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Joseph Slife

Joseph Slife


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

Roundup: A Plan to Tax ETFs, Overlooked Aspects of Retirement Finances, and More

Fall is in the air! (Well, at least for a few days here in often-hot-in-autumn Kentucky — highs here will be back in the 80s soon.)

Whatever the weather is like where you are, we hope you enjoy the first official weekend of fall. For your reading pleasure, here are several interesting articles we found this week on the web.

Have a comment on any of the above? "Join the Discussion" below!

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SMI on the Radio: An Overvalued Market? (audio and transcript)

As money loses value, prices rise. That's part of what's happening at the supermarket and in the stock market — as SMI executive editor explained yesterday on Moody Radio's MoneyWise Live. 

He also spoke with host Rob West about four steps that can help you stay calm when the market is rocky.

To listen, click the play button below. Scroll down for the transcript.

(And for more radio appearances by members of the SMI team, visit our Resources page.)

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Innovative Approaches to Paying for Dental Care, Primary Care

When my wife and I moved to Kentucky four years ago and started going to a new dentist, I was intrigued by the payment setup. We didn't have dental insurance, so the dental practice suggested their annual membership plan.

For a flat fee, paid upfront, we would each get two regular appointments a year, along with related services such as fluoride treatments and x-rays. (When I had to make an extra appointment last year to deal with an unanticipated issue, that was covered by the membership plan too.)

According to the Kaiser Health Network, about a quarter of U.S. dentists now offer membership plans.

These in-office plans are largely targeted to the 65 million Americans who lack dental insurance and have to pay out-of-pocket for all their care. Dentists also like the plans better than handling insurance plans because they don’t have to deal with insurers’ heavily discounted reimbursement rates...and delays in getting their claims paid....

Patients pay the dental office typically $300 to $400 a year. In return, they receive certain preventive services at no charge and other procedures at a discount.

But the membership plans don't have the annual deductibles or waiting periods that can make individually purchased dental insurance unattractive. Another deterrent to traditional insurance plans is their maximum benefit limits, usually $1,200 to $1,500 a year. In comparison, patients with memberships can use the discounts for unlimited treatment.

Primary care

Before coming to Kentucky, we lived in North Carolina. My doctor (but not my dentist) had a similar membership plan for the uninsured — pay a flat fee upfront in exchange for regular check-ups and other routine services. Since the practice didn't incur the cost of dealing with insurance paperwork, it charged a lower overall price to those in the membership plan.

The "membership" approach is similar to "concierge medicine," also known as direct primary care (DPC). The main difference is that DPC medical practices limit their clientele exclusively to paying an upfront fee.

Although the cost of direct primary care isn't cheap, the benefits are substantial. From Forbes:

For a flat monthly fee, you get unlimited office and telehealth visits that last as long as you need, as well as direct care from a doctor without worrying about copays and other charges. You also gain access to your doctor's direct phone line for medical questions and simple diagnostic and blood tests in their office. And if you have a major health problem, your doctor coordinates specialist referrals and/or hospital care as needed. With concierge medicine, there's no insurance or corporate health system interference — just doctors and patients.

The concierge concept is appealing for both primary care physicians and their patients, says Sequita Richardson, M.D., a family medicine physician at Encompass Medical Group in Kansas City, Missouri. "Doctors get frustrated with government restraints and insurance. There are administrative burdens, so people are burnt out and unhappy. Primary care on demand sounds attractive because you can get back to doing what you love to do," she says.

Concierge medicine has been popular among wealthy patients for several years. But WebMD reports that with many practices now offering a range of pricing options, the appeal is growing broader.

Costs for concierge medical service range widely, and services vary according to cost. Patients often pay a monthly retainer fee, and the annual costs can range from $1,500 for more basic care to $20,000 a year for more specialized services....

If you can afford to pay the monthly fee, there are a few benefits to concierge medicine you may not be able to find with a primary care physician in your insurance network. One of the most popular reasons to consider a concierge doctor is quicker access to your physician. Same-day appointments and direct email and phone contact with your concierge doctor mean speedier access to care. Because concierge doctors can cap the number of patients they take on, they’re often better able to control their availability.

Services you’d normally get in a primary care visit, like physicals and preventive screenings, are already covered by the fee you pay for concierge service, so you won’t have to cover costs for each individual visit. For those with conditions like heart disease that require frequent visits, a concierge doctor could be more cost-effective in the long run.

Keep in mind that direct primary care covers the basics, not surgeries or catastrophic situations. That's why most people who pay for direct primary care maintain a high-deductible insurance plan too, just in case.

Is it worth it?

After four years, we still like our dental-membership plan and have no complaints. That hasn't even been a price increase!

As for medical care, we considered changing over to a concierge medical practice a couple of years ago — mainly because it's increasingly difficult to get a timely appointment with a doctor! I spoke with someone at a local concierge practice about their pricing and services, but my wife and I decided not to switch. At the time, we weren't able to justify the higher cost. However, now that price options for direct primary care seem to be getting more favorable, we'll give it a second look.

What about you? Do you have a dental (or medical) membership plan? Have you switched over to direct primary care?

Tell us about your experience — positive or negative — in the comments section below.

