but keep in mind that it’s a moving target. If the market happens to be down, for example, that affects the current value of your retirement account. That’s why keeping track of your net worth over time is an even more robust measure of your financial health.

How to track it in Quicken:

Quicken automatically calculates and tracks your net worth, including every asset and liability you track with the software. See your current net worth at the bottom of your accounts list, or visit your net worth report to see how it’s changing over time.

Benchmarks: 

A good rule of thumb is to try to have a net worth of half your salary by age 30, twice your salary by 40, and 4 times your salary by age 50. If you’re not there yet, don’t worry. A lot of people aren’t. The very fact that you’re looking at it is good. Just find ways to cut back on spending and increase your savings. (Quicken’s budget feature can help.)

Your net worth without illiquid assets 

Many experts recommend leaving your home out of your net worth calculation. Some say this is because your home is “illiquid,” meaning you can’t necessarily sell it quickly. Others argue that if you sold your home you would need somewhere else to live, although you could buy a less expensive home and pocket the difference.

Other illiquid or questionable assets include privately held business investments you couldn’t easily sell, or assets you would need to replace, like your car. (Cars lose value over time, and if you sold your car, you would probably need to buy another one.)

These differences might not matter much in your 20s, but for people approaching 50, not including your home as an asset can change your net worth considerably, making it harder to reach those benchmarks. 

You might also have your own reasons for including, or not including, certain assets or liabilities in your net worth calculation. (For example, if you aren’t including your home in your net worth, you probably shouldn't include your mortgage either.)

How to track it in Quicken:

If you want to change the way Quicken calculates your net worth, you can do that easily in your net worth report. Open the report, choose Edit, and then choose Selected accounts. Add or remove accounts and then save that report to see it again whenever you want to.

Benchmarks:

As you change your net worth calculation, the suggested benchmarks make less and less sense. Rather than getting hung up on a specific target, consider using Quicken’s Lifetime Planner to run what-if scenarios and calculate your potential cash flow under various circumstances.

2. Debt-to-income ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio measures how much debt you’re carrying in monthly payments relative to your monthly income. 

For example, someone who makes $5,000 per month and pays $500 every month in various debt payments has a debt-to-income ratio of 10%. The $500 in debt payments represents 10% of their income.

To calculate your own debt-to-income ratio, add up all the payments you make each month on every debt you owe, including car loans, student loans, credit cards, and so on, and divide that number by your monthly income.

How to track it in Quicken:

In Quicken, you can find all your debts listed under loans and credit cards in your account bar in the left-hand side of your dashboard. Click on each one to see your monthly payments. Be sure to connect all your accounts in Quicken to see your complete financial picture.

Benchmarks:

As a general rule, you want to keep your combined debt payments under 36% of your income—the lower, the better. Your debt-to-income ratio needs to be under 43% to qualify for a mortgage, but the lower the number is, the more likely you’ll qualify at a better interest rate.

3. Credit score

Another key performance indicator that can affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage or other loan is your credit score. Ranging from 300 to 850, your credit score is affected by many factors, including your payment history and how much debt you’re carrying.

Generally speaking, your credit score is a relative measure of how risky lenders think it would be to loan you money. The higher your score, the less of a risk you look like, which means that you’re more likely to be approved for loans and that you’ll generally pay lower interest rates.

Paying your bills on time makes you less of a credit risk, for example, as does keeping your overall debt level relatively low. 

How to track it in Quicken:

Track your score in Quicken for Windows by clicking the Credit Score button at the bottom of your accounts bar. Or check your score directly in TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian.

TIP: If you sometimes forget to pay your bills on time, check in with Quicken’s Bills & Income center every day to view your upcoming bills.

Benchmarks:

Keep your score above 690 for a rating of “good” and above 720 for “excellent.” Higher scores are always better, but it can take some time to build up your score by paying down debt and building your payment history. 

4. Savings-to-income ratio

Your savings-to-income ratio measures the percentage of your income that you’re saving every month. 

Far too many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, spending almost every dime they make. The more of your income you can save every month, the better position you’ll be in to handle life’s unexpected expenses.

How to track it in Quicken:

In Quicken, you can set up a line for savings in your monthly budget or use Quicken for Windows to set up and track a specific savings goal.

Benchmarks:

Try to build toward saving 20% of your income. That might sound like a lot, and it can require some serious budgeting to get there. Still, if you spend 80% of your income and save 20%, you’ll be saving a full month’s worth of expenses every 4 months.

At that rate, you’ll have a solid emergency fund built up within a year.

5. Spending trends

Spending trends are just what they sound like: trends in your spending. 

Businesses don’t just look at a snapshot in time to get their financial position today. They look at several trends over time to get a better feel for their true financial situation.

In the same way that tracking your net worth over time gives you a better picture of your finances than measuring it once, tracking your spending over time can also tell you things that this month’s spending can’t.

For example, if you spent less this month than last month, that’s progress. Even if you still have room to improve, you’re heading in the right direction.

On the other hand, if you spent more this month than last month, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on that trend. Even if your expenses still look manageable, you might be heading in the wrong direction. 

Similarly, looking at this month compared to the same time period last year can tell you even more. For example, the holidays tend to be high spending periods every year. It’s easy to ignore an expensive November or December and write them off as holiday splurging, but if you splurged more this year than last year, that’s a trend you’ll want to keep an eye on.

How to track it in Quicken:

You can figure out all your spending on paper and keep track of it every month, but Quicken makes it a lot easier. Just connect your accounts, and Quicken downloads your transactions automatically, categorizing them and recording them for you. 

Run spending reports any time you want to review your trends, whether month-over-month or year-over-year.

Benchmarks:

Try to keep your spending “needs” (car insurance, electricity, groceries, etc.) to about 50% of your income. Limit your “wants” (like Netflix and takeout) to about 30%. That leaves 20% to pay down your debt and grow your savings.

If your spending is higher than these benchmarks, watch your month-over-month and year-over-year spending to make sure it’s moving in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

One of the most difficult aspects of taking control of your finances can be getting information that feels like bad news. If you’re not hitting the benchmarks you want to yet, remember that paying attention to your finances is the best way to change that.

Create a plan to improve things, even if only a little, and make a habit of checking your KPIs on a schedule that makes sense. 

For example, you might check on your spending every morning or once a week, your credit score and savings ratio at the end of each month, and your debt ratio and net worth at the end of each quarter. 

If checking on things more often makes you feel more in control of your finances, that’s great too. The important thing is to build strong financial habits that make sense for you and stick with them, making progress one step at a time.