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Joseph Slife

Joseph Slife

Writer/researcher

Joseph Slife has been a news writer for the Associated Press, a college instructor, and a radio host.

From 1990 to 2003, he was a writer/researcher for Larry Burkett at Christian Financial Concepts and Crown Financial Ministries, and he served as the executive producer for CFC/Crown Radio from 2000-2005.

He first joined SMI's writing team in 2008, before going on to serve nearly six years as senior producer/co-host for WORLD Radio. He returned to Sound Mind Investing in 2017.

Joseph and his wife Joye have three grown sons.

Most Recent Articles

Money Roundup: Take Another Look at Your 1040, Why Economic Data Is Often Mystifying, and More

We're bringing you the Roundup a day early this week. Tomorrow is Good Friday and our offices will be closed. Have a blessed Easter, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. He is risen!

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Promises Made, Promises Broken: What Went Wrong With the Income Tax

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration." – The Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed by Congress in 1909, ratified in 1913.

Happy Tax Day! Let's pretend it's 1909, and we're in the visitor's gallery of the U.S. Senate. We're listening in on the debate surrounding a proposal to approve and implement a federal income tax.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 3-31-19

We've just updated SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and our monthly Fund Performance Rankings report with mutual-fund performance data through March 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.

The Tracker filters the performance data of 20,000+ funds 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 that explains how to set up the Tracker with the funds available via your workplace plan.

Typically, we update the Portfolio Tracker with month-end performance data from the fund-research firm Morningstar on the 8th of the new month. (Morningstar's database is subject to revisions during the first few days of the new month. By the 8th, the performance numbers have solidified and are trustworthy.)

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.

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Roundup: A Proposed Tax on Investors, a Question That Gets Way Too Much Attention, and More

Here is our first-weekend-in-April roundup of articles on investing, personal finance, and stewardship:

And from the pundits and bloggers...

  • How is the market doing? (Michael Batnick, The Irrelevant Investor). Day-in, day-out updates on market performance don't amount to much.
     
  • The forecasting business shouldn't be this bad (Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg Opinion). Wall Street and economic forecasters aren't very accurate. They should at least be more humble.
     
  • Fees vs. fines (Morgan Housel, Collaborative Fund). Having to endure market volatility is part of the "price of admission" for an investor.
     
  • The lifespan of life insurance (Johnny Fowler with Mark Mason, Vagabond Finances). In the later seasons of life, your need for life insurance probably isn't as great as it once was.
     
  • Raise your children to be generous (Joe Plemon, SeedTime). When you train your children to be givers, you are molding their hearts.

Have a comment about any of these articles? "Join the Discussion" below.


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“What Wealth Does to People”

A friend alerted me to a fascinating piece posted at The Cut, a New York magazine website for "women with stylish minds." (Needless to say, it's not the sort of site I typically visit.)

The article is an interview with one of America's wealthiest women: Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Disney family fortune.

I don't know anything about her spiritual outlook (she describes herself as "a kind of a lefty, New York City, Manhattan, pointy-headed intellectual type"), but she speaks insightfully about how having an abundance of money tends to turn wealthy people inward.

Excerpts:

Did you have a moment in your life when things started getting lavish and you realized, “Oh, I’m super rich”?
When I went off to college, Michael Eisner came in and reinvigorated the [Walt Dinsey] company, and then the stock price, which was basically my family’s entire net worth, was ten times, 20 times, 50 times what it had been when I was growing up. So all of the sudden, we went from being comfortable, upper-middle-class people to suddenly my dad [Disney executive  Roy E. Disney] had a private jet. That’s when I feel that my dad really lost his way in life. And that’s why I feel hyperconscious about what wealth does to people. I lived in one family as a child, and then I didn’t even recognize the family as I got older.

In what ways did your dad change, other than having a jet?
Actually, having a jet is a really big deal. If I were queen of the world, I would pass a law against private jets, because they enable you to get around a certain reality. You don’t have to go through an airport terminal, you don’t have to interact, you don’t have to be patient, you don’t have to be uncomfortable. These are the things that remind us we’re human. My dad’s plane was a 737, and it was insane to have a 737 as a private airplane....

How did the jet change your dad? 
It wasn’t just the plane, but it’s not a small thing when you don’t have to be patient or be around other people. It creates this notion that you’re a little bit better than they are. And for the past 40 years, everything in American culture has been reinforcing that belief. We say, “Job creators, entrepreneurs, these are the people who make America great.” So there are people walking around with substantial wealth who think that they have it because they’re better.

