How to use Goal Seek and solver in Excel 2016?

How to use Goal Seek and solver in Excel 2016

Goal seek and solver in Microsoft Excel 2016 are two very important functions. These two help us to perform some back calculations. Among these two, Goal Seek is the simpler one. So let’s start with the Goal Seek function.

I will demonstrate the use of Goal Seek with a very practical example. Every one of us wants to know the future value of their investment amount. And also how much they should invest to reach their goal.

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There are lots of online tools available to calculate this. Here we will use the formula for compound interest. We know that our investment either in Bank deposits or the market earns compound interest.

Compound interest means annual interest gets accumulated with the principal amount and next time the interest is calculated on this increased amount.

For example, if we invest Rs 100.00 and gets a 10% interest in the first year, in the next year the principal amount becomes Rs 110.00. So the interest in the next year is 10% of Rs 110.00 that is Rs 11.00, it also gets added with the principal amount (Rs 110.00+11=Rs 121.00) and the process goes on.

See the below screenshot from my excel spreadsheet. It contains the formula for calculating the return from compound interest. Let’s take an example where we assumed an annual interest of 7% and want to know the future value of Rs 10000.00 invested for a period of 10 years.

Use of Goal Seek in Excel 2016

Calculating return on investment

Now what if we want to know how much we need to invest in order to get a return of Rs 25000.00 keeping other conditions same. Here we need to back calculate the investment amount using Goal Seek.

You can find the Goal Seek option in the “What-If Analysis” under the Data tab of Microsoft Excel. It has three fields which we need to fill. See the below figure to understand the process.

We need the Future Value of cell B5 to be 25000. So the “Set Cell” is B5, “To Value” is 25000 and we want to change the value of cell B2.

Using Goal Seek in Excel

Now click “OK” to know the investment amount. Now we know that we need to invest Rs 12708.73 (the cell was not set to 2 decimal places) to become Rs 25000.00 in 10 years with an interest rate of 7%.

Result of Goal Seek

Again if we want to know how many years it takes to make the same amount Rs 10000.00 to Rs 25000.00 with 7% interest. We need to use Goal Seek and will change the cell B4. See the below image, now we know that we have to keep the amount invested for 14 years.

Another example of Goal Seek

But the problem with Goal Seek is that it can not be used for changing more than one variables. It is for simple calculations. If we have a more complex situation and needs several variables to be changed to at the same time, we need to use Solver.

So, lets know how Solver functions with an example.

Use of Solver in Excel 2016

Solver” is not a default application in Excel and comes as an Add-in. You have to add it to make the option appear under the “Data” tab. Follow the steps as shown in the screenshots below to add this Add-in.

Go to “File” and then click “Options” to open Excel Options page.

Opening Excel options

In Excel Options, go to Add-ins and click on “Go...” to open the window containing list of available Add-ins. Now select “Solver Add-in” and click OK.

Activating Solver Add-in

Now check if the Solver Add-in has been added under the Data tab.

Solver Add-in under Data tab

Application of Solver Add-in

Now to see the application of Solver, let’s take another simple yet practical example. Below I have shown a small stock portfolio created in Excel. Here I have calculated the total invested amount of some stocks with some hypothetical prices. As shown the invested amount has been calculated by multiplying the cost with the stocks quantity.

The total amount stands as Rs. 202660.00. But I want to invest Rs 40000.00. So my goal is to calculate the quantity of some stocks lying within a specified range. And the constraints for this calculation are also mentioned in the below image.

The example data set and constrain

Like Goal Seek, Solver also needs to input the “Objective cell” and “Variable cells” where we want to change the values. See the screenshot below where I have shown how to mention the cells as per our requirement. The value field has 40000 as we want to invest Rs 40000.00 in total.

Application of Solver

In the “Add Constraint” field, you need to provide the cell reference and their specific “Constraint“. They need to be provided one by one and finally they are added to the “Subject to the constraints” field. See the image below to understand the process.

Adding constrains in Solver

Now click “Solve” and then if Solver is able to find a solution for your problem, the next window appears where you need to confirm the change by clicking OK.

Now you have the number of stocks and their costs which you can buy within your budget of Rs 40000.00.

Changed values with Solver

I hope the article will help you understand how to use both Goal Seek and Solver in Excel 2016. Please comment below if you have any questions or doubts regarding the article.