I always appreciate it when people take the time to write to offer their feedback on Portfolio Charts. The thanks keep me going through the occasional drudgery, the corrections keep me honest, and the suggestions keep the entire exercise fresh and relevant. The combination of all that feedback with my constant creative processing makes the site a personal passion of mine that I hope you enjoy reading and using just as much as I do writing and creating. I’ve long felt like I owe you all a reward of some sort for your great ideas, and today I’m here to deliver.
Since I started Portfolio Charts several years ago, by far the most common request I’ve received is the ability to enter data in one place and have it carry over into each calculator. I just want you to know that I listened. While it took a long time to try lots of different ideas and fail plenty of times along the way, you asked the right guy with the right mix of creativity and pure stubbornness to power through the problem. So while you may notice lots of things have changed on the site recently, let’s cut to the chase and get to the really cool part — the My Portfolio tool.
Designers who work in new product development tend to think a little differently than others. The truly innovative ones have no professional fear. In fact, there’s a common saying in the industry that one should “fail early and often” and rapid iteration where you improve things in stages is generally prized over slowly working out the perfect product up-front. Machines like 3D printers are some of the most indispensable tools in the industry today to help develop ideas, and for every finished product you see on a store shelf there are probably hundreds of printed prototypes sitting on an engineer’s desk somewhere. That may sound wasteful on the surface, but every single prototype represents a new idea or a lesson learned that ultimately led to the final product you know and love.
Today is one of those days when you’ll notice that product design mindset in my own work here, as I just overhauled every single calculator on the site. Even though I released another major update not too long ago, I learned a lot (both good and bad) from that version and was inspired to improve the experience even more. There’s a lot going on, so let’s get down to business and talk about the changes.
You’ve probably seen me mention a few times that I’m always on the lookout for good data. Usually that means an occasional few extra years of a certain asset or perhaps a nice alternative source, and I do my best to accumulate the trickle of new information as it comes in. Well the stars must have aligned somehow as recently I was inundated with a waterfall of data from several new sources. It took a little while to figure out how to handle so much information, but today I’m happy to announce one of the largest updates ever to the site and fellow fans of good portfolio data are in for a real treat.
I don’t know about you but I’m pretty excited about the warming weather. As the dark and cold fades away, I even sorta enjoy the bit of cleanup work that normally comes with spring. From trimming the shrubs that are now starting to grow like crazy to washing the winter grime off the car, spring cleaning has a way of creating a sense of newness that breathes new life into lots of old things.
And the same mindset extends to the virtual world as well — at least when you have your own website to maintain. So after picking up around the house I also just completed a few important data updates that you may not have noticed but will certainly appreciate.
If you’re in the market for state-of-the-art investment data, now is a great time to visit Portfolio Charts. The Calculators and Portfolios now have all-new data through 2017!
I’m always thinking about ways to make the site helpful for more people, and lately I’ve been working on ways to improve the tools for investors outside of the US. Building a site like this is kinda like building a house over time — it’s an ongoing project requiring incremental steps, and sometimes you have to eliminate a key barrier to make room for the next addition.
One roadblock to expanding the portfolio analysis to other countries has been how to handle REITs, as eight portfolios on the site utilize them while the available data applies only to the US market. Well, after a bit of research I’ve determined that the data is actually a lot more useful than I previously realized, and I’ve decided to unlock REITs as an option for other countries in the calculators. Here’s how it works.
You never quite know what the reception will be like when you post data into the internet void, but I wanted to thank everybody that has taken the time to contact me regarding the latest global site update. Your feedback and encouragement are valuable and extremely appreciated!
Judging from the number of Merriman fans I’ve heard from in the last few weeks, it’s clear that a few assets like international small and value are quite a bit more popular than perhaps I previously understood. I definitely got the message, and while it took a bit longer to assemble the right type of data that I can personally vouch for, I’m happy to report that the Merriman Ultimate is back. And it marks the return of several assets as well — World Small and World Value.
If you’ve ever built a motorcycle from scratch, you can appreciate how the process is nothing like an IKEA instruction manual. Getting the final product just the way you like it is a journey that takes time and often requires seeking out new information and components at various steps along the way. But the reward of squeezing out those extra few horsepower or getting the ride just the way you like it is very high, and well worth the extra effort over simply buying the easy option off the dealer lot.
While mechanical engineering is my background, these days I spend a lot more time playing with financial data than nuts and bolts. But the fundamental thought process is still the same. I like to think of the site and all of the underlying calculations as my own intellectual garage where I can try out new ideas, and I’m always looking for opportunities for improvement.
I don’t know about you, but in my neck of the woods the weather has been absolutely beautiful lately and unseasonably warm for a February day. The sunny days have made me start to think ahead to the garden in my back yard and how I might want to improve it this year. Some of that will require a bit of cleanup, and some is about finding new plants to complement what did well last year. I don’t naturally have a green thumb, but I’ve found that persistence is a virtue. Every year the garden is a little better than before.
In that same spirit, as part of the necessary site data cultivation effort I just finished updating the Stock Index Calculator with new data.
As a creative person inhabiting an engineer’s mind, I’m often a walking contradiction of organization. On the one hand, a messy desk does not bother me at all and I like having lots of information in front of me to draw from when I work. But on the other, eventually the collection of stuff reaches a critical mass where I can no longer find what I’m looking for, at which point I decide it’s time to clean up and organize. That tension between chaos and order is just part of how I think.
Along those lines, while I very intentionally keep Portfolio Charts simple and intuitive in the Assets, Portfolios, and Calculators I realize I’ve reached the point in the Commentary where the old system really isn’t doing the site justice and relevant posts are a bit too difficult to identify and track down. The logical next step would be to roll out a typical blog archive sorted by date or topic, but keeping with the spirit of designing the site primarily as a set of practical tools I’ve decided to build something a bit more comprehensive. As you may have already noticed up top, there’s now an entire new section called the Library.