Finance Student Asks for Advice: Modeling / Spreadsheet Creation Tips and Best Practices for Excel?

I’ve started a grad school program in finance, and while I’m currently learning the basics, I will eventually start to do some financial modelling.

That leads me to a few questions for the Tiller community: i.) What advice would you give someone who’s learning how to model in MS Excel? ii.) What are some of the functionalities that you wish Excel had that Google Sheets does have, and are there ways around these shortcomings? iii.) What are some of the more essential functions in Excel (besides TVM functions) that I ought to get under my belt? iv.) Any best practices or other advice that you’d like to share to a budding modeler?

There’s a lot of really capable folks out there in the Tiller Community, and I thought I’d pick your brains so that I can keep your advice in mind when learning how to model. This should pay dividends in return, because I hope that I can take some of the ideas or spreadsheets that are currently in Sheets and convert them into quality Excel products. That should benefit the Tiller community on the whole.

I can’t wait to hear your advice, opinions, and ideas for best practices!

@Kathryn @jono @heather @Blake

Sorry @SpreadsheetNerd ,
I can’t be of much help here. I haven’t used Excel in a very long time. Google Sheets does pretty much everything and then some, included Tiller, that I need.

Sure Excel has its big fans, and I’ve heard it can do very advanced things.

Both really are just tools. The question is what problems are you trying to solve. And then, what’s the right tool to help you solve the problem.

You probably don’t want to use a spreadsheet to build a website (well, with Glide and others), you largely can.

But for financial modeling, I think both Google Sheets and Excel will serve you just fine. Look at the formulas in Tiller sheets that you might want to build something similar to. Start to understand how they work and then try building what you want for yourself.


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Oh, this is still quite helpful. It’s really good to get others’ perspectives so that I can learn how to do this more efficiently and effectively. Thank you!

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@SpreadsheetNerd - these are great questions!

i. Come up with something that is really interesting to you, research other examples, and build it from scratch. For example, if you really want to learn how to model factors that affect real estate purchase decisions (IRR, costs, how vacancy rates, repairs, different appreciation levels, etc.), find an example, then build it yourself. It will take you a while, but you can google each piece and formula and learn a ton in the process.

ii. There are a couple of functions I use frequently in Google Sheets: GoogleTranslate (because I live abroad), GoogleFinance (to find current stock price and for currency conversions). Also, it’s much easier to link between separate workbooks in Google versus Excel, sharing with others, and collaborating through comments/edits. Collaboration is better with Excel365, but there isn’t the same capability for advanced formulas. I also love the efficiency focus that Google has in connecting everything (like this Smart Canvas feature Tiller highlighted in a blog post earlier this year).

iii. INDEX(MATCH() functions are essential, as are IF and IFS. Also, everything in Ben Collin’s advanced formulas course (free).

iv. You can do it!

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This is great advice. Thank you! Hopefully, this info will help out other potential modelers out there in the Tiller Community. :slight_smile:

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I think google sheets query formula is so powerful. It basically makes a spreadsheet into a database. In addition, the ability to array formulas to auto filll down is much better than excels capability. Good luck


Thank, @richl ! I’m going to have to look up what this query formula is to start off with; this is intriguing.

@SpreadsheetNerd take a look at this site he has great info on the query commands.

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Thanks @richl ! I’ll indeed take a look at this!