Excel usage tips and getting started using Microsoft Excel.

Tips for Using Microsoft Excel-based Financial Planning Software

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Our Financial Plan Software is MS Excel-based

You'll need Microsoft Excel '07 or later installed on your computer to use these financial plan spreadsheets.

They won't work using just MS Works.

A tip that will make your life better, is to NOT use the MS Works interface to access Excel or Word. Using Works just mucks everything up.

Excel never "gets in the way" with our money software. All of the directions are very good, so being an Excel expert is not needed. Every time someone mentions something that's not in the directions, it's added. So how to do most everything is already there.

The only time you’d have to stop and figure out how to do something in Excel, is when it’s a feature not found in other programs – like how to print exactly what you want using ranges, do an audit to see where numbers are coming from, or using Goal Seek for What-ifs.

Other than that, then using Excel-based financial software is no harder than using code-driven software, because you're just inputting the same data - it just gets inputted into cells rather than code fields.

About why financial plan software is best in Excel.

A site with a summary of keyboard and other shortcut keys is here:

A site with more Excel help is here:

You can get the Microsoft Office 2016 Home and Student suite that has the latest Excel, Word, and PowerPoint for ~$100. You can find this at most all office supply stores (and most computer stores, Best Buy, sometimes Target, etc.).

If you're still using Excel or Word '03 then you're operating in the Stone Age with primitive and broken and extremely limited programs that crash, lock up, and barely function. So you really need to upgrade ASAP. Them "moving stuff around" via menu ribbons is annoying at first, but well worth the learning curve.

If you have a Mac, are using QuattroPro, OpenSource, Gugle, Lotus 123, or any other non-standard platform, and want to know if these financial spreadsheets will work - follow the directions on most all of the product pages for downloading the free non-functional demo programs.

The main product, the Integrated Financial Planner is not supported on Apple Macs. This is because some have hard drives that are "locked," so the modules won't link up.

If you can download, open, and look at a functional spreadsheet demo, then you'll be able to use these financial planner programs. All you'll be able to do is look at the demo spreadsheets, as the formulas are stripped out.

You'll need to "Enable Editing" to be able to input data into these money spreadsheets. This is a new and annoying security feature from MS. They think if you have a spreadsheet that's not living in a "Trusted Location," then it has a virus, so you can't edit or do anything with it. To get around this, open the Trust Center (File, Options, Trust Center. Trust Center Setting, Trusted Locations, Add New Location), and make the folder(s) where you keep your spreadsheets a Trusted Location. Then this annoyance will go away.

The Very Basics of Using Microsoft Excel

Rows go from left to right (and are numbered), and columns go up and down (which are lettered).

The intersection of a row and column is called a cell.

When you use the arrow keys, you can only be on one cell at a time. When you shift arrow key, then you can select more than one cell at a time. This is called a range.

Each cell functions as a little separate calculator. Cells are where you enter data or formulas into. The current cell you're "on" is shown on the top left of your screen, under the File menu (they call menus "Ribbons" now - don't know why).

When you open a new Workbook, it will go to the top left cell, and will display "A1." This is the cell in row #1 in column A.

When you press Control Home, you'll go to the very first cell in the workbook, which A1. Unfortunately, Control End is a fail. What that should do, is to go the very last cell in the workbook - designated by the user manually telling it to be that. So if you Control End, then it will go off into oblivion instead of to the last cell where there's something in it.

How to switch between open workbooks in Excel: Press Control Tab. For some reason, this does not work in MS Word. This is just easier than going to View, Switch Window, then clicking on the other open workbook (or clicking on the taskbar icon at the bottom).

In 2013: If your icon taskbar (that most people keep on the bottom of their screen) is not there, or if every open workbook is not there (which is what you want), then do this: Right click on the Taskbar. This is the very bottom thing on you screen where the clock, and important icons are. Click Properties. Under Taskbar Buttons, choose Never Combine. Now tinker with the other settings to get what you want. Now every workbook will have an icon at the bottom, so you can click on them to go there. Now click Lock the Taskbar, so it will stay put better.

In 2010: If you want to have each separate workbook show on the Taskbar, then go to very top left circle icon, Excel Options, Advanced, Display, Show all windows in Taskbar.

When you open a spreadsheet, the whole spreadsheet is called a workbook. Each workbook / spreadsheet can have many sheets within the spreadsheet. In other words, the correct technical name for a spreadsheet, is a workbook.

The technical name for sheet is Worksheet.

Sheets are the same things as pages in a book. Look at the bottom left and click on the sheets tab names to go to each sheet.

If nothing is there, this it's because you have your sheet tabs turned off. Just go to the very top left circle icon, Excel Options, Advanced, Display options for this workbook, and click Sheet Tabs.

