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Welcome to the world of financial modelling.

Its easiest to work out the formulas for your spreadsheet with a bond fund. They usually pay a fixed dividend per share each month. Then you can easily work out what your account balance is in terms of number of shares and what its value is. Then you can back calculate what your rate of return is for your own purposes.

In order to mimic the return figures published on say Yahoo, you should take the value of one share on Jan 1, add all of the distributions for the period, and then compare that with the value per share in the end to get an investment experience value. That should mimic the Yahoo value, except that sometimes Yahoo numbers do not include expense ratio, 12b1 fees, loads, etc, that get charged to real investors, but are excluded for comparison purposes.

Note that the Yahoo chart numbers are per share numbers and ignore the effects of distributions, each of which reduces NAV, but usually results in more shares for investors who reinvest their distributions.

Hence, it will be almost impossible to exactly reproduce the numbers that Yahoo gets in your account--especially if you are constantly adding new money. Those funds get invested over the year at a variety of share prices and hence will differ due to price variations from the official fund return figures.

The numbers you generate in your spreadsheet are only a guide. Obviously they are the most important numbers, because plenty of companies publish gains that never make it into your account somehow. You want to keep an eye out for investments that perform as expected.

Fool on!! You are definitely asking the right questions. Keep at it.
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