What’s a new investor to do? Let’s take a look at a few of the options now available if you want a simple, easy to understand way to track your investments.
The Online OptionsMost top-tier financial institutions now offer tracking services online. Just to name one: Bank of America now has a feature that allows clients enter the username and password for their other accounts at institutions throughout the world, including retirement and brokerage accounts, and the Bank of America website will pull all of the data together on one screen so you can see your entire financial picture. You can even create manual entries to track loans from family members or other items that don’t show up on a regular statement.
The same is true at a start-up called Mint.com, which has reportedly won backing from Microsoft. Other brokers, such as Charles Schwab and E-Trade allow clients to review years of past records online in free, downloadable PDF format.
If you have only a handful of accounts and just want to know where you stand each month, these can be great choices that are, in most cases, completely free as part of your regular banking or investing relationship.
Using Microsoft Excel to Track Your InvestmentsA popular option among many investors is to use Microsoft Excel to track their accounts. By creating different tabs in a workbook, you can keep records for each individual account, and then aggregate them together, run different scenarios, and basically manipulate the figures any way you need to get an idea of how your financial life is going.
Using Excel to track your investments does require working knowledge of the program, but it is used in virtually every office in the world, there are millions of pages of books dedicated to teaching beginners how to use the program, and you likely have family members that can spend an afternoon showing you how to setup your file. For most people, it’s the best, and easiest, choice now that Microsoft Money has been removed from the picture.
Using QuickBooks to Track Your InvestmentsMy personal favorite is the use of QuickBooks to track investments. We use it at several of the new companies we established in 2009, and it allows us to record anything that we need to in a matter of a few clicks, including really complicated stuff such as advanced stock option trades. The downside is that it requires a thorough understanding of accounting debits and credits, otherwise it could be overwhelming.
QuickBooks does offer a free online edition for beginners that you can download and begin using right away if your needs are simple. For most people or small businesses, it just may fit the bill – and at a price tag of $0, it certainly helps your budget.