Goal Seeking

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 2, 2013)

Excel includes a tool that makes it very easy to play "what if" by making changes in a variable. While you could make the changes manually, it is much easier to allow Excel to adjust the variable for you to reach a desired result.

For instance, let's suppose that you want to calculate how much money you will need to deposit in a savings account for each of 24 months in order to have $2,500 there at the end of the two years. You know the interest rate, but you are not sure of the amount. You put together a very, very simple future value calculator. In cell B4 is your deposit amount (unknown right now), cell B5 contains your interest rate 3.25% (nobody said this was a stellar investment vehicle), and cell B6 is the number of months (24). In cell B7 you enter the actual formula for the future value calculation, as follows:

= -FV(B5,B6,B4)

If you wanted to determine how much you needed to deposit in the account each month, you could repeatedly change the deposit value (cell B4) until you got close to the desired goal. This is where the goal seeking tool comes in, however. Follow these steps:

  1. Select the Future Value cell (the one at B7).
  2. Choose Goal Seek from the Tools menu. This displays the Goal Seek dialog box. The Set Sell field is already set to B7, which is the cell you selected in step 1.
  3. Move the insertion point to the To Value field and change it to 2500. This is the amount you want to have at the end of two years.
  4. Move the insertion point to the By Changing Cell field and use the mouse to click on cell B4 (the cell that will contain your regular deposit amounts).
  5. Click on the OK button. Excel lets you know it has found a solution.
  6. Click on OK. Your worksheet is changed to reflect the solution found.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2008) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Hiding Graphics

Graphics are a great addition to a worksheet, but there may be times when you don't want them printed. The easy way to handle ...

Discover More

Extracting Proper Words

If you've got a list of potential words, and you want to know which of those potential words are real, you'll appreciate the ...

Discover More

Searching for Formatting

When searching for text, Word can pay attention to more than just the characters in the text. It can also pay attention to ...

Discover More

Save Time and Supercharge Excel! Automate virtually any routine task and save yourself hours, days, maybe even weeks. Then, learn how to make Excel do things you thought were simply impossible! Mastering advanced Excel macros has never been easier. Check out Excel 2010 VBA and Macros today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Using Stored Views

After creating different views of your worksheet data, you can display those views by simply selecting which one you want to ...

Discover More

Inserting a Sound File in Your Worksheet

Some worksheets are better understood through the spoken word or with musical accompaniment. Sound files can be easily ...

Discover More

AutoFilling from a Custom List

AutoFill can be a real timesaver if you often work with set lists of data. You can define your own custom lists and then use ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is two less than 2?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.