How spreadsheets facilitate communication.

Like most people on the journey to Financial Independence, I have a series of spreadsheets filled with a lot of data and formulas. These documents allow me to track my progress on the Amber Index and in play money. Are they helping me to communicate with my wife? How could the cloud help me even more?

When looking into leaving my corporate job for a startup life, the spreadsheets came in handy. I was able to tell my wife what our cash balance was, how many months of full unemployment that represented, how much more money we could make available by selling our investments,… You get the point. At that time, I was very happy to have that data at hand.

After the FIWE meeting in Budapest, my wife had an increased interest in the status of our finances and the way I track my progress. So far, so good….

In order to compile the data into a nice table and an overview chart, a lot of copy paste across different spreadsheet and tabs is needed. The sheets have grown in an organic way from me – single, just bought aan apartment –  doing my first budget in 2002 till where we are now – married, 2 kids, a house an investment portfolio, fun money, play money. Easy and accessible is something else.

Time for a refactor… and then missing a burning platform to do so. Some call it procrastination. It was not until I came across the post from Geldnerd on spreadsheets that I started to think more serious about the refactor.

IMG_8416And9moreFast forward to today, the refactor is done and all data is now in one document, all unneeded copy/past is removed and some sheets are now reorganised to maximise the understanding by non financial nerdy geeks (as this is me, no insult intended). My wife start to see the key messages that can come out of the sheets. All of this is done in a high level summary, outlining our net worth in categories that make sense for us.

A final next step is to include a sheet with the isolated accounts from my wife. As these are static accounts that hardly mover in a year, this is low on my priority list.

One thing that I consider is putting the spreadsheet in the Google docs. I do have some reservations

  • some handy pivot table features are not available.Especially the one where you can reference a cell not by a fixed cell position, rather via a variable. (You point to the pivot table, looking for the asset category ETF, rather than to cell A45). Any thoughts on this? I was thinking to use sumif.
  • privacy of the cloud. What is the likelihood of someone getting access to my file with my full net worth? Would that make me happy? I could omit this by putting the file on my blog email and putting 2 factor access. That creates a barrier, and when someone has the data, he still does not know who I am.
  • backup: How often would you back up the cloud?

21 thoughts on “How spreadsheets facilitate communication.

  1. I personally don’t save my charts in the cloud, just on my hard drive. We review them monthly together, but that more or less entails me going through the charts and explaining any noteworthy points our issues and doesn’t necessarily require her to view or read the doc. So for me, I don’t see any reason to put it in the cloud. Not sure if that’s helpful though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey ATL, link to Geldnerd does not work (same link as for the procrastination). But great to see that the two of you are both becoming excel nerds (sort of). Granted, having everything in one place, and no copy/paste is required, is a very good thing. Especially when it provides a clear messages to everyone involved. Job well done I would say!


  3. Ciao ATL,
    The link points to a post about procrastination, not spreadsheets, but I guess it’s just a link error that one…. On the cloud, allow me to remove point N.2 from your worries. Do you have an internet connection?
    If the answer is Yes, privacy should not be a concern, because it’s already gone.
    As to the third point, install google drive on all your devices and “voila!” the cloud is always backed up every minute on all the devices that have the little program installed, so that if you are offline you can still work (and the work will update all the other copies once you get back online).
    I keep everything in the cloud because I can access it from any part of the world with any device I want.
    ciao ciao



  4. It’s really bad but I don’t back up any of my files. I think I’m going to purchase a 1TB backup storage soon (had no idea these things even existed until my friend told me about them). I hope that I don’t lose any of my data that’s stored in my computer (or worse, my computer stops working) because I don’t know how I will be able to start from scratch!


    1. Not to scare you: one day my laptop stopped charging when he was at 4 pct battery remaining. I freaked out little and was able to backup all critical data, not ask nice to have data…


  5. The cloud is always backed up. Redundancy is built-in. You can also keep local copies on your desktop that sync to the cloud.


  6. Hi amber,
    Good job on refactoring your spreadsheet! I keep mine across multiple files; one file per year, and I’m just starting to make my next file for 2017. It’s easy to link cells from year to year, so I don’t have to worry about the numbers going stale.

    I have most everything in the cloud via onedrive – the files are automagically synced across several computers so I don’t worry about a specific backup as such. You can always password protect your Excel file and also remove any author / owner information if you’re worried about someone stealing it.
    Best wishes,


  7. I have our investment portfolios on Google Spreadsheet (the cloud!). I think it’s backed up on multiple locations by Google. I don’t see it as a privacy issue though. BUT the lack of pivot table makes Google Spreadsheet not as useful if you need some good number crunching.


  8. I am a huge spreadsheet fan. I’ve been building and using them for years. I thought I knew most everything there was about Excel until the IT Millennials from my last company showed me how much more I could do.

    My problem tends to be getting too bogged down in analysis. I love to run the numbers and keep tweaking them looking for trends and patterns.

    Need to learn how to derive not just data from spreadsheets but useful information.


    1. With my wife, i made a summary that tells her what she needs to know and what we in general talk about.
      The rest is for me to analyse.
      I actually stopped looking for patterns or maximisation as we only budget high level and I accepted that my asset allocation is first sleep well and the optimise the returns.


  9. I completely trust Google Docs and put everything there. I can access them wherever I am and share them with whomever I want (like I actually do with my public NW document).

    As you said, the sumif can easily compensate for the lack of pivot table features.


  10. Hey Amber. I moved 100% of my financial spreadsheets to google drive over the past year. Once retired, I’m done with Microsoft. The risk of privacy is minimal/unknown, the cost of Microsoft licenses is a known. Also, I was never any good at the discipline of backing up my hard drive. Now, no worries (other than privacy, but that was never guaranteed anyway).


    1. Great Point of view… I would just have to figure out a good solution for the pivot table.
      Privacy in thé end is an excuse that does not matter too much. I have 2 step authentication on my gmail accounts.


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