June 22, 2003

Stocks And OS X

I've been piddling around to find the best stock portfolio management software for OS X, and the pickings are pretty slim.

There are a bunch of super-expensive high-end applications for daytraders, which isn't what I want. I don't want to spend the money, and I don't really want to focus on technical (chart analysis) research right now, or hour-to-hour price swings. I want to focus more on fundamentals.

But what I really need is a good solid portfolio management application that tracks current holdings, past holdings, and recalculates my performance accurately as I buy and sell partial positions to average down.

iStock appears to be the best of the lot right now. It has some nice charting features, allows multiple portfolios, and is $12. However, I'm left confused about how to calculate partial buys and sells.

The way it normally works is that if you have a position that you have bought into multiple times at multiple prices, you basically just add up all the costs and commissions, divide by the number of shares (including dividend-awarded shares which are free), and get the average cost per share.

If you're going to sell partial shares, the most accurate method is to do lot identification. You sell specific shares that you bought on a particular date, calculate the gain or loss against that particular purchase, and recalculate the avg cost of the remaining shares by ignoring that lot.

Most of these portfolio applications don't have lot identification though. So I'm trying to figure out a better way to do it. And really I'm not sure there is one, at least not one that would reconcile with the numbers I have in Quicken. I'll probably just have to fake lot identification.

What went along with this was finally going back through all my transactions back to my first brokerage account, and tracking through the performance from day one. After the crash, I got real lazy because I was running away from the numbers. There were some numbers I was never able to look up, like the 401ks that just take some money and give you quarterly reports and never tell you what your purchase prices were, but aside from that I have all my retirement account numbers put together and while it's discouraging, it wasn't the huge punch in the gut I always assumed it would be. Maybe I'm just ready for it now. My current portfolio is basically worth half of what I bought it for, although it used to be a lot worse. Luckily I also got out of some other stocks a long time ago, and all those were for a net gain, and I also put some more cash away in the meantime. So I have the ability to start buying back in, which I'm going to do... slowly. I'm hoping to slowly make back the money I lost, which should get easier over time as I start putting more capital in. The good point for me is that that huge crash happened to me pretty early in my investing life.

So all in all I'm making headway on my three-part project. The first part is to get my portfolio squared away and accurate. The second is to get the system together that will help me to decide when to partially buy and sell my current long-term holdings - I think I have that with the "AIM" technique. The third part will be to get together my system for analyzing new prospects, and figuring out how to balance my portfolio in the best way. I haven't started with that yet, but might be doing so over the next month or so.

Posted by Curt at June 22, 2003 04:54 PM