Monitoring Year to Date 401k Performance

I wrote recently that I am trying to be more active and vigilant in managing our retirement investment holdings. In particular, I want to be sure that (a) there is a reason that we own each of the particular investments in our portfolio and (b) that I have targets for selling if necessary. Part of the vigilance is monitoring the performance of our portfolio in comparison to overall market conditions. If and when the market tanks, I don’t want our portfolio to suffer an identical fate.

Recently, our 401(k) plan provider has made my monitoring job easier. On our “account summary” page, the system automatically displays a year-to-date personal rate of return for the entire account. This includes returns from holdings in the self-managed brokerage account portion and from funds still held in the base account. (These are invested funds that I have not yet transferred to the brokerage account.)

I logged in this morning and saw that our YTD return was +2.36%. Ordinarily this would be nothing to get excited about. However, when I note that the Dow is down 0.81% during the same period, I feel better. At this stage of our investing life, I would rather see slow and steady increases in our retirement nest egg compared to wild positive and negative gyrations.

Another portfolio monitoring metric I consider is the day’s change in value of all of our investments. I use a Google Docs spreadsheet to do this. One of the standard investment return functions available as a formula in a Google Docs spreadsheet is “day change” in value.

Most retirement investing experts will tell you that monitoring day to day changes in value is not a meaningful or productive activity. Generally, I agree. However, on days when the markets move sharply (like yesterday), I like to see how the overall value of our investments moves in comparison. So, on a day that the Dow fell 2.22%, the dollar value of our investments actually increased by $4,028. We can thank VIPSX, BWX and LTPZ for this outcome.

So how is your portfolio doing so far this year? Does your 401k plan provider give you useful information to monitor this?


  1. Paul says

    If you are making $4028 daily from your investments, why are you still working?
    $120k/month, 1.44 million a year? I could easily live on that…

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