About the colors in our money spreadsheets: All input areas, where you input data into the programs, are shaded green in our money software. Most input cells change from green to gray when something is input into them. This is so you can quickly scan an input sheet, looking for green, so you can ensure you didn't forget to input something. The feature that performs this function is called Conditional Formatting.

Anything that is white, dark gray, or peach (or pink depending on your Excel version, they change it at random with updates, which is annoying) on a non-presentation sheet is not an input cell, and you probably won't be able to input anything into it (depending on the sheet and module).

Passwords are not required for unprotecting presentation sheets. If you're inputting / typing into a cell, and the password protection dialog box comes up, then just go to Review, Unprotect Sheet.

If it unprotected, then a password wasn't needed. If it asks for a password, then you're stuck, because they are not given out to anyone for any reason.

When you're done, re-protect the sheet. A big help is to place the icon that protects and unprotects on the toolbar (File, Options, Customize Ribbon).

Protection here is to prevent butter-finger accidents from destroying formulas on presentation sheets, and to prevent copying / reverse engineering of the software.

If you don't like what shows or prints on the very bottom of the page (usually our copyright blurb), this is probably just the Footer.

These are never protected, and you can just change them by going to Page Layout, click the tiny arrow box at the bottom right, then go to Header and Footer (then just delete everything using Custom Footer). Yes, for financial advisors, we say it's fine to delete all of the copyrights, and everything that says our firm when printing and/or presenting information to clients.

An Excel macro is just a little program you can very easily make inside Excel that uses MS Virtual Basic for Applications (AKA VBA). To make a long story short, you create a macro just by going to View, View Macros, Record Macro.

Then whatever normal commands you execute in Excel, it just remembers them. Then when you stop recording, it's saved as a little program (that you can later find and run via the little macro menu).

Then you can Run it, and it does exactly what it was you did when you were recording it (most of the time). Really, that's all there is to it! It's full of the usual MS failures, but it usually works well.

A huge tip is to just remember the basic commands and build them from scratch, rather than let the recorder remember them (because of the bugs and very sloppy coding). Then you can make thing as clean as you want, which will make it run several times faster, it won't fail just from being too big, all while reducing mundane MS failures at the same time.

If you're inputting data, and strange things keep happening before you finish typing something, then you probably are battling "AutoComplete."

This is where Excel takes the first character you type, then tries to help you by remembering what you used last with the same first letter(s), then it completes it all for you. This is used when people are doing the same thing many times.

Most of the time, this is just annoying (along with most everything MS does because they think it's helps you - news flash, it does not most of the time!).

To turn it off, do this: Excel Options, Advanced, Editing Options, then ensure that "Enable AutoComplete for cell values" is not checked.

Another tip is to use Excel's "Freeze Panes" function. This will freeze the inside of the workbook on the selected column and row, so you can scroll around and see other parts of the sheet, but still be able to see the titles, dates, and the main parts of the sheet.

To turn this off, go to Window, Unfreeze Panes. To turn it on, first put your cursor on a cell where you want to see what's both above and to the left all the time when you scroll. Then go to View, Freeze Panes. Then scroll around to see what it did. More than likely you didn't get it right the first time, so you'll have to try again.

The biggest tip of all is Excel's built-in "Goal Seek" function. With this, you can perform all of the "What if", scenario analysis, and "Goal Seeking" functions that any other financial planning software can do, plus dozens more that they can't. What it does is self-explanatory when you're in those dialog boxes. If you use such things, then you'll see it's a major Microsoft miracle that few users know is there - automatically just built-in for free!

When in a cell, if you don't start typing with a equal sign, then what's in the cell is just text (AKA a character text string). But if you start with an equal sign, then it's a formula. So after the equal sign, you just type what you want it to do. So if you want to add one to one, you'd just input: =1+1  Then when you press Enter, 2 is displayed.

When you want to use the result of formulas in cells in other cells, then you just reference them. So if you input =1+1 in call A1, and then want to add 1 to it in cell A2, then when in call A2, you'd just type: =A1+1

If you want to reference (Link) A1 that's in another workbook, then have both workbooks open, then when in cell A2, input the equal sign. Then switch over to the first workbook, click on cell A1, and then at the end input +1

When you do that, the second workbook will grab the resulting "2" from the first workbook, as long as you don't move, delete, or rename it. IF it gets confused, then go to Data, Edit Links, and check the status and/or update the links.

After manually setting the amount of decimal places that Excel rounds numbers to when it displays them, it still uses up to 21 decimal places in the calculations. So don't worry that it's only using the first decimal place in its calculations if you formatted it to display like that.

Since Y2K, Excel has had a hard time parsing years correctly. So if you input 6/30/14, Excel may sometimes think it's 6/30/1914. So instead, always input dates with the whole year types out, like this: 6/30/2014. This was fixed in Excel 2016.

About financial planning software integration (sharing data between modules).

