Looking for advice on financial calculators


Hi all,

I'm thinking of buying a financial calculator. I have basically ignored financial planning for most of my life, living from day to day as they say, but I'd like to take control of these things a bit more, and being a geek, buying a new calculator seems a nice way to usher in this new era. ;-)

I'm inclined to get an HP-12C, being a fan of old-school HP calculators, but I'm also interested in hearing what others have to say about the relative merits of other models. I'd also be interested in financial packages for the HP-48G, or even for PCs.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


- Thomas


Get the 17bii. There are more functions than the 12c and can be both RPN or Alg. for those so inclined. While not programmable, the 17bii is a superior calculator. I personally like it better because:

1) The speed can't be beat 
2) It can print to an IR printer
3) Interest rates are ANNUAL rates rather than periodic rates.
4) Cashflows are much easier to enter and manipulate
5) Two line display
6) much more memory
7) Closest financial calc to a 42s
8) much quieter keyboard (less colors and shift keys).

The last point will be refuted because the 17bii many submenus replaced the keyboard-accessible 12c features, but I would estimate most folks here don't use keyboard laden features of the double-shift models (12c, 32sii, 48gx) for every day calculations.

...financial packages for the HP-48G, or even for PCs...

Forgot to mention.. the 48G has TVM (Time value of money) native under SOLVE -> TVM. That is by and large the only useful 'financial' feature for those outside banking/brokerage profession. All the other Bond Values, ROI, SOYD, percents, and depreciation ... are trivial formulae for engineers/computer scientists to remember, even if used infrequently. (Besides, if you need the latter features more than once a year you are into TAX planning, not Financial planning and no calculator will make that painless!!! GRIN!)

Regarding PC packages, MS Excel is also fully equipped with TVM features, that is if you can stomach the help files. The few that are not there can be added with a quick VBA SUB.

Edited: 4 Aug 2007, 9:54 p.m.



You beat me to it :)

I agree - get the 17Bii. For all your reasons

BUT you left out the best reason:


Of course being a classic Pioneer helps also.



BUT you left out the best reason:...THE SOLVER!!

oops, I had this in my original note and must have deleted it when correcting some things.. Yes you are correct. That was mentioned even above my list as the best feature..even though I don't use it as much as the TVM menu. Well said!


Allen, thanks for your detailed reply! One question, though: are you talking specifically about the 17bii, or also the 17bii+? I noticed the former seems to be pretty easily available still, and it has a higher rating on Amazon.com.

Being an HP-42S fan, I like the looks of the 17bii, but I would imagine the 17bii+ will be faster... Not sure that would be important, though...

(I also noticed that the picture of the 17bii+ on the Office Depot web site looks different from the one on HP's web site. The Office Depot version has a different color scheme and a double-width INPUT key. Strange! I wonder which one is newer?)

- Thomas

Edited: 4 Aug 2007, 10:10 p.m.


"The golden wart" That is what I call the 17bii+. AKA Cheap Chinese piece of excrement. I strongly recommend against getting one. Therein you will find repeats of the mistakes learned from the 10b to 10bii transition (including an awful keyboard).. This is a relic of the dark days of HP. I have nearly half-decade gap in my collection from that same period (49g, 17bii+, 10bII...) because I was not a fan or patron during that brief time due to poor QC.

I have no experience with the NEW, new design with the double width key.. some folks are going to get frustrated when trying to buy a NEW grey one when they end up with "the golden wart" instead.. HP should have just changed the model number. (This is worse than the Confusing Clamshell Controversy between 18B business consultant -> 19b business consultant II -> 19bii- Business consultant II)

Edited: 4 Aug 2007, 10:35 p.m.


i would agree with all the 17bii reasons and the 17bii+ reasons. ie don't get a 17bii+ !

however, you might consider getting instead a 19bii. these can be had for a reasonable price in very good condition often with all the manuals. i always thought the 19 was a bit silly until i got one, after that i found out how cool it is. you have to be a bit of a fan of the clamshell style though:

case for the 19:

  • not silly priced
  • clearer screen (the 17bii screen can be a bit faint)
  • 4 lines of display
  • scientific functions
  • +/-e499 exponents.
  • alpha keyboard= much easier to program
  • more memory
  • able to _really_ use the solver
  • suave :-)


