To measure is to know, also in the personal finance world. Tracking your income and expenses, investments and net worth should become a standard for individuals striving to reach financial independence. I have a set of personal finance dashboards that I use to keep on top of my finances. Do you too?
To Measure is To Know
Measuring is the key to improving. Before you know what to improve on, you have to measure first.
Imagine you’re going on a road trip. You say you want to drive from the most northern point of Norway, all the way to the southmost point of Italy. You would cross a variety of beautiful European countries as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Italy.
But how do you know where you must go? Which exit you take on the highway? The answer is that you look at where you are, and where you want to go, and then compute the shortest route between the two points.
In personal finance, where you want to be is easy. It can be your long term goal of not having to work ever again, or a short term goal of saving a 1,000 euros by next month. Anyway, you know where you want to go. To act on that goal, you must know where you are now. That is the importance of measuring your financial situation.
You can measure on many different levels. One level is just taking inventory once a year of all your assets and liabilities and create a personal finance balance out of them. That’s fine and it will help you, but it’s not very detailed.
I measure my finances with the highest level of detail. That lets me then create all the different measures I want to analyse. If I were to only create my personal finance dashboards on a yearly or quarterly basis, I would not be able to manage my monthly savings rate.
Being a Data Nerd Helps
For keeping track of my financial transactions I use YNAB, the online budgeting tool. I’ve written a few pieces on how to start using YNAB, you can find the first one here.
If you want to start with the tool, please do it through my link. That’ll both give us a free month of YNAB. And free stuff makes us happy right? Happy budgeting!
To be able to track your finances with this level of detail, and then create personal finance dashboards on top of the data, is crazy. Not a lot of people will do so, and I get that. For example, Girlfriend would never track her spending like this. She also doesn’t want me to track it for her, maybe she’s afraid I’ll find out about her shoe addiction?
I know of only one person that also goes this far in building dashboards, and that is our one and only Money Nerd over at Geldnerd.nl (link to his retirement calculator, it’s in Dutch).
From my job I’m a huge data nerd. Combine that with being a legitimate personal finance nerd, and you get this: a guy tracking all his income and spending transactions and building these dashboards. How awesome is this?
Critical KPIs for Your Personal Finance Dashboards
In my personal finance dashboards I track the following KPIs, or key performance indicators:
- Cashflow and savings rate;
- Net worth;
- FI progression.
Below, you will find screenshots of them with a little explanation for each of them.
Cash Flow and Savings Rate
This is my dashboard that tracks my savings rate over time. The three blocks on top show the savings rate of the current month, the 12 months moving average savings rate, and the year to date savings rate.
As you can see, I just updated October and that wasn’t a great month for the savings. It also just nudged the year to date savings rate below my 40% target I set for this year. But it’s okay, I have two months left to aggressively save – although Christmas and some birthdays might ruin that…
The bottom of the page is showing the savings rate and the 12 months moving average savings rate through time, painting a trend.
These graphs show my spending trend on top, and on the bottom we see three visualisations showing spending in the current month per budget category and per payee. The third visual is a table with all transactions detailed out, to make it easy to search for something if I spot outliers in the graphs.
Regarding net worth I track the trend, the difference versus last month, and some dimensions like net worth per account type and account group (investments, home, cash).
The tables on the right side show details of the net worth progression over the different account groups and accounts, and over time.
This one’s maybe the most important one. It’s the personal finance dashboard with the most impact, and it is showing the progression to FI that I made.
On the left we see four blocks, with Passive Income (which is rental income if any, plus 3.5% withdrawal rate of my investment accounts), FI% (which is the Passive Income divided by my 12 months moving total spending), Investment Value, and Spending 12 months moving total.
The two charts at the top show the trend of my passive income and FI%. It’s fun to see that thing going up and to the right!
The large chart at the bottom shows my investment contributions and gains over time, stacked together they are my investment portfolio balance. The green line is below the blue line, which means that my investment portfolio is worth less than I put in. That has to do with my portfolio of crypto currencies, which obviously took a massive hit this year.
These are the personal finance dashboards that I use the most when checking my progress and deciding on next steps.
My Dashboard is Better Than Yours
Or is it? If you’ve got some sweet graphs, please please please share them with me and the FIRE community. It’s the right thing to do!
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