Patty Goes Geeky

A techno odyssey

At least there’s some money left to manage

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The never-ending project list included screwing up my courage enough at tax time to do a status check on our retirement funds. I have a general policy of not going out of my way to make myself feel bad, so I have not given much more than a cursory look at the hemorrhage of our 401(k)s since my retirement just over a year ago. We consulted a financial planner before I gave notice, and she ran a Monte Carlo analysis that indicated our money had a 95 percent chance of lasting until we croaked. Pretty good odds, I thought, and signed up for the buyout.

Then came the downturn. Great. Just our luck to hit those 5 percent odds — and in the first year.

But even I can’t ignore reality forever, and the journalist in me rose to the self-imposed deadline. It was time to take stock.

Our retirement information is scattered among employers and investment firms, some of it reported on paper and some in online statements that hadn’t been checked in a password-forgetting while. Determined to get organized, I started looking for a free online portfolio-management tool (apparently wanting free content extends to more than the consumers who torpedoed the newspaper industry) to collate them, but surprisingly, didn’t find what I’d assumed was out there. My credit union has a decent basic tool, and so does Morningstar. But neither could handle a bond fund that has no ticker symbol, and forced me to list it as cash, which throws off the pie-chart analysis of our total holdings and was irritating to a degree it shouldn’t have been for someone who clearly isn’t obsessed with fiscal diligence.

Thinking I might want to buy Quicken or some other software, I Googled to see how much it costs (around $50 on Amazon, not that I will ever buy Amazon software again — see below, and below, and below). I also discovered that Quicken has transmogrified its free online offering to a site called Mint.com. The site has links to many articles from reputable publications extolling its virtues as a personal-finance tool. All you have to do for the “100 percent free” resource is enter your bank account information into its incredibly secure site so it can help you monitor and analyze your spending.

Uh, no.

Incredibly secure sites do get hacked, one of the reviewers noted, and I didn’t want/need the spending function. I have to enter sensitive financial information enough elsewhere just for daily living without taking on unnecessary risk.

Ultimately, I just created an Excel spreadsheet, although that required quick research on how to do formulas, since it had been years since my quick-and-dirty Excel class at The Times. (To multiply columns, for example, enter a cell, click the formula sign, insert =, designate the columns and the process such as D2*E2, and then copy-and-paste that cell into any other that requires the same action.) And that nice, tidy form, with a bottom line better than I’d dreaded, will get forwarded to our financial counselor.

For a reasonable fee, she will do a check-up on which funds to keep and which to dump given our current status. Although I once thought I might want to learn enough in retirement to manage our 401(k) funds expertly, I have decided I would rather garden and let her do it.

And her software accounts for our tickerless bond fund.

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Written by geekypatty

February 13, 2010 at 11:56 am

Posted in Software

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