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For nearly 20 years, since the emergence of PCs, Lotus 1-2-3, and Microsoft Excel in the 1980's, spreadsheet models have been the dominant vehicles for finance professionals in the business world to implement their financial knowledge. Yet even today, most Corporate Finance textbooks rely on calculators as the primary tool and have little (if any) coverage of how to build spreadsheet models. This book fills that gap. It teaches students how to build financial models in Excel. It provides step-by-step instructions so that students can build models themselves (active learning), rather than handing students canned "templates" (passive learning). It progresses from simple examples to practical, real-world applications. It spans nearly all quantitative models in corporate finance.
Why I Wrote This Book
My goal is simply to change finance education from being calculator based to being spreadsheet modeling based. This change will better prepare students for the 21st century business world. This change will increase student satisfaction in the classroom by allowing more practical, real-world applications and by enabling a more hands-on, active learning approach.
There are many features which distinguish this book from anything else on the market:
- Teach By Example. I believe that the best way to learn spreadsheet modeling is by working through examples and completing a lot of problems. This book fully develops this hands-on, active learning approach. Active learning is a well-established way to increase student learning and student satisfaction with the course / instructor. When students build financial models themselves, they really "get it." As I tell my students, "If you build it, you will learn."
- Supplement For All Popular Corporate Finance Textbooks. This book is a supplement to be combined with a primary textbook. This means that you can keep using whatever textbook you like best. You don't have to switch. It also means that you can take an incremental approach to incorporating spreadsheet modeling. You can start modestly and build up from there. Alternative notation versions are available that match the notation of all popular corporate finance textbooks.
- Plain Vanilla Excel. Other books on the market emphasize teaching students programming using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) or using macros. By contrast, this book does everything in plain vanilla Excel. Although programming is liked by a minority of students, it is seriously disliked by the majority. Plain vanilla Excel has the advantage of being a very intuitive, user-friendly environment that is accessible to all. It is fully capable of handling a wide range of applications, including quite sophisticated ones. Further, your students already know the basics of Excel and nothing more is assumed. Students are assumed to be able to enter formulas in a cell and to copy formulas from one cell to another. All other features of Excel (graphing, built-in functions, Solver, etc.) are explained as they are used.
- Build From Simple Examples To Practical, Real-World Applications. The general approach is to start with a simple example and build up to a practical, real-world application. In many chapters, the previous spreadsheet model is carried forward to the next more complex model. For example, the chapter on binomial option pricing carries forward spreadsheet models as follows: (a.) single-period model with replicating portfolio, (b.) eight-period model with replicating portfolio, (c.) eight-period model with risk-neutral probabilities, (d.) full-scale, fifty-period model with volatilities estimated from real returns data. Whenever possible, this book builds up to full-scale, practical applications using real data. Students are excited to learn practical applications that they can actually use in their future jobs. Employers are excited to hire students with spreadsheet modeling skills, who can be more productive faster.
- A Change In Content Too. Spreadsheet modeling is not merely a new medium, but an opportunity to cover some unique content items which require computer support to be feasible. For example, the full-scale, real data spreadsheet model in Corporate Financial Planning uses three years of historical l OK data on Nike, Inc. (including every line of their income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement), constructs a complete financial system (including linked financial ratios), and projects these financial statements three years into the future. The spreadsheet model in Life-Cycle Financial Planning includes a detailed treatment of federal and state tax schedules, social Security taxes and benefits, etc., which permit the realistic exploration savings, retirement, and investments choices over a lifetime. The spreadsheet model in US Yield Curve Dynamics shows you 30 years of monthly US yield curve history in just a few minutes. The spreadsheet model in Three Valuation Techniques demonstrates the equivalence of the Adjusted Present Value, Flows To Equity, and the Weighte9Average Cost of Capital methods, not just in the perpetuity case covered by most textbooks, but for a fully general two-stage project with an arbitrary set of cash flows over an explicit forecast horizon, followed by a infinite horizon perpetuity. As a practical matter, all of these sophisticated applications require spreadsheet modeling.
Conventions Used In This Book
This book uses a number of conventions.
- Time Goes Across The Columns And Variables Go Down The Rows. When something happens over time, I let each column represent a period of time. For example in capital budgeting, year 0 is in column B, year 1 is in column C, year 2 is in column D, etc. Each row represents a different variable, which is usually a labeled in column A. This manner of organizing spreadsheets is so common because it is how financial statements are organized.
- Color Coding. A standard color scheme is used to clarify the structure of the spreadsheet models. The printed book uses: (1) light gray shading for input values, (2) no shading (i.e. white) for throughput formulas, and (3) dark gray shading for final results ("the bottom line"). The accompanying electronic version of the book (a PDF file) uses: (1) yellow shading for input values, (2) no shading (i.e. white) for throughput formulas, and (3 green shading for final results ("the bottom line"). A few spreadsheets include choice variables. Choice variables use medium gray shading in the printed book and blue shading in the electronic version.
- The Time Line Technique. The most natural technique for discounting cash flows in a spreadsheet model is the time line technique, where each column corresponds to a period of time. The time line technique handles the general case of the discount rate changing over time just as easily as the special case of a constant discount rate. Typically one does have some information about the time pattern of the riskfree rate from the term structure of interest rates. Even just adding a constant risk premium, yields a time pattern of discount rates. There is no reason to throw this information away, when it is just as easy to incorporate it into a spreadsheet. I use the time line technique and the general case of changing discount rates throughout the capital budgeting spreadsheet models.
- Explicit Inflation Rate. A standard error in capital budgeting is to treat the cash flow projections and discount rate determination as if they came from separate planets with no relationship to each other. If the implicit inflation rate in the cash flow projection differs from the implicit inflation rate in the discount rate, then the analysis is inconsistent. The simple fix is to explicitly forecast the inflation rate and use this forecast in both the cash flow projection and the discount rate determination. The capital budgeting spreadsheet models teach this good modeling practice.
- Dynamic Charts. Dynamic charts allow you to see such things as a "movie" of the Term Structure of Interest Rates moves over time or an "animated graph" of how increasing the volatility of an underlying stock increases the value of an option. Dynamic charts are a combination of an up/down arrow (a "spinner") to rapidly change an input and a chart to rapidly display the changing output. I invented dynamic charts back in 1995 and I have included many examples of this useful educational tool throughout this book.
I challenge the readers of this book to dramatically improve your finance education by personally constructing all 53 spreadsheet models in all 20 chapters of this book. This will take you about 27 to 53 hours depending on your current spreadsheet skills. Let me assure you that it will be an excellent investment. You will:
- gain a practical understanding of the core concepts of Corporate Finance,
- develop hands-on, spreadsheet modeling skills, and
- build an entire suite of finance applications, which you fully understand.
When you complete this challenge, I invite you to send an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share the good news. Please tell me your name, school, (prospective) graduation year, and which spreadsheet modeling book you completed. I will add you to a web-based honor roll at:
We can celebrate together!
The Spreadsheet Modeling Series
This book is part a series of book/CDs on Spreadsheet Modeling by Craig W. Holden, published by Prentice Hall. The series includes:
- Spreadsheet Modeling in Corporate Finance,
- Spreadsheet Modeling in the Fundamentals of Corporate Finance,
- Spreadsheet Modeling in Investments, and
- Spreadsheet Modeling in the Fundamentals of Investments.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.