My Spreadsheet Is Family And I Love Her
In my recent Accidental Fire Journey post, I mentioned how I started my investing career after stumbling across an issue of Money magazine, in 1995. I subscribed and devoured every issue. Remember that the world-wide web was a teeny-weeny child only around 5 years old at that point, and online resources were limited. It was still largely a paper world. Also remember this was the start of web-insanity on Wall Street. If a company was online and had “.com” in it’s name, it could launch an IPO and rake the cash in. I had a sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind that it can’t be this easy. Things can’t keep going up 28% every year… these dot-com companies can’t keep doubling every 4 months….. there’s no free lunch…
As I was learning about money and investing with my new magazine subscription, some of the now famous “irrational exuberance” rubbed off on me, but most didn’t. So even though I dabbled with a few individual stock picks, I mostly stayed away from it. At the back of every issue of Money in those days was a list of all major mutual funds and their returns. I studied those closely (…I know…loser) and it was clear most funds generally moved with the market, and the ones that didn’t tended to be very narrowly focused. The part of my brain that thinks I’m smarter than everyone else wanted to dig in and pick more stocks. “I can do this, I’ll simply work harder than everyone else. I’ll read, learn, and pick winners”.
But thankfully, the other part of my brain that thinks the first part is a conceited asshole won the day. I realized that the extra work and time wasn’t worth it, plus it was cutting into my beer-drinking time….. and I drew the line there.
It Has Rows and Columns And It’s Alive!
Thus was born my spreadsheet. My blessed excel spreadsheet. She was born in May of 1997. I didn’t base her DNA off any existing example. I simply listed my assets, my debts, and some easy formulas to add it all up and show my net worth. I religiously updated the numbers on the 1st of every month. And I’ve been doing it for over 20 years now. Same spreadsheet, same file. Simple, easy-peasy. The data will reveal the truth and set you free if you just enter the data.
If I’ve learned one thing, it’s don’t underestimate the power of tangible progress. The numbers on the spreadsheet didn’t lie. The graphs were real. Month after month, year after year, the main message was “onward and upward”. Once I learned to ignore the downs as temporary setbacks and focus on the ups, it was all gravy. Sure some downs were scarier, like the tech-bubble crash and the crash in 2008. But I held course. Pump more money in, let compounding interest and capitalism do their thing. Wash, rinse, repeat. Boo. Friggin. Yah.
As the net worth kept getting larger, my resolve only deepened. I rarely if ever thought about what I’d do with the money. I was too busy in my routine of growing it. Then one day, not overnight per se, but at a relatively alarming speed, I found that I was beginning to really dislike my job, and oh yeah, my net worth was now over 7 figures. Shit – when did that happen!? Almost simultaneously I discovered the Trinity Study and Mr. Money Mustache, as if it was all choreographed from above.
How Do You Measure Yourself Against Other Golfers?
Imagine trying to lose weight over a period of time without having a scale. Sure, it can be done, but it’s probably harder. Seeing progress motivates you. It reinforces your conviction that you’re doing the right thing. My humble spreadsheet has been that motivator for me for 20+ years. So I thought she deserved a tribute post to show gratitude. I’ve never been this choked up about a bunch of 1’s and 0’s before. I’m having a moment…… I need to go…