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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 1-31-18

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings report have been updated to reflect mutual-fund performance data current through 1/31/2018. The Tracker and FPR are typically updated monthly between the 10th-14th of the month, depending on when the weekend falls.

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It allows SMI members to easily personalize our mutual-fund rankings to their specific situation. The end result is a personalized monthly report showing only the funds each member is interested in, ranked by momentum and sorted according to SMI's risk categories (or without the categories, if a member prefers). This allows a member to take the 20,000+ funds SMI tracks every month and instantly transform those rankings into a concise report covering only the specific offerings of their 401k (or other plan).

The Fund Performance Rankings report contains performance data and momentum rankings on more than 1600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability. You'll find help in understanding how to use the FPR (page 2), an overview of the 70+ risk categories that help you compare "apples to apples" (page 3), and explanations for the various data-column headings (page 4).

You can sign up to receive an email each month when the data goes live. Just go to the SMI home page and click on "My Account" under Quick Links. From there you can go to the "Email Subscriptions" page and check the box next to "FPR/Tracker Update" to receive the monthly email notification.

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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 and Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 12-31-17

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings report have been updated to reflect mutual-fund performance data current through 12/31/2017. The Tracker and FPR are typically updated monthly between the 10th-14th of the month, depending on when the weekend falls.

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It allows SMI members to easily personalize our mutual-fund rankings to their specific situation. The end result is a personalized monthly report showing only the funds each member is interested in, ranked by momentum and sorted according to SMI's risk categories (or without the categories, if a member prefers). This allows a member to take the 20,000+ funds SMI tracks every month and instantly transform those rankings into a concise report covering only the specific offerings of their 401k (or other plan).

The Fund Performance Rankings report contains performance data and momentum rankings on more than 1600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability. You'll find help in understanding how to use the FPR (page 2), an overview of the 70+ risk categories that help you compare "apples to apples" (page 3), and explanations for the various data-column headings (page 4).

You can sign up to receive an email each month when the data goes live. Just go to the SMI home page and click on "My Account" under Quick Links. From there you can go to the "Email Subscriptions" page and check the box next to "FPR/Tracker Update" to receive the monthly email notification.

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SMI’s Fund Upgrading Strategy Evolves: Introducing Upgrading 2.0

The lack of true downside protection has long been a concern for those using SMI’s Fund Upgrading strategy. Fortunately, recent developments in the study of momentum have laid the foundation for a new defensive protocol that provides a “safety net” for Upgrading.
 
This new 2.0 protocol gives us confidence that Upgrading will be up to the task of defending member portfolios during the next bear market.

SMI’s Fund Upgrading strategy, which uses a concept known as “performance momentum” to make investment recommendations, has been part of the SMI newsletter in some form or fashion from its earliest days in 1990. By the late 1990s, Upgrading had settled into roughly the form used today. In the years since, the only significant change to Upgrading, at least on the stock-fund side, has been the switch from recommending four funds in each risk category to only three (in April 2015).

In the meantime, academic and industry research on the momentum principles on which Upgrading is based has been anything but idle. In fact, momentum has been one of the most heavily researched investing topics for several decades now. This is largely due to its status as “the premier market anomaly.” Momentum is an easily observable exception to the conventional wisdom that stock market prices are set by such an efficient process that it’s difficult — if not impossible — for investors to outperform the market over time.

That “premier anomaly” label was attached by none other than Eugene Fama, who won a Nobel prize for his work on the Efficient Market Hypothesis. As the name implies, his life’s work has been explaining why factors such as momentum shouldn’t work. Yet just this past year, Fama conceded, “Momentum is a big embarrassment for market efficiency.”

Because momentum has been such a persistent thumb in the eye of the indexing/efficient markets community, researchers have undertaken many studies of momentum. Actually, the earliest such research dates back nearly a century, but up until about a decade ago, most of the research focused on variations of relative momentum — i.e., how an investment has performed relative to others. This relative-momentum analysis is the type SMI has always used in SMI’s Upgrading strategy, and is reflected in our monthly Fund Performance Rankings report.