Really, that's all there is to MS Excel! It's a major Microsoft miracle that sort of works like it should (for the most part) for a reasonable price (just like MS Word, Internet Explorer, and Expression Web - which is still FREE BTW!!!).

Tips for money advisors saving financial planning client computer files are here.

Basic input concept for most all of our Excel spreadsheets: Input your data into the green-shaded cells of the Input sheet(s) (usually grouped in the middle of the workbook).

This data will flow through the calculation sheets, on the right side of the workbook.

This will then populate the presentation sheets (usually grouped in the left of the workbook), where you look at the results.

Then you fix mistakes, repeat, format, print.

There is no password protection on presentation sheets, so you can make any changes you want to.

If a cell is not colored green, then it's not an input cell, so you won't be able (and shouldn't) to do anything with it (if it's not a presentation sheet). If you could, then you may end up damaging the spreadsheet, breaking it.

Delete all of the sample input (everything in green-shaded cells) before inputting your data.

About the copyright and text that has our site on it: You can just change them by going to Page Layout, click the tiny arrow box at the bottom right, then go to Header and Footer (then just delete everything using Custom Footer). Yes, for financial advisors, we say it's fine to delete all of the copyrights, and everything that says our firm when printing and/or presenting information to clients.

To Use These Excel-based Money Calculators, the User Should Already be Proficient in Basic Things Like:

• Knowing what sheet tabs are. These are the things at the bottom left of the workbook telling where stuff is - like pages in a book, where the book is the workbook; AKA spreadsheet. You should know how to move around from sheet to sheet within the same workbook.

• Opening and closing workbooks (spreadsheets).

• Saving workbooks with different names and folders (directories) using the Save As... command.

• Moving around from cell to cell (click or use the four arrow keys).

• Knowing what a cell is, and how to locate and enter information into cells (press F5 and then enter the cell address to go directly to a certain cell).

• Knowing how to copy (Control C) and paste (Control V) data from one place to another.

• Changing the view magnification slider at the bottom right to make sheets look right on your monitor.

• Changing the size, inserting, deleting, hiding, and unhiding columns and rows.

• Tinkering with page setup margins, and row and column sizes, to format sheets to print right on your printer.

• How to unprotect a sheet or a workbook.

• How to undo something you just did (Control Z or click the Undo icon).

• And be able to deal with simple formulas, like =sum(b1:b10), and know that this will add the contents of all of the cells from B1 through B10.

Users should familiarize themselves with the basics of using Excel before purchasing these financial tools.

Some money calculators also assume the user has basic knowledge in TVM (Time Value of Money) concepts, and basic principles of investments (e.g., why you wouldn’t enter a municipal bond as producing taxable income into an IRA, etc.). There are short explanations of TVM parameters on the free financial calculator pages.

Please try to find the answers to Windows, MS Office, Word, and Excel questions yourself before calling or e-mailing for support.

For Financial Professionals: How to E-mail Financial Plan Reports to Clients without Sending Working Programs

You probably don't want to e-mail working programs (Excel spreadsheets) to your clients, because then they won't need to hire you to do the work anymore.

About the copyright and text that has our site on it: You can just change them by going to Page Layout, click the tiny arrow box at the bottom right, then go to Header and Footer (then just delete everything using Custom Footer). Yes, for financial advisors, we say it's fine to delete all of the copyrights, and everything that says our firm when printing and/or presenting information to clients.

There are several ways to e-mail finished reports to clients without sending the working programs.

• You can use a PDF file maker. Once you have a program that prints to a PDF file (which is not easy to come by, unless you can get Adobe to work, and want to deal with its constant bandwidth-hogging updating process and littering its crapware everywhere oh your computer), it's as easy as selecting a printer when you click Print...

Foxit Software: Out of the many PDF makers, printers, editors, and organizers I've have to deal with over the decades, this is by far the best. Your computer will thank you big time for eradicating as much as possible from Adobe from your PC.

You basically choose to print to the PDF file maker program. So you'd print all of the presentation pages, then name and save the PDF file when closing.

Then you e-mail the PDF file to the client. Then they open it with their PDF Reader, which most computers have (because MS usually includes it's lame buggy Reader, STILL with no close box at the top right, with Windows 8.x).

• The next method is to insert screen prints into a Word document.

In Excel, with the program up and ready to go, get the finished results to display on your monitor.

Then press the Print Screen key (usually toward the right at the top row of function keys). This copies what's on your monitor into the Windows Clipboard. Then you go to a new blank document in MS Word, and paste (Control V).

We like to first format the docx without margins and in landscape. This works a lot better if you do it before the first paste. Then Control A and center everything. Save.

What's on your monitor then pastes as an image into the Word docx. Then you can right click and save it as an image file too.

Then go to Insert, Break, Page Break so the images don't pile up on one another, and repeat until all of the results are in one document. Then you just e-mail the Word document.

