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Joseph Slife

Joseph Slife

Most Recent Articles

A Tax Threat to Pastors and Churches

A case coming before a federal appeals court could have a financial impact on pastors and churches across the country. The dispute involves a tax provision that allows ordained ministers (of any religion, not just Christians) to exclude a portion of their ministry-related gross income from the federal income tax.

In a lower court, the Freedom From Religion Foundation argued that the Clergy Housing Allowance constitutes an unconstitutional government preference for religion. Last fall, a District judge in Wisconsin agreed with the foundation, but her ruling has been on hold as the case now heads to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, arguing in favor of the housing allowance, filed its opening brief (PDF) with the Seventh Circuit last week. Meanwhile, the legal advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom is urging pastors and any other church staff members who receive a housing allowance to sign a friend-of-the court brief in the case. Today (Monday, April 23) is the deadline to sign.

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Money Roundup: Using an HSA as a Long-Term Investing Vehicle, Learning to Spend, and More

Here's our weekly collection of worthwhile reads from around the web. Happy springtime!

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 3-31-18

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings (FPR) report have been updated to reflect mutual-fund performance data current through March 31, 2018. (The Tracker and FPR typically are 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 personalize our mutual-fund rankings to their specific situation. The result is a 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 available via his or her 401k (or other retirement plan).

The Fund Performance Rankings report contains performance data and momentum rankings on 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. 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).

To receive an email each month when the FPR and Tracker updates go live, go to the SMI home page and click on "My Account" under Quick Links. From there, go to the "Email Subscriptions" page and check the box next to "FPR/Tracker Update."

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SMI’s Posting and Publishing Calendar

Almost all publications have some kind of "editorial calendar" that lists (among other things) the dates by which various articles and other items are to be prepared, proofed, and published. Readers, of course, are most interested in the last of these: publication dates.

It's been more than three years since we provided you with an overview of our SMI calendar, so for the benefit of newer Members (and veteran Members who would welcome a refresher) here is a quick summary of our target days/dates for web and print publication.

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Money Roundup: Economy Ramps Up, 200 Years of Momentum, and More

Since tomorrow is Good Friday, we're posting the weekly roundup a day early. Here's our latest collection of interesting articles on investing and other financial topics.

And from the pundits and bloggers...

If you have comments on any of these articles, please "Join the Discussion" below.

We hope you have a blessed Easter weekend!

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Finding the Right Prescription: How to Save on Medications

Looking in the mirror, Bill Kelley of Laguna Beach, Calif., noticed a mysterious rash on the side of his head. A few hours later, with a doctor visit behind him and a prescription in hand, Bill called his regular pharmacy. “Sorry, Mr. Kelley, we don’t have it but we can get it tomorrow. It’ll be $229.”

Bill decided to try elsewhere. “Yes sir, we have it — $76.” Wow. That was a big price difference. Driving to get the medicine, Bill couldn’t resist the temptation to do another comparison. He stopped in at a third pharmacy. “Do you have one of our discount cards?” the pharmacist asked. “If not, we can set you up with one — and, let’s see, that prescription will come to $11.05.” Bill was grateful the first pharmacy didn’t have the medicine on hand.

Not all prescription medications have such wide price variations from pharmacy to pharmacy, but Bill’s experience (a true story) shows it can pay to shop around. A study published last year in the Journal of Managed Care found that prices for certain prescriptions “varied dramatically [even] within a zip code.”

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Knowing How Much You Rendered to God and to Caesar

Among the many things Scripture teaches about money, these two are abundantly clear: We are to honor God by giving the first of our income back to Him, and we are to pay our taxes.

Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce. (Proverbs 3:9)

It is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. (Romans 13:5-6)

Scripture also says, in Proverbs 27:23, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds.” That, too, applies to finances. In a time when wealth commonly was measured in livestock, the proverb was an injunction to “keep track” and “be aware” of one’s financial position.

In our day, the best means of doing this is with some kind of money-management system or budget. But a secondary means — one that can help you get a “big picture” overview of your finances — involves reviewing your income-tax returns. By spending a few extra minutes with your completed 2017 returns and other documents, you can calculate (1) the percentage of your income you rendered to God, and (2) the percentage you rendered to government (Matthew 22:21).

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Paying the School Debt of Would-Be Missionaries

Many times I heard financial teacher Larry Burkett (my boss from 1990 until his death in 2003) warn that taking on too much college debt could become an obstacle to responding to a call to mission work or other kinds of ministry.

If that warning was needed 20-plus years ago, it is even more critical today when most students are graduating with huge debt loads.

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SMI on the Radio: Preparing for the Next Bear Market

Someday the long-running bull market will reverse course. We can't know when that will happen, but it's a certainty.

A wise investor should keep the fact that "bears always follow bulls" in mind and act accordingly, as SMI executive editor Mark Biller explains today on MoneyWise.

Later in the program, Mark chats with a listener whose husband is nearing retirement and needs advice on allocating between stocks and bonds. He also talks with a caller about whether to use a 401(k) distribution to pay off a home mortgage.  

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Money Roundup: Opportunities in the New Tax Code, Staying the Course, and More

Here's our heading-into-St.-Patrick's-Day collection of interesting reads on investing and other financial topics. Enjoy!

And from the pundits and bloggers…

Have comments? Scroll down slightly and "Join the Discussion."

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