While the research studies on relative momentum affirmed its robustness and effectiveness, it wasn’t until somewhat recently that a new momentum idea emerged. This was the study of how an investment performed, not against other investments, but against its own past. This second type of momentum is referred to as absolute momentum. Relative momentum asks the question: “In recent months, how has this investment performed compared to others?” But this newer momentum measure asks the question: “In recent months, how has the investment performed in an absolute sense, looking at its own history, ignoring what others have done?”

Multiple studies have confirmed that asking this question can lead to profitable investing choices going forward, but credit for popularizing absolute momentum belongs to Gary Antonacci, who detailed it extensively in his award-winning book, Dual Momentum Investing. In addition to compiling the results of all the research done on absolute momentum, much of it his own, Antonacci also took the crucial step of marrying the two forms of momentum — relative and absolute — into a simple investment strategy that readers of his book could apply easily. The backtested results of this approach were surprisingly good, despite the approach being extremely simple.

In a nutshell, while Antonacci demonstrated what SMI Upgraders have long known, that relative momentum can be a powerful return enhancer, he added a critical new dimension as well: showing how applying absolute momentum criteria could limit downside loss significantly.

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Attention Husbands: You Should Know About SMI’s Ministry to Widows

In the mid-1990s I was in talks with Moody Publishers about the possibility of writing a second book. They asked what topics interested me, and among the ideas we discussed was a book tailored to the financial needs of widows. Due to writing fatigue after my first book, coupled with the time demands of the SMI newsletter, that follow-up book never got written.

I know from the correspondence we receive that the SMI newsletter has been helpful to many widows, and for that I’m grateful. These dear women often turn to friends and relatives for advice, who refer them to financial professionals they know. But far too many times that results in widows being sold high-commission investments that are inappropriate for their situation. It grieves me to read of the ways they are taken advantage of, and their needs have remained on my heart.

I want to see widows get the kind of personalized, objective financial advice they need. However, due to legal/regulatory restrictions, we at SMI are not allowed to offer individualized counsel. A widow needs a trusted and competent financial planner who will listen to her story, review her financial situation, and suggest a prudent course of action.

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SMI Members Helped Plant More Than 220 Churches in West Africa!

On Giving Tuesday, November 28, I offered a challenge to SMI members in the form of a giving opportunity — let's all work together this Christmas to help take the gospel to the people of West Africa via the church-planters working with the Jesus Film Project:

So, if all SMI members together, each giving what he or she has a heart to give, contribute $8,750, Susie and I will match it and the Jesus Film receives $17,500. Then the Jesus Film's matching-grant donor kicks in $17,500 more, and the $35,000 raised can plant 200 churches! Working together, we can do something significant to "seek and save the lost" in that corner of the world.

Well, as I expected you would, you came through with a wonderful response. You didn't give just $8,750. According to my friends at the Jesus Film Project, 66 mission-minded SMI members collectively gave $12,315! As in years past, generous SMI members learned of a need and wanted to be part of the solution.

(FYI, I don't know who gave or how much — that's between you and the JFP.)

As promised, Susie and I will match that, and so we SMIers as a group are sending $24,630 toward this outreach. And that amount will be increased yet again due to a matching grant from other JFP supporters.

Every $1 you gave was multiplied, and enough was raised from the SMI family to plant more than 220 new West African churches where the Gospel of Christ will be proclaimed. Thank you for responding in a beautiful way!

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 11-30-17

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings report have been updated to reflect mutual-fund performance data current through 11/30/2017. The Tracker and FPR are typically updated monthly between the 10th-14th of the month, depending on when the weekend falls.

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It allows SMI members to easily personalize our mutual-fund rankings to their specific situation. The end result is a personalized monthly report showing only the funds each member is interested in, ranked by momentum and sorted according to SMI's risk categories (or without the categories, if a member prefers). This allows a member to take the 20,000+ funds SMI tracks every month and instantly transform those rankings into a concise report covering only the specific offerings of their 401k (or other plan).

