How do I track my investments?

There are all sorts of investment tracking systems, software and websites out there, and I’ve tried several. I really put a lot of effort about ten years ago into using Quicken’s software, which allowed it to download from your various investment and bank accounts and automatically update. The problem I had was when it mis-allocated some spend I did (calculating a grocery bill as something else, etc.) it was difficult (for me) to alter it. Within 6-9 months of getting it started, my bank accounts were not matching up with the downloads, and there were all sorts of issues.

As an engineer, I finally threw up my hands, opened up MS Excel, and created spreadsheets to do my bank and investment tracking myself. Since I’m a bit of a money nerd (like so many of us in the FIRE community) I started tracking my banking (both family and personal) in a spreadsheet to see how I did. That led me to get a better handle on my spending, and a better estimate for future spending & goals.

I also started tracking my investments with my own MS Excel spreadsheet. Again, I felt I had more control of the results, rather than a specific, cookie-cutter approach from someone’s software package. I could create my own reports, modify how I calculated results, etc.

So how do I use my spreadsheet? I’m going to assume everyone here has a basic knowledge of spreadsheets and can calculate (either by computer or by hand) the results.

I set my spreadsheet up with each investment on the X axis (i.e. down the left side of the paper) and my info for each investment on the Y axis at the top of the page. For each investment, I had the following categories:

  1. Name (ex. Vanguard 500 Index Fund)
  2. Note, i.e. information on where this investment was (ex. Wife’s Roth IRA, Mr. 39 Months 401K, etc.)
  3. Symbol for investment (ex. VFIAX for Vanguard 500 Index)
  4. Current price, updated at the beginning of each month
  5. Current Shares, updated at the beginning of each month (in case I invested, or dividends were paid)
  6. Current value (a calculation, price * shares)
  7. Value at the beginning of the previous month
  8. Additions/subtractions from investment during previous month (ex. Putting monthly investment into Roth IRA)
  9. Cost basis for investment (calculation of previous two, value at beginning of month + additions/subtractions)
  10. Gain/loss for previous month (calculation, comparing #9 to #6)
  11. Percentage gain/loss

Every month:

  • I take the “current value” from the previous report, and copy/paste the numbers to #7 (note: you need to copy the actual numbers over. If you copy the calculation, it will go haywire on you)
  • I put in how much I’ve added/subtracted from that investment in #8
  • Updated the shares & price

This gives me, for each investment, how much I made, and the percentage gain/loss (#10 and #11 above). I can also look at the values in #6 to determine my asset allocation, and if something needs to be changed.

It typically takes me less than 30 minutes to do this, and I’ve got about 45 different investments (counting 2 sets of IRAs, 2 sets of Roth IRAs, my 401K, Deferred, dividend account and “fun money” account). I find that I enjoy doing this, and it keeps me in better contact with my investments than just going to a website and looking at a report.

Guess I’m just a number’s junkie.

 

So how do you track your investments?

 

Mr. 39 Months

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