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What is Valuable May not be Worth Anything – Which Do you Want?

I was sitting in a seminar about Estate Planning on Friday when the speaker said something that really stuck with me, but I am not sure what to do with this lingering feeling.  So I did what anyone who owns a blog would do, I decided to write a small post about it, with the hopes that a reader out there can help me out.

The key-note speaker was discussing estate liquidity and asked whether everyone knew the difference between value and worth?


Value vs Wealth

He went on to explain that value is a term that is denoted in feelings, while worth is an actual monetary term.  I think this random clock collectible sums it up best,

What is the difference between the meaning of the word “value,” and the word “worth?” In the universe of collectors and collectibles such a distinction may have merit. The term “value” is an emotionally laden term; it references perceived-value, as evidenced from the perspective of the owner or possessor of something.

You may have invaluable heirloom that is essentially worthless to others (think: that random weird needle point your mom or grandma made) OR you could have an item that is worth a lot but has zero or even negative value to you (think: that weird teapot that your dad left behind before he skipped town).

This lead me to thinking, and I hope you can help me out,

Which would you rather have? Items of Worth or Items of Value? A combo? Neither because you are a minimalist?

Side note: if you were wondering what this had to do with estate taxes – it is because you could have someone worth A LOT but if all they have to pay off their taxes are valuable ‘things’ you may have a problem.



  1. This concept is likely what is preventing many buyers and sellers of homes on coming to an agreement. Sellers think their house is very valuable where it is not worth what it once was. Thanks for sharing your article and I am honored to have joined the Yakezie Challenge!

    • Yes – good point. Something I’ve been confused about as well. Say your $200k home gained 40%, then came down 20% from that high of $280k. You’d still be sitting on $224k, or a profit of $24k (12%). Not too bad right?

      Welcome to the group! Evan’s got some great posts and good discussion, so getting in early should give you lots of exposure. Will check out your site later tonight.

      • $24k might be good it might be bad (depends what and WHEN you bought the house), but lets apply it to this particular post.

        So you are sitting on a house whose WORTH is $224K (some random guy in a cloak, yes it has to be a cloak, has offered that exact amount to you), BUT the value is much higher cause your annoying neighbor sold it for $280K 18 months ago. Now that is an exact worth vs value problem!

        • Hmm… looks like I should powerpoint slides from Lean Life Coach’s lesson.

          The value is only perceived by the owner right? The value to the seller could be equal to its worth no?

          …guess I’m a wealth kind of guy.

  2. I think your last sentence summed it up the best. If you’re “worth” a lot in monetary terms, but that worth is tied up in “valuable” things with sentimental value, then I would think that the person is not actually worth as much.

    Selling away those valuable things to pay off estate taxes would cause some emotional pain to those who find sentimental value in them.

    So from an estate tax perspective, I would ideally like to have items of worth to pay the taxes, and preserve the items of value for the heirs.

      • Well, that’s still not an easy decision for me. On one hand, the human/emotional side of me would rather have physical items of value, since those are what will give me good feelings.

        On the other hand, too much “stuff” will keep me from living a simple life. In that sense, I’d rather have items of worth that don’t have physical form (like a nice bank account!) and live for memorable moments, which don’t have physical form.

        I guess it’s not as easy as being an either/or decision. Or maybe I’m getting too philosophical!

  3. WOW! That is an amazing application of the concept I was toying with in this post. Actually I am going to put it right into the post!

  4. I guess a combination of the two is your safest bet. The invaluable heirlooms likely bring more happy memories with them, but you also need something to pay the bills!

  5. Personally, I think it should be a poncho! 🙂

    Really… I hope you don’t mind, I am stealing this idea for a class I am conducting next week. (but, I will write your blog name on the whiteboard) When applying lean management in a business the fundamental concept is to provide as much value to the customer while minimizing the cost. Too often we think of value as the worth of the product but I usually teach the importance of the experience and support after the sale as being nearly if not more important. This, I think, will help me convey the concepts with more clarity!


    ps… I already have too much that is valuable to me, I’m ready to trade it all for stuff that is really worth something!

      • Update: – I forgot to get a picture of it, but MJTM was emblazoned on the whiteboard!

        Thank you sir!

        • AWWW DAMN IT! I would easily posted that picture in my side bar as an appearance in the real world!

          Sort of like, as seen in MSN, WSJ, and LeanLife’s Classroom

  6. I’d rather have something with worth than something of value. Like you said in the example, the only reason something has value is the emotional attachment. I don’t need some needlepoint to tell me my grandmother loved me, I have the memories.

    • Hmmmm first of all I refuse to believe that you say potatoh…just saying!

      I know there is no right or wrong, but you would rather forgo dollars, actual worth for something that means more to you emotionally….ALWAYS?

  7. I have such an aversion to too much stuff. I think I’d prefer to keep my assets ‘liquid’ instead of turning them into valuable objects–particularly if the objects are not useful.

    Although, recently, I heard that ‘valuable’ works of art can be a really good investment because they don’t become devalued the way the stock market does. . .I guess if you needed to pay off your taxes you may have to sell such valued objects though, and people tend to get attached.

    • Ah a minimalist? I think I could go that route if The Wife was willing to jump on board, but I don’t think that is happening anytime soon

  8. In one sense you can say that they are the same thing; except one pertains to what your personal view, and one pertains to the collective views of the market at large.

    There are always differences between the two, which is why we have markets and entrepreneurs that can sniff out these differences and make money where they exist. Antique stores and the like are a good example of this…


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