HP 12c Financial Calculator

The HP 12c Financial Calculator.


HP 12c Overview: The HP 12c Programmable Financial Calculator, introduced in 1981, is still the workhorse for seasoned financial professionals. According to a Wall Street Journal featurette ("A Cult Calculator Endures," May 14, 2011), the person in the room with the beat-up vintage HP 12c tends to gain immediate respect as an experienced and savvy financial professional. Hewlett-Packard has kept the highly popular calculator in continuous production since its launch.

Continued Popularity: Among the reasons for the continued popularity of the HP 12c are:

  • Durability (the device is highly shock resistant)
  • Energy efficiency (a battery change once every 10 years seems typical)
  • Light weight (just over 4 ounces, or 116 grams)
  • Compact size (3.1 by 0.6 by 5.1 inches, width x depth x height, or 8.0 by 1.52 by 12.9 centimeters)
  • The quirky operating system of the HP 12c (Reverse Polish Notation, or RPN) is easy to learn but baffles young tech wizards (to the delight of the old hands), and thus serves as a built-in encryption protocol.

Features: The key features and attractions of the HP 12c include, in addition to those already mentioned above:

  • Clean, easy to learn and use layout of keys
  • Single line, 10 position liquid crystal display (LCD) that can be read from any angle and which is glare resistant
  • Over 120 built in functions
  • Functions span applications in math, statistics and finance
  • Contains 20 memory registers
  • Retains numbers in memory when the power is switched off

Functions: Examples of the over 120 functions already programmed into the HP 12c include these:

  • Loan payments and amortization
  • Bond valuation
  • Depreciation calculation and analysis
  • Compound interest rate calculations
  • Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) computations
  • Cash flow analysis
  • Time value of money, or TVM
  • Net present value, or NPV
  • Internal rate of return, or IRR

Some of the general mathematical and statistical functions supported by the HP 12c, many of which have important applications in finance, include:

  • Exponentials
  • Log functions
  • Standard deviations
  • Factorials

Note that a firm grasp of exponentials and log functions can make computations of compound interest and compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) especially easy and quick. The layout of the HP 12c, in turn, facilitates these sorts of calculations.

Exam Usage: The HP 12c has become such a standard device that is permitted for use on the exams for these major financial certifications:

Detailed Product Review: To learn more about the HP 12c and its features, see this full review. Also, you may compare prices via this link.

Alternate Spellings: HP 12C

Examples: Very early in my Merrill Lynch career, I had a boss who said that, to be taken seriously (and to do serious calculations while in meetings), I needed an HP 12c.