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Austin Pryor

Austin Pryor

Founder and Publisher

Austin leads SMI, the newsletter business he founded in 1990. With more than 40 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 & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 9-30-19

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and the monthly Fund Performance Rankings report are now available with performance data updated through Sept. 30, 2019.

The Portfolio Tracker: The online Tracker personalizes SMI's fund rankings to your specific situation, making it easier to apply our momentum-based Fund Upgrading strategy to your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan.

Using the Tracker, you can filter the performance data of 20,000+ funds we follow to produce a concise report covering only the funds available in your plan(s). If you're new to the Tracker, watch the introductory video.

We typically update the Tracker with the latest month-end data from the research firm Morningstar on the 8th of the new month (except when the 8th falls on a weekend). We wait until at least the 8th because Morningstar's database is subject to revisions during the first few days of the month. By the 8th, the previous month's performance numbers are reliable.

Fund Performance Rankings (FPR): The FPR report is a 39-page PDF file containing the latest performance data — along with SMI's momentum rankings — for more than 1,600 no-load traditional funds and ETFs.

The funds included in the FPR are selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

Check page 2 to learn how to use the FPR report. Page 3 includes 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 Surprisingly Small Benefit of Perfect Market Timing

Following a decade of mostly rising stock prices, last year’s fourth-quarter correction of nearly -20% reminded investors that the stock market’s rewards come with substantial risk. Given weakening economic data in recent months, it wouldn’t be surprising if some investors are thinking it might be time to scale back any new investing (or even head for the exits altogether) and wait for the next bear market to pass.

Such timing moves are intended to improve long-term returns, but as we’ve explained before, that’s rarely the result. First, as the last few years have clearly demonstrated, it’s extremely difficult to time these moves correctly. But another reason is often overlooked — timing simply isn’t as significant a factor as most investors think.

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Determining Worth

“Dad, today I bought all these baseball cards at the flea market for $15 and my catalog says they’re worth $25! I’ve already made $10!”

Have you ever tried explaining to your children that a thing is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it? And that unless they intend to become dealers in baseball cards, it’s highly unlikely they will even be able to get their $15 back, let alone gain $10 in profits? My boys inevitably brushed off such explanations as being naive and out-of-touch with the financial realities governing baseball cards (or stamps, comic books, etc.), which apparently are exempt from the normal rules governing commerce. The fact that I had a college degree in economics and was a registered investment adviser carried no weight whatsoever. They regarded me with a kind of bemused tolerance (“Dad means well.”)

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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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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 8-31-19

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and the monthly Fund Performance Rankings report are now available with performance data updated through Aug. 31, 2019.

The Portfolio Tracker: The online Tracker personalizes SMI's fund rankings to your specific situation, making it easier to apply our momentum-based Fund Upgrading strategy to your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan.

Using the Tracker, you can filter the performance data of 20,000+ funds we follow to produce a concise report covering only the funds available in your plan(s). If you're new to the Tracker, watch the introductory video.

We typically update the Tracker with the latest month-end data from the fund research firm Morningstar on the 8th of the new month (except when the 8th falls on a weekend, as it did this month). We wait until at least the 8th because Morningstar's database is subject to revisions during the first few days of the month. By the 8th, the previous month's performance numbers are reliable.

Fund Performance Rankings (FPR): The FPR report is a 39-page PDF file containing the latest performance data — along with SMI's momentum rankings — for more than 1,600 no-load traditional funds and ETFs.

The funds included in the FPR are selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

Check page 2 to learn how to use the FPR report. Page 3 includes 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.

Continue Reading

Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 7-31-19

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker as well our monthly Fund Performance Rankings report are now available with mutual fund performance data updated through July 31, 2019.

The Portfolio Tracker: The online Tracker personalizes SMI's fund rankings to your specific situation, making it easier to apply our momentum-based Fund Upgrading strategy to your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan.

Using the Tracker, you can filter the performance data of 20,000+ funds we follow to produce a concise report covering only the funds available in your plan(s). If you're new to the Tracker, watch the introductory video.

We update the Portfolio Tracker with the latest month-end data from the fund research firm Morningstar on the 8th of the new month (except when the 8th falls on a weekend). We wait until the 8th because Morningstar's database is subject to revisions during the first few days of the month. By the 8th, the previous month's performance numbers are reliable.

