How to record your ETF transactions

I find it useful to keep a ledger of all my ETF transactions. This has been immensely valuable for me for the following reasons:

  • I have changed brokers a few times but I can go to my personal record to see the details of transactions I’ve made years ago. How likely is it that you will stay with the same broker for 40 years?
  • Brokers occasionally don’t have a great way to visualize information. For example, some brokers don’t accurately show the impact of fees on your returns. You can use your own record of transactions to visualize information in an accurate way.
  • It might be useful for tax purposes to keep a record of transactions in a certain format which may different of the format of the yearly/quarterly report brokers typically send.
  • If you have assets across different taxable and non taxable accounts, a personal ledger can give you an integrated view of your portfolio.
  • Your own portfolio ledger is the foundation upon which you can create detailed analysis and tracking for your portfolio

I record every single ETF transaction that affects my portfolio – dividend, buy, sell, fee, deposit, withdrawal. I record the following aspects of each transaction:

  • Date the transaction happened
  • Total amount
  • Price per share – for buy/sell transactions only
  • Amount of shares – for buy/sell transactions only
  • Fee amount – for buy/sell transactions only
  • Currency of the transaction
  • Name of the ETF – additional info of the ETF may also be recorded like the ISIN or Ticker.
  • Broker in which the transaction happened
  • Transaction type – buy, sell, fee, dividend

You may use a spreadsheet to record your ETF transactions. A spreadsheet gives you the flexibility to record any data you want and to present it how you need it. The only downside of spreadsheet is that they require more discipline to maintain and patience to extend.

When I started investing I used a spreadsheet to record my transactions. I’ve since changed to dedicated software because I was too lazy to extend its functionality to my needs. Currently I use Portfolio Performance, a great (free) application that fulfills all my needs. Check out my detailed guide on how to use Portfolio Performance.