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Austin Pryor

Austin Pryor

Founder and Publisher

Austin leads SMI, the newsletter business he founded in 1990. With more than 38 years of experience in the investment business, Austin provides overall direction to the organization while continuing to author many articles for the SMI newsletter and web site. Before founding SMI, Austin started and ran his own investment management firm, which ranked in the top 5% of all investment advisers in the U.S. during its first five years of operations. 

He is the author of the Sound Mind Investing Handbook, A Step-By-Step Guide to Managing Your Money from a Biblical Perspective, which enjoys the endorsements of numerous respected Christian teachers and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

Austin was once on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, working directly with founder Bill Bright, helping to develop the ministry’s approach to working with high-capacity donors. He was a founding board member of Pro Athletes Outreach, a Christian training ministry to pro athletes and coaches of many sports, and The Christian Embassy, an outreach ministry to government and diplomatic officials in Washington, D.C.

Austin received an undergraduate degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Kentucky. He and his wife, Susie, have three adult sons and 10 grandchildren, and live in Louisville, Ky.

Most Recent Articles

Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 11-30-18

We've just updated SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and our monthly Fund Performance Rankings report to reflect mutual-fund performance data through Nov. 30, 2018.

The online Tracker makes it possible to personalize SMI's mutual-fund rankings to your specific situation. You can take the full universe of 20,000+ mutual funds we track and transform that data into a concise report covering only the specific funds available to you via your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan(s).

Typically, we update the Tracker with month-end data from the research firm Morningstar by the 8th of the new month. However, since the 8th fell on a weekend this month, we are posting this update on the 10th.
 
(Why do we target the 8th? We've learned that month-end numbers in the Morningstar database are subject to change during the first several days of the new month as data comes in and various calculations are made. By the 8th, the database is trustworthy.)

Our Fund Performance Rankings (FPR) report is a PDF file containing performance data, along with SMI's momentum rankings, for more than 1,600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included in the FPR have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

Check page 2 of the FPR report to learn how to use it. On page 3, there is an overview of the 70+ risk categories that will help you compare "apples to apples." Page 4 has explanations of the various data-column headings.

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The Greatest News Ever Announced!

“So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit — and this power is mine through Jesus Christ — has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death.”

Romans 8:1-2 (TLB)

As is our tradition, I have a gift for SMI members in celebration of Christmas! As always, it’s a book that has been meaningful to me in my Christian journey. We offer it to you in appreciation for your support of our efforts here at SMI, and with the joyful hope that this gift will be an encouragement to you as you walk with Christ.

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An Upgrading Overview: Easy as 1-2-3

Why Upgrade?

SMI offers two primary investing strategies for “basic” members. They are different in philosophy, the amount of attention they require, and the rate of return expected from each. Our preferred investing strategy is called Fund Upgrading, and is based on the idea that if you are willing to regularly monitor your mutual-fund holdings and replace laggards periodically, you can improve your returns. While Upgrading is relatively low-maintenance, it does require you to check your fund holdings each month and replace funds occasionally. If you don’t wish to do this yourself, a professionally managed version of Upgrading is available.

SMI also offers an investing strategy based on index funds called Just-the-Basics (JtB). JtB requires attention only once per year. The returns expected from JtB are lower over time than what we expect (and have received) from Upgrading. JtB makes the most sense for those in 401(k) plans that lack a sufficient number of quality fund options to make successful Upgrading within the plan possible. Here are the funds and percentage allocations we recommend for our Just-the-Basics indexing strategy.

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Join Us in Celebrating #Giving Tuesday, the Day When Your Gifts Toward Making Jesus Known Are Multiplied Four-Fold!

Hey, friends! Welcome again to #GivingTuesday, the only day in your year when every $1 you give turns into $4!

#Giving Tuesday is a movement designed to launch the Christmas season with an emphasis on generosity rather than material pursuits. It's a response to the materialism of Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) that is all about spending on self and loved ones.

As in years past, our friends at the Jesus Film Project are our "Giving Tuesday" partners, and this year my wife Susie and I — and hopefully you — are joining them in their campaign to help take the Gospel to new parts of India!

According to the Jesus Film Project team:

Spreading Jesus' love is a joy, but sadly, right now there are more than 1 billion unreached people in India. That's more than any other nation. At the same time, India is gravely impacted by poverty, with women and children living in daily crisis.... You can help make disciples by showing the "JESUS" film in peoples' very own language … and start small groups … and plant multiplying churches...

Your gift by midnight tonight will be doubled dollar for dollar, up to $211,500. Normally $141 would support a film team in India for an entire month. But because your gift is doubled you can provide for TWO film teams' needs for that amount! Your gift today of $282 sends FOUR teams for a month.

Think of all the film showings in a month you could be a part of. Then double that number because of the challenge grant funds! And on average, two film teams will reach hundreds of people and plant six new churches or discipleship groups every year.

Plus, this campaign comes with an additional matching offer. First, Susie and I will match your gift, so your $1 becomes $2. Then other Jesus Film supporters, as described above, will match our combined gift, turning it into $4. Where will you find a better kingdom investment than that?

