Planning with a Mortgage Amortization Schedule

A mortgage amortization schedule can be useful for: comparing my loan-balance calculations to the mortgage company’s records; identifying when mortgage insurance should no longer be required; planning the payoff of the mortgage prior to retirement or another significant life change; recognizing how much of the payment goes to insurance, taxes, etc. and will continue even after the mortgage is paid; analyzing the impact of extra payments (and later comparing this impact to the benefit of using those funds for a purpose other than mortgage payoff). Inside, there’s a link to a downloadable schedule.

How to Set Up a Personal Finance Spreadsheet

When presented with general concepts or rules of thumb relating to personal finance, my brain resists automatic acceptance. My look-under-the-hood tendencies rebel when I hear a statement like “it’s always better to invest rather than pay off debt” or vice versa.

To truly understand an idea (and prove or disprove its claim), I love to design a spreadsheet. Using this tool, I can break down a concept and illustrate how it works or demonstrate where it falls apart.

In this article, I’ll explain the basics of setting up personal finance spreadsheets, including how to design formulas with financial functions like PMT (payment), FV (future value), and PV (present value).

The Intelligent Investor’s Motto: Margin of Safety

In Chapter 20 of The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham covers the ” ‘Margin of Safety’ as the Central Concept of Investment.” This big idea or motto is the “secret of sound investment” distilled to three words.

Graham says “the function of the margin of safety is, in essence, that of rendering unnecessary an accurate estimate of the future.” When considering whether an investment carries a favorable margin of safety, calculations should be based on present circumstances, not overly optimistic or hoped-for future situations.

As I delve into this chapter, I learn that though the margin-of-safety principle is one of the main things, it’s not the only thing relevant to intelligent investing. Its companion is diversification. In addition, I discover that real-life adherence to safety margins isn’t simple or always achievable.

Still, the concept is important and mathematical framework, crucial to the task of selecting securities and building a portfolio.

Market Fluctuations: How to Act When They Happen

Chapter 8 of The Intelligent Investor focuses on dealing with market fluctuations. Graham opens this chapter advising investors to know about the possibility of these ups and downs. He urges us to be prepared financially and psychologically.

To be clear about the nature of potential fluctuations, Graham describes a probable set of circumstances. Within the next five years, shares of a given security may experience a 50+% price increase from its low point or a 30+% decline from its high point. Such changes in stock prices may bear no relationship to changes in economic values.

While the rise in prices sounds great, the decrease seems scary. Still, it’s this scenario for which Graham wishes to equip investors to withstand (and possibly profit from). He offers advice that I interpret in this way:

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