My Spreadsheet Is Family And I Love Her

When You Bought ANY “.com” stock in 1997 #TheCompanyDoesntEvenNeedToDoAnything

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…

11 Responses

  1. Damn Millennial says:

    That is awesome I can relate being a bit nerdy in this department as well. I use a spreadsheet and update once a month. It is motivating to me to see the movement good and bad of my overall goals.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Yes – I think monthly is a perfect time interval to check in. It’s short enough to give you a nice boost of confidence but long enough that you’re not obsessing about it.

  2. I can relate. I started my magic spreadsheet back in 1995 on Lotus 123. It has since been migrated to Excel of course, and transposed once or twice for fear of becoming corrupted. Man. Talk about a relic that’s been tweaked a million times over! No macros, no pivots, just pure summarized numbers. Ahhhh….

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Wow, you’ve got me by 2 years! I do remember Lotus 123, now we’re talkin’ some way-back stuff. We also used Lotus Notes. It’s great to hear someone else who has been carrying a digital timepiece through the years.

      If it ain’t broke, it doesn’t need to be fixed!

  3. CreditCage says:

    Do you have a post on your investment strategy? I’m a younger guy looking for the right way to invest my savings!

    • Accidental Fire says:

      I don’t yet, this is a pretty new blog but I will get to it. First off, the fact that you’re a younger guy and already reaching out for this stuff means you’re winning. Starting early is a massive factor in becoming FI. I did, and it seems you are too.

      I’ll give you the cliff-notes of my strategy since it’s pretty simple. First off, max-out all of your 401k and IRA options, Just do what it takes to make it happen. If you have an employer-match for the 401k, for the love of all that’s holy make sure you get that. They’re trying to give you money – take it!

      As for what I invested in, after experimenting with buying some individual stocks in my early 20’s, I went all mutual funds. At first I did have some active funds (managed by a dude or dudette who makes beaucoup bucks by charging you fees). But after seeing the light I went with all low-cost index funds, mostly Vanguard.

      Throughout my career I generally had 75 – 80% of my money in stock index funds, about 10 – 15% in bond index funds, and the rest in cash (emergency fund). It was that simple. My stock ratio went higher at some points (it’s around 85% now actually), but generally that was it. Easy peasy.

      As for the emergency fund, try to find a bank or money market fund that is giving at least some interest. I think there are some online ones like Ally that are giving something. Your local bank probably doesn’t give squat.

      If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to read Jim Collins’ stock series on his blog, and if you wish, buy his book. Honestly, that’s all you need to learn to invest.

      You can’t beat the market, so buy the market and you’ll win. I hope this helps and thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  4. M says:

    I love my spreadsheet (started in 97) as well. Nothing fancy, just some entries, calculations, and graphs. We have multiple accounts (his and her ROTH, IRA, 401k, two brokerage and a checking acct) and one thing that I like about it is the ability to quickly see our overall asset allocation to make sure we stay at our targets.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Wow, our spreadsheets might have graduated high school together! The are more of us than we think out there!

      Thanks for the comment and for the advice last week 🙂

  5. I’m also a fellow spreadsheet lover – I use them to track both my dividends from stocks as well as my net worth from month to month. The rush of updating my numbers each month is always something I look forward to haha how’s that for nerdy??

    Great post, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • I know that rush very well, and it’s coming this week. Even when I know it’ll be a down month becuase of stock market turmoil I still have the rush, because 9 times outta 10 the ‘down’ isn’t as bad as I expected.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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