It’s fundamental to remember that you’re just a member of the human race, like everybody else, and there’s nothing about your money that makes you better than anyone else. If you don’t know that and you have money, it’s the road to hell, no matter how much stuff you have around you....

They did a study at the Chronicle of Philanthropy years ago where they asked people who inherited money, “What amount of money would you need to feel totally secure?” And every single one of them, no matter what they had, named a number that was roughly twice what they inherited. So that’s what you need to know about money, right? If that is your primary measure of success or value in life, then good luck with that, because it will never feel good.

The full interview is posted here (language warning).

Wealth and discipleship

Most of us won't ever have a private jet or come close to having the kind of financial wealth Abigail Disney has. Yet by historical standards, and even compared to millions of people in the world today, you and I are wealthy indeed.

So Scripture's teachings on wealth (both its positive guidance and its warnings) are for us, not just for the "super-rich." Here is just a sampling:

  • "Praise be to you, LORD...for everything in heaven and earth is yours." (1 Chronicles 29:10a, 11b, emphasis added)
     
  • "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income." (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
     
  • "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce." (Proverbs 3:9 NLT)
     
  • [Jesus] said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15)
     
  • "[G]odliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." (1 Timothy 6:6-7)

The Bible is clear that wealth is a blessing (Deuteronomy 8:18), but we must be on our guard, always seeking to steward that blessing in such a way that wealth doesn't undermine our spiritual well-being — or that of our children and grandchildren. (Our May issue will have more on this topic.)

Can you recall a particular time in your life when you had to struggle to keep wealth from turning you inward, away from God and from others? Tell us about it, in general terms, in the comments section below.


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Roundup: Social Security and ‘Unretirement,’ Don’t Overreact to the Yield-Curve Inversion, and More

Here's our weekly collection of helpful reads on investing and personal finance — served up a day early this week to make way for our DAA and Sector Rotation updates tomorrow.

And from the bloggers and pundits...

Comments? "Join the Discussion" below!


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Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s: Similar, Yet Different

You may think a Roth IRA and a Roth 401(k) are essentially the same, the main difference being that one is a personally managed retirement account while the other is a workplace retirement plan. But there is more to the story. There are key — and somewhat confusing — differences in how Congress has structured the two types of similarly named accounts.

To put it in genetic terms, while the Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) share certain traits as “close cousins,” the Roth 401(k) shares other important traits with its “older brother,” the traditional 401(k).

Perhaps the muddled “some-of-this-some-of-that” nature of Roth 401(k)s is one reason for their slow adoption since coming on the market in 2006. Although 60%-70% of employers with retirement plans now offer a Roth 401(k) option, fewer than 20% of workers with access to Roth 401(k) accounts have signed up for them, according to data from the Plan Sponsors Council of America.

Here’s a quick overview of how Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k) are similar and how they differ. (Provisions of the Roth 403(b) — for employees of non-profit organizations — mirror those of the Roth 401(k)).

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Credit Card Perks Can Be Attractive, But Users Beware

In 1949, Frank McNamara had an idea — a big idea. He knew certain department stores and oil companies allowed their customers to charge purchases using a “charga-plate” or “courtesy card.” What if there were a charge card for restaurants? And not just for a single restaurant or chain but a card that would be accepted at eating establishments just about anywhere?

McNamara’s idea became Diners Club. Within a year, the Diners Club card was accepted at more than 300 U.S. restaurants and the club had 42,000 members, each of whom paid $3 a year for the card plus a 7% fee for each charge. The success of Diners Club led to a burgeoning credit card industry, populated by cards with names such as American Express, BankAmericard (now VISA), and MasterCharge (now MasterCard) — and these cards were accepted not only at restaurants but virtually everywhere.

The Discover card was a latecomer, making its appearance in 1986. However, Discover quickly disrupted the credit card marketplace by offering higher credit limits, no annual fee, and (introduced somewhat later) a “cash back” bonus program. Since then, “rewards” programs have proliferated across the industry, leading to today’s wide range of enticing card offers, from cash-back programs to rewards points, and from extended-warranty coverage to travel miles.

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April Sightings

Sighting: The Yield Curve Inverted, so There's a Recession on the Way Within a Year...

A closely watched measure of the yield curve briefly inverted Friday [3/22] — with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling below the yield on the 3-month T-bill — and rattled the stock market by underlining investor worries over a potential recession. Here’s a look at what happened and what it might mean for financial markets.

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A Preview of Our April Issue

We're putting the finishing touches on the April issue of the Sound Mind Investing newsletter!

It's a bit of a "theme" issue, with several articles touching on preparing for retirement, including our cover article Making Sense of Your IRA Options. That piece will answer many common questions:

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