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