Quinn survived with only seat-of-the-pants financial tools using arithmetic and no sheets 

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AUTHOR: R Quinn on 7/08/2024

Math was never my strong subject. In high school I never took algebra or anything beyond arithmetic- there is an archaic word for you. When I ventured into college many years later I had to take a non-credit course in algebra to get accepted. Years later calculus was required. I liked the course so much I took it twice. It didn’t matter that the professor barely spoke English. I didn’t understand her or the subject.

Here I am 55 years later and still looking for an occasion to use algebra or calculus. There was one time I wish I had paid attention though. 

I was presenting a executive compensation plan to the company Chairman. He was using a whiteboard to analyze what I was proposing. There were formulas all over the place. I finally gave up the charade and admitted I had no idea what he was talking about. Good thing it was the year before I retired. 

This leads me to the fascination with spreadsheets for personal finance and retirement planning. Back in the day I had a modest ability to use Excel. A few years ago I actually attempted to track our spending using Numbers on my iPad. I concluded it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t intuitively know – we lived well within our means – which to me simply means we saved adequately and never carried credit card debt. 

Besides, I had to keep entering stuff to make the spreadsheet do anything. If I tried to project the future, the assumptions were all up to me – and I kept changing them. I figured out you could achieve any goal with just a tweak to you assumptions. Annual rate of return? Click up. Inflation rate? Click down 🤑

My hat is off to those who like spreadsheets, even calculus. No doubt spreadsheets provide a measure of comfort, perhaps a reassurance about their financial future – or it’s nearly hobby. If you happened to be an engineer, I understand. 

For me going into my bank app tells me how I spent money last month via charges, direct bill withdrawals, checks (very few)  and ATM use. It doesn’t know how I used the cash withdrawals, but does it matter?

Perhaps my dislike for and skill deficiency with math is the reason I like money stuff simple and high level. So far the seat-of-the-pants approach has served me well. 

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