By Joshua Kennon. Investing for Beginners Expert
Thanks to his straight-forward approach and ability to simplify complex topics, Joshua Kennon's series of lessons on financial statement analysis have been used by managers, investors, colleges and universities throughout the world. "If an investment idea takes more than a few sentences, or cannot be explained to a reasonably intelligent fourth grader, you've moved into speculation," Joshua insists. "Whether you're dealing with a public company such as McDonald's, or a private company such as Chanel, these are the types of firms that are easy to understand. You know where the sales originate, what the costs are, and how profits are generated. These are the types of enterprises that aren't going to cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, breaking into a cold sweat because of the sub-prime crisis or esoteric securities trading in illiquid markets. That's a huge advantage to growing your wealth. Focus on what you know, pay a fair price, and invest for the long-term.
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It handled dividend reinvestment programs. calculated each position's tax basis, and pulled real-time updates from Internet stock quotes to give you up-to-date information on the state of your fortune.
Unfortunately, in 2009, Microsoft announced that it was ending the program. In the years that passed, several alternatives have become available, several hosted online under the software as service model. Sorting through these can be a bit of a chore for modern investors so here are a few of the most popular options that you might consider if you want to begin tracking your investments.
Tracking Your Investments with Online with Software and Service
There are several popular online investment tracking solutions that have arisen in the past few years.
- Personal Capital - There is no doubt that Personal Capital is one of the most popular ways to track investments. It currently has more than 500,000 people using it, tracking $100 billion in assets. The free software creates beautiful charts and graphs mapping out your income, spending, and portfolio holdings. It can compare your performance to your preferred stock market index. It can analyze your assets to give you an idea of your true exposure to certain companies across multiple accounts and institutions. It digs into your 401(k) plan to help you understand the mutual fund expense ratio you are paying on your retirement package.
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- Mint.com - Another very popular investment tracking website, Mint.com allows you to enter your account information from other institutions and have it all aggregated on a single screen. You can then set budgets for yourself, see how much you are spending on specific categories, track the fees you are paying to Wall Street. and compare your individual accounts to benchmarks such as the S&P 500 or Dow Jones Industrial Average .
- Morningstar.com - Those who subscribe to Morningstar.com can not only get access to
their ratings on stocks and mutual funds, but setup online portfolios. as well. At this time, it doesn't integrate with other sites so you will need to enter all of your information manually from your brokerage statements but it has a special feature that none of the others offer called X-Ray. This X-Ray tool lets you enter your mutual funds and it then shows you what your actual portfolio holdings are by breaking down the underlying stocks held within each of those funds. For example, if you owned $1,000,000 worth of the Vanguard S&P 500 index fund across your 401(k), Roth IRA, SEP-IRA, and brokerage account. as of this afternoon, you really own $33,400 worth of Apple shares, $24,700 worth of Exxon Mobil shares, $18,800 worth of Microsoft shares, $16,400 worth of Johnson & Johnson shares, $14,600 worth of General Electric shares, $14,300 worth of Chevron shares, $14,200 worth of Wells Fargo shares, et cetera.
Tracking Your Investments with Spreadsheets
For those who want an added measure of control over their investment tracking, custom spreadsheets are among the best options. There are typically two major choices in this category.
- Microsoft Excel - Though its ability to import live stock quotes is woefully inadequate for the average investor, Microsoft Excel can be used to track the cost basis for taxes on individual lots, used to calculate aggregate dividend income or map it out on a dividend schedule. I once built several sample spreadsheets illustrating this concept for a married couple who wrote me on my personal blog.
- Google Spreadsheets - Google's free online spreadsheet program isn't as powerful as Excel, but it does make it easier to have your documents automatically update with information taken from public finance such as Yahoo.
Using Software to Track Your Investments
Many investors still want software installed on their local system. Generally, there are a few options.
- Quicken - If you purchase the investment version of Quicken, the typical retail investor will largely find it meets most of his or her needs.
- QuickBooks - Accountants or sophisticated investors who are comfortable with GAAP will like the flexibility of using a traditional accounting software program to manage their investment holdings. Personally, I use a mixture of spreadsheets and QuickBooks Pro to monitor my estate's assets .
- Fund Manager - A software program called Fund Manager is the closest thing to professional investment tracking for retail investors. It can be very powerful, especially for those who invest in municipal bonds or corporate bonds. tracking things such as interest accrued, the next coupon date, and yield to maturity.
Pick the Investment Tracking Program That Works Best for Your Family
In the end, the best investment tracking program is one that works for you. The best program in the world is worthless if you don't use it or you find it too much of a hassle.