OK, I’ll give this a shot . . .
I use an Excel spreadsheet I hand built. I’m not an Excel guru so it’s pretty simple. Saul keeps track of his investments manually. Seems labor intensive to me, but he’s been at for a long time, so at this point changing his record keeping would probably be more labor intensive than to just keep doing what he’s used to.
I’m pretty new to this, but I’ve got a background for it. I was an enterprise architect at a Fortune 50 company. My specialty was information management.
First thing I’ll warn you is that you will be tempted to record and track far more information than you will ever find useful. Saul tracks his portfolio every week. I have no idea why he would ever want to look back and see how he was doing the 29th week of 2006, but should the desire ever arise, he can dig through his records and find it. I keep a snapshot of my portfolio(s) every month. Even that might be more than is useful. Certainly, after a few years it will constitute useless storage. Many people on this board (and folks in general) have commented on the enormous explosion of data growth. It’s true. But pause and ask yourself how much of it has any utility. Data/information (i won’t go into what distinguishes the two, but I did write the definition for the company where I worked) is like any other asset. All but a very few of them (those to which we attribute “antique” status) gets stale in time and eventually reaches a point where the cost of storage, maintenance, search, retrieval etc far outweighs its value. In other words, it becomes a liability rather than an asset, but there never was much discipline about purge of out dated paper documents, and now that it’s invisible (digital) there is virtually no motivation to manage it. Hence it grows without limit or bounds. We’ve even invented new technologies (i.e. Hadoop, mondodb, and others) to maintain mostly “unstructured” (a term I hate) files.
So first, think about it. What’s useful for you today, next week, next month, next year . . .
My spreadsheet is pretty simple. At the top I carry some summary info. Cumulative value, 1st of the year value, cash position and performance of all my portfolios and separate value, 1st of the year value, cash position and performance for each individual portfolio. I calculate performance as Saul has documented in the knowledgebase. So each year I reset everything. Careful about cash infusions and withdrawals during the year, Saul explains how to handle these actions as they should not influence performance. All the summary information (except 1st of the year position) is calculated from detailed information recorded in the spreadsheet.
The body of the spreadsheet allows for entry of 20 different stocks, could be a lot more, but I don’t anticipate holding more than 20 different stocks at a time so it’s enough.
The first six columns are titled: Ticker, Total Qty, Current Qt, Qt date, Type (stock or put/call option), Strike (for options). All are manual input other than Total Qty.
The next five columns are calculated summary for all portfolios combined. They are titled: Current value, Total Acq Cost, Gn/Ls $, Gn/Ls %, % of Holdings.
This is followed by seven columns grouped for each portfolio (I have 3 portfolios, a taxable trust account, a traditional IRA, and a Roth IRA, so same columns are shown for each portfolio). They are titled: Qty, Current Value, Total Acq Cost, Committed (only used for cash covered put options), Gn/Ls $, Gn/Ls %, % of Portfolio. The only fields I maintain manually are Quantity and Total Acq Cost, all other entries are calculated.
I update the manual information as necessary (anytime I have a transaction), or just when I want up to date information. I don’t save the updates except last day of the month after the market closes when I take a snapshot and save it to a separate sheet for the month.
A word about my first line, which is labeled *cash (the * forces is to the top when sorting). I enter the cash position of each portfolio and copy the value to the current value and acquisition cost cells.
At this time I do not track company information (i.e. Quarterly revenue, earnings, sequential and yoy growth, etc.). I do not track my individual transaction. I do not keep notes. All this and maybe more would be worthwhile tracking, at least for 8 quarters, but I don’t do it yet. In time, I’ll probably add some pages to my book for this information, but I’ve just not done it yet. I have all the information, or access to it. My broker keeps all my transaction data, you can go look up quarterly reporting, etc. Which is what I do when I find it necessary. But at this point, it’s a matter of extra data entry effort for what I believe to be little long-term value.
Once again, I encourage you to keep it simple and minimal. Don’t be fooled into thinking the more information I track, the better investor I will be. It’s just not true. My experience is the more information you track and try and consider, the more befuddled you will become. You can drown yourself quickly with financial information. Most of it will not improve your investing decisions.