Friday, April 4, 2014

Tracking Investment Portfolios in Real Time - Story from a Long Time Quicken User

I have all my investments recorded in Quicken.  It gives me easy access to my portfolio, unrealized gains, investment returns, and other information - but only when I am at my laptop or desktop PC.  I want this same information to be available wherever I am.  If all your investments are in one account, or with one brokerage firm, that firm's website probably gives you everything you need.  However, if you have multiple accounts, like I do, that approach doesn't work.

You might ask, "why have mutliple accounts?".  Part of the answer is "legacy" - each one came from a different employer or a broker/salesman that I liked.  The other part is my belief that you never put all your eggs in one basket.

I searched the web for solutions, and found many, but they seemed to all have one attribute that I was unwilling to live with - they wanted all my account passwords so that they could aggregate my data.  With all the reports of data losses by major retailers, and all the reports of identify theft, I didn't want to leave myself open to the possibility that one of these aggregators wasn't totally honest or just not competent enough to safeguard this information.

There are a few solutions that don't require you to give up your passwords - such as Yahoo Finance.  These types of solutions come with different attributes that I didn't like: manually updating the portfolio to reflect buys, sells, and dividend reinvestments was a real pain.  And, none of them had sufficiently flexible reporting.

Quicken has a mobile solution, but I didn't think it was robust enough for my needs, primarily because it does not support investment accounts.  Most people have a majority of their assets in investment accounts, so it is incredible to me that Quicken Mobile ignores these accounts altogether.

So, I built my own solution with Google Docs using their online spreadsheet.  This approach had several advantages:
  • Google Docs runs virtually everywhere: desktops, laptops, Macs, PC's, IOS, Android, etc.
  • Google Sheets has some pretty sophisticated financial functions and very complete analysis capabilties
  • Sheets is similar enough to Excel that it was easy to learn
  • Sheets will update itself every 5 minutes or so to make the spreadsheets show near real time pricing in all the reports and charts
  • Sheets has an import function that could be adapted to read some of the not so pretty Quicken export formats so that I wouldn't have to re-key the data
If you're interested in getting a copy of what I created (either the version that accepts Quicken input or the one that allows you to type your own data), please send me an email at and I'll send you a link.  What I ask in return is that you give me honest feedback about what you think of it and ideas for how to improve it.

Thank you!

Recommended prerequisites for use of this package:
  1. Understanding of Excel principles.  Experience with Google Docs is helpful.
  2. Basic understanding of security types, pricing, terminology.
  3. Intermediate to advanced Quicken skills if using the Quicken import version of the tracking tool.
  4. Advanced Excel skills if you are planning to add reports or charts yourself.