This works great, but the image has what's on your monitor, which includes the frame of Excel. Try it and see.

• The next option is to make a new spreadsheet and paste all of the results into it, and then e-mail that spreadsheet. How to do that:

When you have the finished version of the program all done, go to cell A1.

Then open up a new spreadsheet (Control N). Go to cell A1. Save and name it something relevant to the client, like Smith's Retirement Plan.

Then go back to the program, and the sheet with the results you want to send.

Press Control A, to select the whole sheet. MS broke that function in Excel '07+, so click the cell to the top left of the intersection of column A and row 1. Then press Control C to copy everything to the clipboard. Then go to the new workbook.

Don't paste here! You'll need to use the Paste Special function. So either right click in the blank sheet and then choose Paste Special, then click on Values, then OK. Or go to the Edit menu and do the same.

After you paste just the values, you'll also have to repeat that step in the process, but this time choose, Formats. Then repeat, pasting special Column Widths.

The point is that you want to Paste Special, Values only so just the results paste, and not the formulas. If you paste formulas, then they won't work on the client's computer (because the formulas will be referencing the program's spreadsheet, which is only on your computer).

Just the results will paste, so then you can e-mail that spreadsheet.

Be sure to delete all of the copyright and other references to tools for money as you don't want questions from that. That's also in the footer, so delete it from there too.

• This next method strips all of the guts out of the program, so you can just send the results. It's similar to the method above, but some find it to be more work.

When you have your work done, save the spreadsheet. Now save it again using a different file name so you won't alter the working version.

Go to the results sheet(s) you want to send. Go to cell A1.

Press Control A, to select the whole sheet. MS broke that function in Excel '07+, so click the cell to the top left of the intersection of column A and row 1.

Then press Control C to copy everything to the clipboard. That doesn't work in Excel '07, so click the cell to the top left of the intersection of column A and row 1. Then press Control C to copy everything to the clipboard.

Use the Paste Special function. Right click in the sheet and then choose Paste Special, then click on Values, then OK. Then repeat, pasting special Column Widths. This deleted all of the formulas and replaced them with just the results.

Do that for all of the result sheets you want to send.

Now right click on the sheet tabs one at a time, for all of the input, calculation, and result sheets you don't want to send. Click Delete. This will delete the whole sheet from the workbook.

If you did it right, then all of the working parts of the programs have been deleted, and the result sheets didn't change because they don't have any formulas that refer to the deleted sheets.

Save and e-mail.

Generic Windows-based personal computer tips are here

Financial Planning Software Modules For Sale
(are listed below)

Financial Planning Software that's Fully-Integrated
(the IFP is the NaviPlan alternative for 1/6th the price)

Goals-Only "Financial Planning Software"
(the MoneyGuidePro alternative for 1% of their price)

Retirement Planning Software Menu: Something for Everyone
(the RWRs, RP, and SRP)

Comprehensive Asset Allocation Software

Model Portfolio Allocations with Historical Returns

Monthly-updated ETF and Mutual Fund Picks

DIY Investment Portfolio Benchmarking Program

Financial Planning Fact Finders for Financial Planners Gathering Data from Clients

Investment Policy Statement Software (IPS)

Life Insurance Calculator (AKA Capital Needs Analysis Software)

Bond Calculators for Duration, Convexity, YTM, Accretion, and Amortization

Investment Software for Comparing the 27 Most Popular Methods of Investing

Rental Real Estate Investing Software

Net Worth Calculator (Balance Sheet Maker) and 75-year Net Worth Projector

College Savings Calculator

Financial Seminar Covering Retirement Planning and Investment Management

Sales Tools for Financial Adviser Marketing

Personal Budget Software and 75-year Cash Flow Projector

TVM Financial Tools and Financial Calculators

Our Unique Financial Services
(are listed below)

We're Fee-only Money Managers: So you can hire us to manage your money, and/or financial advisers can hire us to manage client money, using our Model Portfolios and/or Asset Allocation Systems

Mr. Market Timer's Unique Market-neutral Stock Market Timing Services
(the hedge fund alternative)

Consulting Services: Hire Us to Make Your Financial Plan, Retirement Plan, Benchmarking Report, Whatever

Buy or Sell a Financial Planning Practice

Miscellaneous Pages of Interest
(are listed below)

Primer Tutorial to Learn the Basics of Financial Planning Software

About the Department of Labor's New Fiduciary Rules

Using Asset Allocation to Manage Money

Download Brokerage Data into Spreadsheets

How to Integrate Financial Planning Software Modules to Share Data

CRM and Portfolio Management Software

About Monte Carlo Simulators

About Efficient Frontier Portfolio Optimizers

Calculating Your Investment Risk Tolerance

About Discount Brokers for DIY Money Management

About 401(k) Plan Management

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