Here's a little about how the project works from the Jesus Film site.

Imagine being part of all this:

●      Identifying a village or neighborhood to show the film
●      Finding a location to meet
●      Sharing the good news through the "JESUS" film to people who have never heard it before
●      Watching people come to know Jesus
●      Planting churches and distributing DVDs
●      Watching Jesus at work in people's lives in an unreached part of India!
●      Playing a part in planting 25,000 Indian churches and discipleship groups in 2019

While $141 is the amount needed, on average, to put a Jesus Film team on the field for a month, your gift of any amount would be appreciated! (If you read this too late to give on Tuesday, anything given this week will count.)

Last year, the SMI family generously gave more than $12,000 in response to the Giving Tuesday challenge. Perhaps this year all SMI members together, each giving what he or she has a heart to give, could contribute $15,000, Susie and I will match it and the Jesus Film receives $30,000. Then the Jesus Film's matching-grant donors add $30,000 more, and the $60,000 raised can send 140 film teams out sharing Jesus for the next three months! Working together, we can do something significant to "seek and save the lost" in that corner of the world.

Susie and I are happy to join with SMI readers in this effort to take the gospel to new parts of India. It's an appropriate way to worship and a great way to begin your celebration of Christmas! After all, Christ came and loved a lost world (which included us), and has given us a similar mission. "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18).

May I encourage you to learn more about this project and learn how to donate here.

If you give through this link, the Jesus Film team will track your gift so it can be included in the match Susie and I make. Note that the references in the link to your gift being doubled, rather than quadrupled, don't reflect the gift Susie and I will make.

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Just Released: Personal Portfolio Tracker With New Responsive Interface for Smartphones and Tablets

We've just updated SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker as well as our monthly Fund Performance Rankings to reflect mutual-fund performance data through Oct. 31, 2018.

But that’s not all. As of today, the Tracker is now “responsive,” making it easily viewable on a smartphone or tablet.

  • For years, the Portfolio Tracker has been our most popular web tool, enabling you to take the full universe of 20,000+ mutual funds we track and transform that data into a concise report covering only the specific funds available via your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan(s).

    Using the Tracker, you can personalize SMI's mutual-fund rankings to your specific situation.
     
  • When we initially designed the Tracker, few (if any) people were using smartphones and tablets. Now, such devices account for a large percentage of web use. So we’ve re-designed the Tracker to accommodate phone/tablet users, while at the same time trying to maintain the basic “look and feel” you’ve grown accustomed to. Still, you will notice a few slight changes in the design.

    We’ve also done a lot of “back end” work, significantly automating (and speeding up) the processing of Morningstar’s voluminous month-end fund-performance data. Our new automated system will ensure that you get the month-end data by the 8th of the new month (unless the 8th falls on a weekend, as it will in December). Formerly, our target date for posting performance data has been as late as the 14th (in the not-too-distant past, it was the 24th!).
     
    Why are we targeting the 8th? We’ve learned from in-house testing that month-end numbers in the Morningstar database are subject to change during the first several days of the new month. Put another way, the numbers remain “preliminary” for about a week after the end of the month. By the 8th, however, the database is trustworthy, so that's when we will release the month-end numbers via both the Tracker and the Fund Performance Rankings (FPR) report.
     
  • We're working on several video tutorials that will illustrate the features of the new Tracker. Those videos should be available online within a few weeks.
     

You won’t notice any difference in the Fund Performance Rankings (FPR) report — it looks like it has before — but it’ll now be reliably posted by the 8th (except next month, when the 8th falls on a Saturday). The FPR report is a PDF file containing performance data and SMI's momentum rankings for more than 1,600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included in the FPR have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

Check page 2 of the report to learn how to use it. On page 3, there is an overview of the 70+ risk categories that will help you compare "apples to apples." Page 4 has explanations of the various data-column headings.

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Will You Panic When the Market Eventually Rolls Over?

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of . . . a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Investing can be challenging, not because the concepts are difficult to master, but because we are emotional creatures.

The markets are merely collections of people who act according to their fears and desires of the moment. In 1841, an Englishman named Charles Mackay became interested in the psychological aspects of crowd behavior with respect to people’s investment decisions. After analyzing several early widespread financial manias (such as the Dutch Tulip mania and the South Sea Bubble), he wrote a book that has become a classic: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. When you hear the details of these infamous financial episodes, it’s hard to believe that otherwise rational people could get so caught up in a mass delusion. (For more on the subject: A Short History of Financial Euphoria, by John Kenneth Galbraith.)

It used to read like ancient history, but many of us witnessed it first-hand in the tech-mania of the late-1990s, then again in the panicked selling of a decade ago.

Because of human nature and our susceptibility to crowd influences, it isn’t unusual for markets and stock prices to become overvalued (or undervalued) from time to time. The graph below shows how investors’ moods swing in predictable patterns as prices rise and fall.

  1. At a bear market bottom, buying is triggered by an unexpected news event or financial report. The mini-rally is initially met with skepticism and caution.
     
