Investing Tools I Use
Today I’ll give you a basic overview of the tools I use to manage my investments. As I always say, I am not a financial planner nor an investments expert, nor do I consider myself even close to these things; I’m just a guy who has done a lot of research and done well with investing over the years. It could just be luck. So, as always, please speak to a qualified financial professional if you have any deep questions on this topic. I’m just telling you here what I do, not what you should do.
As always, my primary tool is spreadsheets. Google Sheets is perfectly fine, but I prefer Microsoft Excel. I use an old version (2007) because it’s more than enough to meet my needs. (I was actually using Word and Excel 2003 for many years before upgrading to 2007 just a few years ago because I started having trouble reading other people’s data.)
My Excel spreadsheets are double-encrypted, first with Excel’s password protection, then the fact that my entire hard drive on my laptop is encrypted (as well as my backups) as I explained here.
I have numerous spreadsheets that document every aspect of my financial life, too many to describe here. Today I’ll just give you the ones that overview my investments. If you want more details on what I do, you’ll have to come to one of my future seminars.
My first spreadsheet is my balance sheet, which lists summarized figures of every asset I have. (If I had any debts, which I don’t, they would be on there as well.) This sheet breaks out my savings numbers, my investment portfolio number (which is different than savings), and my various other assets like my real estate and businesses and such. With one exception I’ll explain in a minute, all of these numbers are accurate to the dollar, and are updated three to four times per month.
Numbers assigned to my business valuations are educated guesses that could be way off, so those are on a separate part of the sheet. Because of this, I actually have two net worth numbers, one “guaranteed” net worth figure; this is a literal sum of all my quantifiable assets, and a “guess” net worth that includes the value of my businesses, which again, is only a guess. My long-term financial goals reflect the fact there are two different figures as well.
Another spreadsheet is my speculation portfolio, which is represented just as a single number in my balance sheet spreadsheet. My portfolio sheet shows current balances of all of my speculative investments with information on each such as:
- Current value
- Value when purchased
- Weighted averages of total contributions
- ROI percentages for the current calendar year, past calendar year, and all-time total
All of these numbers are updated three to four times per month.
It then has various totals showing total portfolio value, total ROI on the portfolio (again for the current year and for all time), breakdown percentages of types of investments, breakdown percentages in terms of how much my portfolio represents as compared to my total savings and total net worth, and so on.
These two sheets are fantastic since I can quickly glance at just a few numbers and instantly get a very accurate picture of my overall financial health. I use them often, and they are the backbone of my finances (not my businesses, business is different than finance).
Investopedia.com is essentially Wikipedia for investors, but even better-written and structured. Any time I come across a term I don’t understand, or a complex calculation I need to make, Investopedia always has the answers, written in clear-cut English. Hugely valuable. I have never not found what I needed at Investopedia.
3. My Brokerage Firms
I can’t tell you which firms I use, but you will need to use a brokerage firm to purchase at least some of your investments. Obviously you don’t need a firm to own silver bars or bitcoin, but for things like ETF’s, stocks, and money market accounts, you’ll need to go through a brokerage firm. Any firm that is big and has a long track record is fine, and I have no specific recommendations beyond that. Guys with more extensive investments should probably use two or three firms to spread out risk.
If you’re an American, examples of investment firms would be Charles Schwab, E-Trade, Fidelity, Merrill Edge, Ameritrade, and many others. If you’re outside of the US, just do a Google search.
Once you have your account set up at your firm, you’ll have access to their website where it will list all of your investments in ways very similar to my spreadsheets. Plus, they will always have the current stock prices up-to-date in real time. Many guys just use their brokerage’s website to manage their investments instead of making spreadsheets like I do, but I prefer my spreadsheets since I want things organized and totaled exactly the way I like.
You can search a stock ticker symbol for any stock, ETF, money market account, or whatever on Google, and it will instantly bring up the current real time price plus all the relevant historical charts. I have a group of tabs as favorites in my browser (I use Firefox since it’s most conducive for online privacy) set up where I can pull up the current prices of all the relevant assets I own with one click, and without having to log into a brokerage or use Yahoo Finance (which is what I used to use). Very nice.
That’s about it! You’ll notice I don’t use any financial management software or systems (like Morningstar, etc). Part of my personal Code is to always keep things as simple as possible. A spreadsheet or two and a few websites are all you need.
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