Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to "beat the market"?
Beating the market means generating a better return on your money than you otherwise would if you had simply invested in market bond and stock funds. A market stock fund would be one that tracks well-known large-cap or wide market index such as the S&P 500, Russell 3000 or Wilshire 5000. In the case of bond funds there is not a long history of well known indices so I would consider any intermediate term bond fund with low fees, low turn-over and fairly wide basket to represent the bond market. Your ratio of stocks to bonds depends on your own personal risk profile.

How does this website help me determine if I am beating the market?
If you are like most investors you probably didn't invest all your money on a single day. Instead you periodically deposited money to your investment account and sometimes took money out when you needed it. When you sum up all these deposits and withdrawals that tells you exactly how much money you've put into the market over the years. What is more difficult to determine is what your account would be worth today had you chosen to invest in index funds instead of whatever investment choices you, or your broker, actually made. That's where this website can help.

By supplying data describing cash transactions this website will calculate the results of imaginary trades as if you had chosen to invest your money in index funds. You can compare the resulting value to your current portfolio value to see if you are in fact beating the market.

How do I submit my cash transactions, and what is a CSV file?
To submit your cash transactions you may enter your transactions manually using the input fields with the date and the amount of money you deposited (also sometimes called contributed) or withdrew. If you have more than a few transactions you can save time by submitting a CSV file. CSV stands for 'comma separated values' and it is nothing more than a plain text file with a header and rows of data separated by commas. You can open a CSV file in any text editor on your computer such as NotePad or WordPad on Windows, or TextEdit on Mac OS X. Spreadsheet programs such as Excel are also able to open and save CSV files.

Your transaction CSV file needs to have the following: the first line of text should be a header. The header must have a date column containing either the word "date" or "time". The header must also have a cash amount column contain containing the word "amount" or "total" or "cost". Other columns are okay and will be ignored. Each row after the header row represents a single cash transaction. Make sure that the CSV file does not contain other types of transactions such as stock buys and sells, or interest and dividends. This website will do it's best to find the input columns and parse the dates and amounts. Click here to download a sample cash transaction CSV file.

What funds are you using to calculate the returns for the market portfolio?
At this time I am using the mutual fund VFINX for stocks (Google Finance, Yahoo Finance) and VFSTX for bonds (Google Finance, Yahoo Finance). These were chosen because they either track an index or follow a generally accepted conservative allocation strategy for their asset class and have reasonably low fees. Also they have been around since the mid-1980s which provides enough data for portfolios up to 30 years old. These funds are not being endorsed or recommended in any way, they are simply being used to represent the "market".

What assumptions are made in performing the calculations?
This site assumes that each trade costs $10.00. It assumes that dividends are reinvested and there is no cost to do so. It does not account for taxes which need to be paid.

I have more questions.
If you are interested in this site, want to request a feature, found a bug, or just find this site useful send an e-mail to:

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What's the story behind this site?
I created this site in 2011. The first goal was to figure out if I was beating market, numerous web searches produced no decent tools able to answer this question with any degree of certainty that the answer being produced was based on real and sound calculations. The second goal was build and launch a fully functional website as a learning experience and in an effort to help others answer the same question. I'm a software engineer by trade, look me up at