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Tips on Initial Data Entry

In order for Total Return to calculate performance of your investments, you need to provide the app with the data about your investments. Total Return organizes your investments into portfolios. Portfolios contain positions, each position representing a particular stock in the portfolio. A stock is identified by its symbol.

For example, suppose that you have a 401(k) plan managed by your employer and you separately invest in stocks via a brokerage account. In this case it would make sense to create two portfolios in Total Return - one called 401(k) representing your retirement investments and another called Stocks representing your brokerage account. Suppose you have investments in Apple (AAPL) and Coca-Cola (KO) in your 401(k) account. And in your brokerage account you have Apple (AAPL) and Wells Fargo (WFC). In this case you will have two positions in each portfolio. In 401(k) you will have AAPL and KO and in Stocks you will have AAPL and WFC. (Note that AAPL is in both portfolios - and that’s perfectly acceptable.)

Defining your portfolios and positions is a first step, but that is not enough to calculate performance of your investments. In order for Total Return to do that it needs to know what trades you’ve made for each of the positions. Before you start entering trades though you may be facing a choice. And the choice is whether you care about performance of your investments from the day when you bought first shares or do you mostly care about performance of your investments going forward? This decision is important as in order for you to do the former you will need to enter all trades that have occurred for that position from the day you started investing there. The latter is more forgiving and requires for you to enter only one trade per position representing the cumulative effect of all of your previous trades.

Suppose you are interested in the precise performance info for your Stocks portfolio (after all you’ve made all investment decisions there and you’d like to know how well you’ve done). When it comes to 401(k), however, you don’t care as much (or you don’t want to enter hundreds of small transactions that have occurred there). In that case with Stocks portfolio you will need to refer to your brokerage account records and enter all trades for each of the positions in the portfolio. This may take some time, but in the end you get precise performance data for your investments. As for 401(k) portfolio, you only need to enter one Purchase trade for each of its positions. When entering this trade put in today’s date as the date of the trade, enter your current number of shares as the number of shares that is being purchased, and enter the current share price as the purchase price. Note that if you can determine average price paid per share for your 401(k) investments, then by entering that instead of the current share price you will get performance info calculated from day one, although still the precision of that info will not be as high as if you entered all of your trades, but this may be an acceptable trade off between time you have to put in to enter the trades and the quality of the calculated data.

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