You are right on these three regarding the pros of the 19bii

    * 4 lines of display
* scientific functions
* alpha keyboard= much easier to program

But the other points..

not silly priced

a 19bii in in similar condition and sold in a similar manner sells for at least twice a 17bii

clearer screen (the 17bii screen can be a bit faint)

This is often a contrast issue and can be adjusted on both models by pressing the [ON] key and either [+] or [-]. Since they are both LCD, it is not possible to have true contrast were 1= BLACK and 0= CLEAR. There can also be significant screen variations between two calculators of the same make and model.

+/-e499 exponents.

The 17bii has the same exponent range. Generally not applicable for financial functions or MOST Terran science.

[19bii has] more memory

17bii has 6750 "bytes" (manual p. 216) slightly MORE than the 19bii 6600 "bytes" (manual p. 37)


hi allen,

thanks for your corrections. i hadnt realised the 19 has actually less memory than the 17. also, i had a feeling that the +/-499 was the same in the 17, but this is really part of the whole 17/19 argument over a different model.

there is the point about the size, although i find the 19 nicer to use, the 17 is slimmer and will carry much easier in a pocket. so this could be an issue.

i have a suggestion for thomas:

why not add financial functions to free42 to be accessed like they might have been had they really been available on a 42s? this could be free42sii. ok, a bit silly but could be quite cool.

TVM and CF would be a doddle, i even have debugged versions of these that pass all the borderline cases - well almost, that i'd be happy to supply.

anybody care to comment on where they might go on the 42s?


why not add financial functions to free42 to be accessed like they might have been had they really been available on a 42s? this could be free42sii. ok, a bit silly but could be quite cool.

Apart from the laziness factor -- erm, I mean, being too busy -- the whole thought of adding functionality to Free42 makes me a bit uneasy... I like that it is an accurate simulation of the HP-42S, and any additions would take away from that accuracy some way or another.

Having said that, there is at least one extended version of Free42 out there, with special functionality for surveyors added. (I'm not affiliated with Underhill and only found out about their version of Free42 by accident. :-) )

TVM and CF would be a doddle, i even have debugged versions of these that pass all the borderline cases - well almost, that i'd be happy to supply.

Maybe at some point in the future, it would be nice to do that, or to create Free17 -- but it's a *lot* of work, so don't hold your breath... I think a set of user programs for the 42S or 48G would be a good compromise.

- Thomas


I once tried to run the the HP-41 "Financial Decisions" Pac on Free42. It is close to working - there were some prompts or something that were not quite right.

If some of the HP-41 Pacs could be updated to work flawlessly on Free42 that would be neat. And it would not have to change Free42 at all. I realize that there are some HP41 microcode stuff that could probably not ever be ported. But pacs that were just keystrokes like the Financial Decisions, Real Estate, etc probably could, right?


The HP-41 Finance Pac contains only user code, and it doesn't use any functions that the HP-42S doesn't have, so it should work on the HP-42S and Free42; there could be problems but those would probably be caused by well-known differences between the HP-41 and 42S -- 12-digit mantissas instead of 10-digit; 44-character ALPHA register instead of 24-character, etc.

Since The Other Site has the Finance Pac, and the MoHPC CD/DVD set has the manual, I guess that means I have a nice collection of financial software at my disposal right away. :-)

The HP-41 Real Estate Pac seems to contain two machine code functions, called START and CLK (only one of which, START, is called from the Pac's user code). In order to use that pac on the HP-42S (or Free42 or Emu42), one would have to figure out what those functions do; it shouldn't be too hard to implement user code replacements for the 42.

Most of the HP-41 ROMs published by Hewlett-Packard are mostly or entirely user code (the Advantage Pac being the major exception), so they could be converted pretty easily to work on the HP-42S (or on an HP-42S emulator/simulator).

- Thomas

Edited: 6 Aug 2007, 9:47 p.m.