Fund Performance Rankings (FPR): The FPR report is a PDF file containing the latest performance data — along with SMI's momentum rankings — for more than 1,600 no-load traditional funds and ETFs.

The funds included in the FPR are selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

Check page 2 to learn how to use the FPR report. Page 3 includes 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.

Continue Reading

Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 6-30-19

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker as well our monthly Fund Performance Rankings report are now available with mutual fund performance data updated through June 30, 2019.

The Portfolio Tracker: The online Tracker personalizes SMI's fund rankings to your specific situation, making it easier to apply our momentum-based Fund Upgrading strategy to your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan.

Using the Tracker, you can filter the performance data of 20,000+ funds we follow to produce a concise report covering only the funds available in your plan(s). If you're new to the Tracker, watch the introductory video.

We update the Portfolio Tracker with month-end data from the fund research firm Morningstar on the 8th of the month (except when the 8th falls on a weekend). Morningstar's database is subject to revisions during the first few days of the month. By the 8th, the performance numbers are reliable.

Fund Performance Rankings (FPR): The FPR report is a PDF file containing month-end performance data — along with SMI's momentum rankings — for more than 1,600 no-load traditional funds and ETFs.

The funds included in the FPR are selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

Check page 2 to learn how to use the FPR report. Page 3 includes 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.

Continue Reading

Earth Offers Opportunities That Heaven Doesn’t

One of the more popular worship songs of the early 2000s has a wonderful way of lifting us out of our present circumstances and transporting us to our future home.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side.
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When Your face is before me.

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine. I can only imagine.*

His face before us…surrounded by His glory…awestruck to see Him at long last. What wonderful images!

That moment may seem far off, but it will be upon you before you know it. Some in the SMI family might well experience it firsthand before the next issue is printed. You could be one of those people. I could be one of those people. Life is a vapor, “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

As Jonathan Cahn reminds us in The Book of Mysteries, as a follower of Jesus you have opportunities to do things for God now that you won’t have in heaven.

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Giving That Delights the Father’s Heart

As part of SMI’s mission, we want to help you have more so you can give more. This assumes you’re already giving on one level, and we want to help you move up to a higher level. As you strengthen your financial foundation (the topic in this column each month), you will be in a better position to do that.

It’s common for Christians to hear that they should “tithe,” which literally means to give a tenth. That sounds a little ambitious to many new Christians, so they often begin their giving at more modest levels. Unfortunately, too many stay there. Studies have shown for years that the average American church-goer gives roughly 2.5%-3% of his or her income annually.

This stat is an annual disappointment for those who set the tithe as the biblical benchmark for giving. But in my experience, you’ll always be disappointed in the results whenever you challenge Christians beyond their level of maturity. This is true whether you’re talking about a person’s prayer life, willingness to share their faith, interest in Bible study...or giving.

So, rather than berate those whose giving seems meager, I suggest trying to help them mature in the area of managing their finances and their stewardship. They need encouragement in getting their financial houses in order, and also in seeing their Father in heaven as One who has promised — and can be trusted — to meet all their needs.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 5-31-19

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and our monthly Fund Performance Rankings report are now available with mutual fund performance data through May 31, 2019.

The Portfolio Tracker: The online Tracker personalizes SMI's fund rankings to your specific situation, making it easier to apply our momentum-based Fund Upgrading strategy to your 401(k), 403(b), or other retirement plan.

Using the Tracker, you can filter the performance data of 20,000+ funds we follow to produce a concise report covering only the funds available in your plan(s).

If you're new to the Tracker, watch this introductory video:

Typically, we update the Portfolio Tracker with month-end data from the fund research firm Morningstar on the 8th of the new month (except when the 8th falls on a weekend, as is the case this month). Morningstar's database is subject to revisions during the first few days of the new month. By the 8th, the performance numbers are reliable.

Fund Performance Rankings (FPR): The FPR report is a PDF file containing month-end performance data — along with SMI's momentum rankings — for more than 1,600 no-load traditional funds and ETFs.

The funds included in the FPR are selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

Check page 2 to learn how to use the FPR report. Page 3 includes 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.

Continue Reading