Tools and Gear for DIY Investors

Updates

I love it when small ideas take root and grow.

Just about 7 years ago, I spent a lazy afternoon tinkering with some home-grown spreadsheets to make a few points about the Permanent Portfolio on a forum I frequent. As an engineer who has spent way more than your average amount of time using Excel, I’ve always been a big fan of well-presented data. But I soon discovered that things which seemed mundane to me at the time were actually quite the revelation to others, as my effort elicited an unexpected response:

“Tyler, when are you going to get a website set up for that backtester you’ve made? Those visualizations are just outstanding! At least make it public somehow.”

It wasn’t the first time that I had considered the possibility, but that innocent comment was just the encouragement I needed at exactly the right time. A few weeks later Portfolio Charts was born.

Over the years, Portfolio Charts has grown so much from its humble origins to what you see today. And that growth has been sustained in no small part by the tremendous feedback I get from readers all around the world. I feel like I’ve learned at least as much as I’ve shared, and that influx of information has fed lots of new features. But if I were to paraphrase the one question that I’ve received most often over the years in the terms of the original one that inspired the site, it would be something like this:

“Tyler, when are you going to add __________ to the calculations? Your visualizations are just outstanding, but I’d love to be able to study __________. At least make it public somehow.”

You can fill in the blanks with lots of different things:

  • TIPS
  • Stocks from my country
  • Momentum investing
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Specific fund returns
  • Alternative rebalancing strategies
  • The impact of taxes

You get the idea.

Many of the suggestions I received became new features, but others fell by the wayside — not because I don’t think they’re great ideas, but simply because one person can’t effectively solve every possible strategy for every global investor. Even as I transitioned from treating Portfolio Charts as a rewarding side hobby to a primary job and personal mission, I still had to pick my battles.

But I’ve never forgotten all of those requests, and just like the original comment that started it all they helped nudge me in the right direction. After years of exploration and months of work, I’m thrilled to announce that I finally have a solution! And in the process of meeting that market need, I’m also rolling out an exciting new section of the site.

The Portfolio Charts Store


Check the top of every page, and you’ll see a brand new menu option called Supplies. This section offers lots of different things useful to individual investors including unique spreadsheets, investing books, apparel, and accessories. And each link takes you directly to the appropriate listing either here or at The Portfolio Charts Store (managed by Spring).

Many of you may not know that beyond being a numbers guy I also have a design background. So having an additional creative outlet for some of my product ideas is something right in my wheelhouse, and hopefully you like them just as much as I enjoy making them.

I encourage everyone to browse at your own pace, but the most important point is that this is way more than your typical website merch store. I mean sure, I like to think the gear is pretty cool and that there’s a good chance you’ll find something you like. But if you visit only one section today, check out the “Tools” category.

That’s where you can find custom charting tools!

A chart for every plan


Every free Chart on the site now has a sister product available for purchase. These new Excel-based tools generate the exact same charts but work a little differently than you’re used to. Instead of setting the percentages of a preset selection of assets, you simply enter the annual returns.

If you’re re-reading this, you’re not crazy. I updated the interface after the initial launch following some great customer feedback.

Yes, it’s just that simple! Enter your own data, and make any chart you like.

To tie everything together, any chart with an available download now has a few buttons right above the main interface. For example, here’s what you’ll see for the My Portfolio tool:


Create a custom chart with your own data 🛠


In this case, the download button will take you to the My Portfolio product listing. And for much more info on how the tools work, be sure to click that Learn More button. That will take you to a dedicated page for the custom charts to give you all the information you need to get them up and running. Seriously — click it now and it will pop up in a new window that you can read when you’re done here.

While the technical details are all important, for the purposes of this discussion I’d like to focus on the possibilities. Because behind the simple exterior lives a world of new ideas just waiting to be explored.

Does your own portfolio include a mutual fund not found on the site? Do you invest in TIPS and Bitcoin and have some good data handy for the years that they were available? If you invest using a momentum trading strategy, are you confident enough in your spreadsheet skills to replicate the annual returns history?

In all of those cases, you can now generate your own custom charts! And you don’t have to spend years learning a programming language like Python or R. Assemble all of the data you can, run the numbers in Excel, and enter the annual returns. The charting templates will take it from there.

Just think of the spreadsheets as professional-grade analysis tools for DIY investors.

Are you a DIY investor?


At its heart, Portfolio Charts is an extension of my innate desire to help everyday investors understand historical data in new and actionable ways. If the site is primarily about introducing asset allocation concepts and allowing people to explore the possibilities, the Supplies section is largely about next steps.

The tools here on the site are pretty darned powerful, and I’ll put them up against anything out there in terms of features and flexibility. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with planning around the data they provide! But they will also never be as strong as your own personal curiosity and determination. That DIY mindset is what I personally grew to love, and it’s the core characteristic that the downloadable spreadsheets and other supplies are designed to serve.

Do you see yourself as an empowered DIY investor? If not, would you like to? If you’re particularly passionate about charting your own course, then I think many of the new items may be just for you.

Blank canvases and new beginnings


While I’ve launched lots of new features over the years, this one admittedly feels a little different simply because of how much effort was involved. In a way it feels like the day I hit “publish” on my very first post ages ago. Excited, terrified, anxious, and relieved all in one.

But all normal butterflies aside, this is definitely just the beginning! Now that the store launch is off my plate, I not only have lots of new ideas to develop but I also plan to pick up the pace on my writing. So if there’s a product you’d love to see or a topic you’d like for me to write about, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m always open to new ideas!

From those early days of tinkering with data to the newest fancy updates introducing more tools than ever, it’s crazy to think of how far Portfolio Charts has come. Thanks for following along, and here’s hoping that the next seven years will be just as fun and rewarding as the first.

UPDATE

Since first publishing this post, I’ve tweaked the layout of the site to make it easier to navigate. Everything is still there, but the Supplies page content has now been distributed between several sections rather than hosted on just one.


If you love Portfolio Charts and want something cool, I’ve got just the thing for you.