Investors Column – Tracking Your Stocks

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Money Matters

November 22, 2021 by NEWSTORY - Views: 67

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Investors Column – Tracking Your Stocks

How are your stocks and mutual funds performing?  Which are the better performers?  How does each compare to the others?  

S203-1.jpgYou want more of the better-performing stocks, and less of the poor-performing stocks.  But which is which?  Each stock (and fund) goes up and down.  They are rarely all in sync, with some are going up while others are going down.  Their overall trends are not something you can keep in your head.  How can you judge?  

Tracking Stocks and Funds

To start, you want to track two areas on a spreadsheet:  (1) the daily total value of each account (401k, IRA, or after-tax), and (2) the daily values of each stock or mutual fund you own or are keeping in mind for a possible purchase.

At a minimum, for each stock and mutual fund, you would like to know:  (1) the current day’s closing value, (2) the change from yesterday’s closing value, (3) the change from one month ago, and (4) the change from three months ago.  

Properly laid out, having these values would keep you informed about your investments’ performance as well as the performance stocks you might add to your portfolio.  Comparing their changes over time helps you to improve your investment performance.

Using a spreadsheet (e.g., Microsoft Excel) to track your investments is the answer.

Start off with a spreadsheet file containing two worksheets:  one to track your accounts, and one to track the stocks and funds you either own or that you want to follow.

Tracking Accounts

The first column on your Account Tracking worksheet is for the date of each line entered.  Use the top two or three lines for column headings.  

To the right of the date, use two columns for each fund, plus two columns for a grand total.

For each fund, in the first column enter the value of that fund at the end of each day.  Set up the second column for each account to be its percentage of the grand total.

The date and each fund’s daily value are the only columns with manual entries.  Set up all the other columns to automatically compute their values, based on the date and values you entered.  

For the grand total columns, set up the first column to be the sum of the values of all of your accounts – the total value of your investments on that day.  Set up the second column to be the percentage change from the day before.

Tracking Stocks and Funds

As with the first worksheet, the first column on your Stock Tracking worksheet is the date.  Each column to its right contains a stock or fund you want to track.

Updating Your Stock Info

Add a line to both worksheets every day that the market is open, sometime after 6:00 p.m.  By that time the day’s closing values for mutual funds have been released.  If you forget, you have until trading begins the next morning at 9:30 a.m. to make your entries.

With this method, missing a day is no big deal.  But each day you miss hurts your ability to track and compare your stocks and funds, hurting your ability to make good decisions about your investments.

Investing is like a second job:  you may be the boss, but you have to maintain discipline, and make sure the work gets done.  As your investments grow, the amount of money you can gain or lose increases.  The market itself is fickle enough, without making mistakes due to failing to do the work to track your investments.

A Short-cut

If you would like to start from a sample spreadsheet, visit  and download a (free) prototype spreadsheet file, which you can then modify and enhance to reflect your own stock and fund choices, and to suit your own investing needs.  That file has all the components mentioned above, plus explanatory text highlighted in yellow. 

Whatever tracking format you use, it must satisfy you, not anyone else.  When it is your money that is at stake, somebody else’s tracking opinions and preferences are not important.  If you see particular facets you like, add them to your tracking spreadsheet, but disregard anything that does not fit your way of tracking your investments.  Added complexity is frustrating and wastes your time.  Keep things as simple as possible.

As noted above, the spreadsheet’s first page tracks your investment accounts’ totals over time.  The second page tracks particular stocks and funds you own or are thinking of buying.  That is especially worthwhile if you have the normal doubts about a certain stock.  You can track its progress over days, weeks, and months.  Of course, you would also want to obtain any news about that stock which explains its movement, particularly for unusually large changes.  

Note that the downloaded prototype spreadsheet has three pages.  On the third page, list your stocks and mutual funds and the number of shares of each that you have in each of your accounts.  The third page is set up to copy data you entered on the first and second pages.  Once you have everything set up, the third page updates automatically

This spreadsheet provides a solid framework to begin tracking your stocks.  The more you understand what is happening to your stocks and funds, the more successful your investing will be.■


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