  2. As buying continues, there gradually develops an increasing recognition of positive factors that had previously been ignored. The rush to invest leads to the launch of a new bull market. Confidence returns.
     
  3. As the bull market ages, optimism begins to outpace economic reality. Opinion overwhelms fact. A “buy on dips” mentality develops, reinforcing the uptrend.
     
  4. Euphoria sets in. Negatives are overlooked. There is a growing feeling that the old rules no longer apply. With no fear of loss, greed leads to a kind of buying madness.
     
  5. Buyers become fully invested. The bull market peaks.
     
  6. Selling is triggered by an unexpected news event or financial report. The selloff initially is treated as a healthy corrective.
     
  7. As selling builds, fear and doubt begin to surface. A growing rush to the exits leads to a bear market.
     
  8. As prices continue to fall, pessimism begins to outpace economic reality. Emotion overwhelms fact. A “sell on rallies” mentality develops, reinforcing the downtrend.
     
  9. Mental depression sets in. Positives are overlooked. There is a growing feeling that the old rules no longer apply. With no hope of gain, fear leads to a selling panic.
     
  10. Everyone who wants to sell has sold. The bear market hits bottom.

Unfortunately, these stages are usually only obvious in hindsight. From 2009 through 2017, we saw Stages 1 through 4 unfold and enjoyed the ride. It appears we could now be in Stage 5, but it’s impossible to rule out that we’re still in Stage 4 (with more upside ahead) or Stage 6 (at the beginning of what could eventually become a bear market).

The good news is we’ve been preparing for this for some time. SMI’s strategy toolbox has been updated with defensive approaches such as Dynamic Asset Allocation and the new Upgrading 2.0 protocols. If you’re using a blend that includes these strategies, your portfolio is likely prepared for what’s ahead, whenever it arrives. Knowing these strategies will guide us through future bear markets, we can confidently stay invested now rather than trying to guess when to exit.

Having your portfolio prepared is half the battle. The other half is preparing yourself emotionally. Those with a short-term focus will be tempted to head for the sidelines because they’re worried about the curved line. Long-term investors, on the other hand, have the fortitude to stay committed because they’re aware of the power of the dotted line.

Yes, an eventual bear market is inevitable, and it could be bruising. But ultimately, those with at least a five-year time horizon can continue investing with confidence — especially if they’re using SMI’s defensive-oriented strategies to do so.

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Duration: A Simple Way to Gauge Bond Risk

In early October, longer-term Treasury-bond yields crossed the proverbial “line in the sand” in the eyes of some bond observers. In just three days, the 10-year yield soared from 3.05% to 3.23%, reaching its highest level since 2011. The 30-year jump was similarly dramatic, from 3.20% to 3.40%, a new five-year high.

The immediate cause of this bond yield surge was stronger-than-expected economic growth, coupled with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments that interest rates are “a long way from neutral” — with the clear implication being that more rate increases should be expected.

But the real backdrop goes beyond these recent events. For most of the past decade, the Fed and other global central banks have purposely pushed interest rates down to historic lows and held them there. Only recently have these rates been allowed to begin their rise back toward “normal” market rates. While this normalization of interest rate policy is a good thing overall, the swift and brutal reaction of stock market investors showed why significant concerns exist regarding the impact of this normalization on the future prices of financial assets.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 9-30-18

We've just updated SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and our monthly Fund Performance Rankings to reflect mutual-fund performance data through Sept. 30, 2018.

  • The Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It enables you to take the full universe of 20,000+ mutual funds we track and easily transform that data into a concise report covering only the specific funds available via your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan(s).

    Using the Tracker, you can personalize SMI's mutual-fund rankings to your specific situation.
     
  • The Fund Performance Rankings (FPR) report is a PDF file containing performance data and SMI's momentum rankings for more than 1,600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

    Check page 2 of the FPR report to learn how to use it. On page 3, there is an overview of the 70+ risk categories that will help you compare "apples to apples." Page 4 has explanations of the various data-column headings.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 8-31-18

We've just updated SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and also our monthly Fund Performance Rankings to reflect mutual-fund performance data through August 31, 2018.

  • The Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It enables you to take the full universe of 20,000+ mutual funds we track and easily transform that data into a concise report covering only the specific funds available via your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan(s).

    Using the Tracker, you can personalize SMI's mutual-fund rankings to your specific situation.
     
  • The Fund Performance Rankings (FPR) report is a PDF file containing performance data and SMI's momentum rankings for more than 1,600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

    Check page 2 of the FPR report to learn more about how to use it. On page 3, you'll see an overview of the 70+ risk categories that will help you compare "apples to apples." And on page 4, there are explanations of the various data-column headings.

Continue Reading

SMI Private Client Classic: Personal Portfolio Management Is Now Available to All

Six months ago, SMI Advisory Services announced that professional management of individual accounts using the SMI strategies was being offered for the first time. SMI members responded enthusiastically, pushing the assets under management in SMI Private Client to nearly $100 million!

Until now, Private Client has been available only to those with at least $250,000 to invest. With the debut of Private Client Classic, professional management of the SMI strategies within a personal account is now available to anyone with as little as $2,500 to invest!

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