Thomas, at one point I converted some of Finance Pac to a RAW file for use on Free42. Works pretty well with some tweaking. The conversion routine I use is get the MODule file from TOS or with the emulator from that site, convert it to a ROM file with your rom2raw utility, then import it into Free42 and clean it up there. At that point I like to split off various routines into separate RAW files since they are converted correctly by hp41uc. I have discovered that if I try to convert to TXT a RAW file that has one or more internal ENDs, hp41uc will stop converting after the first END it sees.

Using this approach, I have been able to extract and use favourite routines from the Math Pac and PPC ROM, among others. In fact, I prefer the PPC ROM IG routine to the built in Free42 integrator--it is as fast, and produces interim results. I have also lifted the Runge-Kutta DIFEQ routine, though JM Baillard has written routines that are better. And, for the heck of it, the 566 steps of the Math Pac MATRIX routines convert and work fine, even though the intrinsic matrix capability of Free42 is so much more intuitive to use.

In short, the conversions can be done, but as you know they clutter the heck out of the menu.

I believe there is a Finance.raw file on your own website that seems to reproduce a lot of the behaviour of the 17bii. Have you tried it?


Edited: 7 Aug 2007, 4:04 p.m.


Hi Les,

I must confess I haven't looked at the Finance Pac and PPC ROM -- not even at the Finance.raw file (some of the most recent additions on the HP-42S/Free42 Programs page I have not had time to play with yet). I have some catching up to do...

Thanks for the tip!

- Thomas


I would also add that the 17bii is smaller and the battery door is not as prone to breaking/falling off as the 19bii.

But, you have me thinking, though about the trig functions.. That may be worth it simply because you don't have to carry TWO calculators if you are figuring Mortgages and triangles in the same meeting. Well in that case, I would take a 48GX anyway and hope we don't get into SOYD.

Edited: 5 Aug 2007, 8:39 a.m.


would also add that the 17bii is smaller and the battery door is not as prone to breaking/falling off as the 19bii.

My 19BII has a redesigned battery door (on the back rather than on the side), but they are hard do find (S/N ID12400004).


I don't want to sound dumb, but what is "golden wart"? That not make sense to me.


I'm curious. Since several of you feel strongly that the 17bii is better than the 17bii+, I'd like to see a few reasons why. Don and I have talked about this offline, but other than the solver being a bit more "in spec" on the 17bii, I haven't seen many compelling reasons to get the original versus the much mode widely available remake.

So, tell me why!



Thomas, if you are considering programming the calculator you get, then by all means, get a 17bii, not the plus. The solver is programmable and you can really do a lot with it. See my article 712 under articles.

By the way, in all the timing tests I have done between the two, the bii is much faster!


Hi Thomas,

I can recommend three models that do the job and are quite cheap to have: 18C, 19B (both algebraic) and 95LX.

I've started to do my financial stuff on the 18C and, allthough I later got the other models, too, stick to it.

I find the solver essential since all these models are targeted to the US market, ignoring simple interest between interest compoundings. A short solver calculation before TVM compensates for this omission.




I recommend the 12C because it has direct access to functions (rather than the 17B sub menus).

Even when the 17 and 19 series were around, I always saw finance people using the 12C.

Regarding annual/periodic rates, this is easily done on the 12C - I always think in terms of rate per period anyway.


TVM5 is simply not capable to recognize simple interest for fractions of a compounding cycle. Of course, you could just program the various formulas to calculate the effective payment (in contrast to the effective interest), but it is easier to do so with the solver.

But I have to admit, I do not own a Voyager at all ;-).


Regarding annual/periodic rates, this is easily done on the 12C - I always think in terms of rate per period anyway.

YOU may, but have you EVER walked into a bank and seen a sign for 0.6875 %/month home loan?



The 12C has shifted functions on n (g n multiplies the number of periods by 12 and stores in n) and i (g i divides the rate by 12 and stores in i) which allow for easy calculations of any rates which compound monthly (such as mortgages, or which you used in your example).

So even, if you don't think in terms of monthly (or whatver periodic) rates rather than annual, it is an easy conversion.

The advantage of thinking in terms of periodic rates (if you are a professional user, or even want to really understand TVM calculations) are that it makes conversions easier and more intuitive. e.g. converting a quoted bond rate to an annualized equivalent, or vice versa.

