Just the other day, someone read my post about how we track our net worth and asked me a really simple question – how do I track our investments?
The short answer is… well, I don't. I check my investments once a month, when I update the spreadsheet, and then I don't really look at it. I think of our investment money in time capsules so even if something were to happen, I don't want to be tempted to respond.
I still read financial news from time to time, I like to be aware of what's happening so if there is a big change, I'm not caught off guard. But that's mostly for psychological reasons. I aim never to touch the investments outside of rebalancing and other bookkeeping.
That said, how I track our investments has changed over the years. If you asked this question five years ago, there was a clear separation between the best of the best and the rest. Almost every tool used Yodlee to scrape your account information, so their features were all very similar. The difference was in the interface and how good that startup's designers were.
Nowadays, the separation is much bigger. Companies are using these free tools as a lure for something bigger (usually wealth management) and that has benefited us all.
Until recently, I was using Google Finance for a quick snapshot of my investments. Google killed the portfolio feature, which is always a risk with a free tool, so now I rely on Personal Capital for that snapshot and big picture planning.
So what's the best tool for tracking investments? I'll tell you what I liked about each of them.
If you want a quick snapshot of your overall finances, this tool gives it to you pretty quickly once you connect all of your data sources. While I would say you shouldn't be checking your finances every minute of every day (because it's a waste of time), Personal Capital just makes it so that the waste of time takes a lot less actual time.
Personal Capital is safe, it has an Investment Checkup tool to give you an idea if your investments are on track, and it has a pretty good retirement calculator too based on your data. If you need budgeting, it can track expenses as well but it's not as good at that as dedicated budgeting tools.
SigFig was the first investment tracker I ever used. I signed up age ago because it was the only one that connected with E*Trade, TradeKing and Vanguard; the three brokers I used at the time. The interface is very simple, connecting accounts is seamless, and they've really expanded the tools they offer since I first used it.
Until I moved to Personal Capital, I was using SigFig because it has beautiful charts:
I stopped using SigFig over five years ago and since then they've added some new features I haven't explored extensively. They've also added financial advisors who can help you manage existing investments, monitor your portfolio, and help you come up with a plan. They're not pushy though, I've never been called about a consultation.
Google Sheets with Functions
If you like complete customization and your data secure on Google servers, you can create your own Google Sheet and pull data using a function provided by Google. The drawback is that you need to customize it and it'll be a very manual process, but you control it and it will always be free. You do run the risk of the GoogleFinance function changing underneath you but so far that hasn't happened in many years.
The core function to pull stock prices is simple:
Where TICKER is the ticker symbol of the stock you're tracking. This data can be delayed up to 20 minutes.
If you want to check Amazon, you put this into a cell and it'll populate:
The syntax of the function is available here. There is a huge menu of things you can do with the function, including show historical data, tables, etc. It's very solid and hasn't changed much, despite Google Finance being more tightly integrated into Google Search.
This was the first portfolio tracker I ever used.
I like Google Finance because the homepage gives you a handful of big stories (of which the headline alone gives you enough information) and then the portfolio tracking will pull in the major stories of your holdings.
I added my holdings as I acquired them, I removed them when I sold them, and I didn't use any of the cash tracking for those purchases and sales. What's nice about this set up is that it's easy so simple.
But they recently got rid of the Portfolio tracking features. You can still track companies, it just looks weird, you just won't be able to keep track of your basis.
I never used it to track my portfolio entirely, such as tracking cash inflows and outflows. I only used it to see how particular holdings were performing on a daily and overall level. Many of my individual holdings are now nearing their 10-year mark (acquired during the Great Recession) so it's all green across the board (and thus not particularly useful).
Morningstar Portfolio Manager
I don't have first hand experience with this but Morningstar Portfolio Manager is a tool that has been around for ages. It gives you the ability to track all of your investments in one place, keep track of price changes, pull in star ratings and other Morningstar data, while giving you insights and research from Morningstar. The portfolio manager does not link up your accounts so you have to enter your data manually (which may be a plus if you're concerned about the security risk).
It's available to the free membership. If you are a premium member, you get access to more of the tools – but tracking is free. I realize that's all pretty vague but I wanted to include it in the list because they still offer it and there's something to be said for longevity.
How do you track your investments?