A Simple Way to Track Dividend Income

Focus: DIVIDEND

John Heinzl Image John Heinzl Reporter and Columnist, GlobeInvestor.com

Building a spreadsheet is not as daunting as it seems—and a good starting point for loading up your portfolio might be specialized ETFs, writes John Heinzl, reporter and columnist for Globe Investor.

Last week's column, Seven Lessons I've Learned as a Dividend Investor, prompted a great deal of reader feedback.

Some of you wanted to know more about the spreadsheet I use to track my dividend income. Others asked if there are any dividend investing books I would recommend, or if I could provide a list of the best dividend-paying companies. I'll do my best to answer your questions.

Can you tell me more about your dividend spreadsheet?

First, I should point out that I am no spreadsheet expert. A few years ago, I walked out in the middle of an Excel training class because I had managed to turn my entire screen pink, and couldn't figure out how to restore it to black and white. I ended up teaching myself. So if I can do this stuff, you can, too.

The beauty of using a spreadsheet, as opposed to a pencil and a calculator, is that if you buy more shares or if a company raises its dividend, you can enter the new information and your dividend income will update automatically. What's more, by focusing on your dividends you'll be less inclined to panic when the market plunges.

Any spreadsheet program will do. I prefer the one from Google Docs, because it's free and accessible from any computer. You'll need to register for a Gmail account, and then use your Gmail address and a password to log in to Google Docs.

Once you've done that, click on the "create" button and select "spreadsheet."

You can make your spreadsheet as simple or as complex as you wish.