The Fund Performance Rankings report contains performance data and momentum rankings on more than 1600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability. You'll find help in understanding how to use the FPR (page 2), an overview of the 70+ risk categories that help you compare "apples to apples" (page 3), and explanations for the various data-column headings (page 4).

You can sign up to receive an email each month when the data goes live. Just go to the SMI home page and click on "My Account" under Quick Links. From there you can go to the "Email Subscriptions" page and check the box next to "FPR/Tracker Update" to receive the monthly email notification.

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Welcome to #Giving Tuesday, the Day When Your Gift Toward Making Jesus Known Is Multiplied Four-Fold!

Hey friends! Welcome 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 West Africa!

According to the Jesus Film Project team:

"This is a region that is desperate to hear the Gospel. In some places, there are few, if any, churches. There are 34 unreached people groups! Think of the opportunity. Moms, dads, and children are completely unreached! Your gift will make you a part of an incredible vision to see thousands of small groups and faith communities grow into multiplying, self-sustaining churches!... Our goal is to see 7,920 small groups started that will become self-sustaining churches, and we believe that with your faithfulness God will multiply your giving even further."

Note that this campaign comes with a double matching offer. First, Susie and I will match your gift, so your $1 becomes $2. Then other Jesus Film supporters 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
●      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 Him
●      Seeing the meeting place begin to fill
●      Watching Jesus at work through their lives in an unreached part of West Africa!
●      Seeing those people come together in a faith community leading to a self- sustaining church

Incredible!  Help make all that happen for $175.

While $175 is the amount needed, on average, per church plant, your gift of any amount would be appreciated! (If you read this too late to give on Tuesday, anything given this week will count.)

So, if all SMI readers together, each giving what he or she has a heart to give, contribute $8,750, Susie and I will match it and the Jesus Film receives $17,500. Then the Jesus Film's matching-grant donor adds $17,500 more, and the $35,000 raised can plant 200 churches! 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 Africa. 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 watch a 90-second video 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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Fighting for Joy in the Supremely Glorious Christ

In 1995, I began what has since become an annual Christmas tradition: offering, as a gift to our members, a book that has been meaningful to me in my Christian life. I do this for two reasons. First, because it’s appropriate for SMI to express appreciation for your support. Without loyal readers, we could not have served the body of Christ these past 27 years. And second, we want to encourage you in areas beyond the mechanics of stewardship. How we handle God’s money is important, but how we walk daily with Christ is life itself.

This year, for the second time, I’ve selected When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper. The first time, in 2005, we received the second highest number of requests in the 20+ year history of our Christmas book giveaway. Apparently, many of us believe we don’t live out a desire for God as we should.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings with Data through 10-31-17

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings report have been updated to reflect mutual-fund performance data current through 10/31/2017. The Tracker and FPR are typically updated monthly between the 10th-14th of the month, depending on when the weekend falls.

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It allows SMI members to easily personalize our mutual-fund rankings to their specific situation. The end result is a personalized monthly report showing only the funds each member is interested in, ranked by momentum and sorted according to SMI's risk categories (or without the categories, if a member prefers). This allows a member to take the 20,000+ funds SMI tracks every month and instantly transform those rankings into a concise report covering only the specific offerings of their 401k (or other plan).

The Fund Performance Rankings report contains performance data and momentum rankings on more than 1600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability. You'll find help in understanding how to use the FPR (page 2), an overview of the 70+ risk categories that help you compare "apples to apples" (page 3), and explanations for the various data-column headings (page 4).

You can sign up to receive an email each month when the data goes live. Just go to the SMI home page and click on "My Account" under Quick Links. From there you can go to the "Email Subscriptions" page and check the box next to "FPR/Tracker Update" to receive the monthly email notification.

Continue Reading