Professional bodies (such as the CFA Institute, which provides the Chartered Financial Analyst) designation allows the use of the 12C (or TI Business Analyst) in exams, but not the 17B. Maybe this is why I see finance professionals using the 12C.

Note also that Microsoft Excel uses the rate per period in its TVM calculations.

Thinking in terms of rate per period is the norm in professional usage. One reason financial institutions adopt various compounding conventions is to obfuscate the true rate for uninformed consumers.


My thought is if you are doing financial planning, get MS money or Quicken. Calculator nice, but these software packages much better in planning and what if scenario.


Hi Thomas,

The real question is: What do need the calculator to do for you exactly? There is no shortage of excellent advice on this forum and everyone has a valid opinion but what really matters is your requirement. This last post makes a lot of sense - buy Quicken!! I have been using it for a decade and find it very useful for managing investments, creating what-if scenarios for debt repayment and managing day-to-day finances. Also, you may wish to buy the book: "Smoke and Mirrors" to help you determine your retirement needs and cut through the crap. What you need is a sound plan - and a good calculator never hurts...

If all you need is the ability to calculate mortgage/loan payments, Future Value of money invested at a particularly interest rate for some period of time with or without period payments, and the power to determine what interest rate would be required to achieve a particular financial goal; then any HP non-financial calculator with a Time Value of Money (TVM) implementation or even a program/equation of the TVM formula may suit your needs. I use the HP-41C Advantage Pac TVM implementation, the HP-50g Finance feature, and the TVM formula itself in the 15C, 32sii and 33s (these last three are a little less accurate due to a rounding error that can be significant for very large N and small PMT). A good way to remember the five variables (N, I, B, P, F)in the TMV equation is "No Interest Before Payment of Funds". Good Luck!



Once struggling with the 17bII+, I'm now a proud owner of several 200LX's (hopefully lasting longer than my median remaining lifetime ;-)

What made me stay away from the 17b/17bII and 19b/19bII calculators, was their tendency to loose hours of work of stored programs, due to battery change (first experienced with the 17bII+).

If size/weight constraints don't exist and you fear loosing your calc's memory (or keeping it ON inadvertently, because of the lack of a secured ON switch), then you should look at the auction sites.

There you usually will find a 200LX in good used condition!

You will receive a lot of addtl. benefits - especially an Organizer, that keeps powered up longer than any other comparable PocketPC I know about.

Best regards

Peter A. Gebhardt

PS: (Aug 9th, 2007, 11:42 GMT+1)

At least for the pouch shipped with the 17bII+ there sems to be a feasable solution to "stiffen" the bottom edge of the pouch. By using a ca. 1/3 inch (somewhat more than 1 cm)thin, bendable metal sheet (U-shaped) placed into the bottom of the pouch and covered with a layer of scratch-avoiding clothing, one could minimize the chance of switching the calculator on inadvertently (say by placing a book on top of the pouch enclosing the calculator).

Edited: 10 Aug 2007, 10:54 a.m. after one or more responses were posted


I have the 19B11 and use it for serious financial work and solved the battery door problem with a small piece of electrical tape. Door has never come off since then and the tape is hardly noticeable. I also have a 17B11, but rarely use it. The 10B (discontinued) is a very good cheap financial calculator and is available on EB.. at reasonable prices.

The Aurora FN1000 is a 12C emulator and has the advantage of being in a clamshell case. It has been discontinued but available still for about $25 at several online stores. I have carried one in my shirt pocket every day since last October and have not managed to destroy it yet. Mushy keys and o.k. documentation.

If I had to have only one financial calculator it would be the 19B11. It is the Lexus of financial calcs....but do yourself a favor and buy an FN1000 also. I think you will be impressed.



It looks like the tools of choice for my modest needs will be an HP-17bii, and Quicken on the PC. I was also intrigued by the possibility of using Excel; I don't own a copy of Microsoft Office but it begs the question of whether the OpenOffice.org spreadsheet has this functionality too.

Again, thanks to all for your replies. This has been most enlightening.

- Thomas


I have OpenOffice at home, and I have had no problem with this product. All formulas that I am used to work just fine, and the document that I create can be open both in MS Office or OpenOffice.

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