Spreadsheet In-Depth: The Monthly Overview

One of the more important sheets in our Excel workbook is the Monthly Overview. This is used to take details of income, cash flow and savings from several other sheets in order to produce a few crucial figures each month, to help us track where we are financially.

Monthly is also the right frequency to motivate us about where we might end up in the future, and to hold us accountable to the longer-term. We are able to think through how everyday decisions/events over the weeks have led to the end-of-month result. With yearly figures, this immediacy just isn’t there (any more than monthly is too much hassle).

Figures changed for privacy

Historic statistics

The first row tracks our investment portfolio total, mirrored from the savings sheet.

The next few rows are dedicated to how much we actually save in each month. This is a computed as a combination of direct savings from our current account and pension contributions. Derived from this (and our income sheet) are the two savings rates: gross savings and net savings. The gross figure looks at savings as a proportion of total pre-tax compensation, whereas the net figure takes after-tax income.

I think the gross one is more honest in the sense that it cannot be so easily “gamed” via sacrificing take-home income to pension contributions. However, blindly maximising this rate also has its problems, since we do not want to contribute disproportionate amounts to pensions at our age.

We also track the absolute amount of cash-equivalent savings, to see our “emergency savings”, most of which can be withdrawn at short notice. Lastly, the asset allocation is calculated from the savings sheet and is presented in a single cell for brevity.

Future-looking statistics

The final bit is a simple percentage tracking how far we are from financial independence. This is a straightforward calculation from the monthly portfolio totals, and there is actually a fair bit more nuance to this (pension vs. non-pension pots, non-constant expenditure in retirement, etc.) But it serves its purpose well as a rough yardstick and motivator.

That’s it! We used to have many more rows here tracking all sorts of things (one of these was the square-feet equivalent of monthly savings in our local property market!) But in the end I believe it’s better to keep things simple.

Do you have a monthly overview sheet? What do you track?

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