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Roundup: Never a Perfect Plan, Generous Giving During Retirement, and More

Here's our latest Roundup of articles from around the web. We hope you find these pieces interesting and helpful.

We wrap-up with recollections of 9/11:

  • Remember Todd Beamer of United 93 (Mene Ukueberuwa, The Wall Street Journal). Beamer recited Psalm 23: 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.' Then he said to those who would help him thwart the terrorists: "Are you guys ready? OK, let’s roll."
  • Video: “That no one be forgotten” | A 9/11 Remembrance Special (WORLD Watch News). A 10-minute retrospective written and produced for teenagers — who, of course, don't remember that terrible day.

Have a comment? "Join the Discussion" below.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 8-31-21

We've just updated SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker with performance data through Aug. 31, 2021, and we have posted a new edition of the monthly Fund Performance Rankings (FPR).

New to the Tracker and FPR? Here's an overview:

• The Tracker: SMI's fund-performance database tracks the monthly returns of thousands of traditional mutual funds and ETFs. The Tracker can filter that large amount of data and produce a concise report covering only the funds available via your employer-sponsored retirement plan, thus making it easier to apply our Fund Upgrading strategy to a 401(k), 403(b), or similar plan.

Important: There are differences between the fund categories used in the Tracker and those used in the SMI newsletter.

The newsletter's Upgrading formula for domestic funds typically guides users toward either growth or value funds as appropriate, rather than maintaining both growth and value allocations within each category at all times. Accordingly, the newsletter uses only two domestic categories: Large Company and Small Company. 

Tracker portfolios, however, classify holdings according to four domestic stock-fund categories: Large/Growth and Large/Value plus Small/Growth and Small/Value. This helps members who use alternatives to our "official" fund recommendations gauge (using the Tracker's percentile-ranking column) how each fund they own is performing relative to its same-category peers. Because Upgrading calls for selling a fund when it drops below the 25th percentile, having a clear view of a fund's relative performance is important to maintaining that selling discipline.

Also, unlike the newsletter, Tracker portfolios show a separate Foreign category. In the newsletter, Foreign is a subset of the "Situational" category.

The Tracker will display any fund that doesn't fit within the five categories mentioned above (Large/Growth, Large/Value, Small/Growth, Small/Value, and Foreign) in a category labeled "Other Funds."

If you are new to the Tracker, watch our tutorial videos. Go to the Tracker page and click the Video Tutorials tab.

• Fund Performance Rankings (FPR): The FPR report is a 38-page downloadable PDF file featuring performance data and SMI's momentum rankings for more than 1,600 no-load traditional funds and ETFs.

We choose which funds to list in the FPR based on asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability.

The Fund Performance Rankings report displays domestic stock funds (both traditional funds and ETFs) across four common categories: Large/Growth, Large/Value, Small/Growth, Small/Value. Like the Tracker, the FPR also uses the Foreign category. Other FPR categories include Bond funds, Target-Date funds, and Sector funds. 

Check page 2 to learn how to use the FPR report. Page 3 includes a listing of 70+ risk categories that will help you compare "apples to apples." (Each category shown on page 3 is hyperlinked, enabling you to jump to specific sections within the rankings quickly.) Page 4 of the FPR has explanations of the various data-column headings.

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A Prayer for Labor Day

Here is a prayer appropriate for Labor Day, from the pen of 16th-century French theologian and pastor John Calvin:

My God, Father and Savior, since you have commanded us to work in order to meet our needs, sanctify our labor that it may bring nourishment to our souls as well as to our bodies.

Make us constantly aware that our efforts are worthless unless guided by your light and by your hand.

Make us faithful to the particular tasks for which you have bestowed upon us the necessary gifts, taking from us any envy or jealousy at the vocations of others.

Give us a good heart to supply the needs of the poor, saving [us] from any desire to exalt ourselves over those who receive our bounty.

And if you should call us into greater poverty than we humanly desire, save us from any spirit of defiance or resentment, but rather let us graciously and humbly receive the bounty of others.

Above all, may every temporal grace be matched by spiritual grace, that in both body and soul we may live to your glory.

(From a collection of prayers Calvin wrote for the people of Geneva, Switzerland. This translation is from 2000 Years of Prayer, Morehouse Publishing, 1999.)

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How to Panic-Proof Your Investing

Whether facing a public health emergency or a market downturn, the worst response is panic. By definition, panic maximizes fear and minimizes logical thinking. Often, panicked responses inflict more harm than whatever caused the panic in the first place.

Perhaps someday historians will reach conclusions about the degree to which various public-policy responses to COVID-19 were prompted by panic. But we can already judge that the stock market’s early reaction to coronavirus concerns was one of panic. Indeed, from late-February through mid-March of last year, investors engaged in widespread “panic selling” — to quote various news accounts of the time — driving one of the most abrupt downturns in market history. (In response to a hefty assist from the Federal Reserve, the panic subsided and the market reversed course.)

Although the human tendency to panic in fearful situations is understandable, panic is rarely helpful or productive. In the face of fear or danger, it is far better to keep your composure, at least as much as possible! The good news, as it regards your investing, is that you can take steps now that will help you stay steady and calm when the next “panicky” time comes.

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Roundup: A Very Good Year, Seeing All of Life as a Stewardship Opportunity, and More

Here's our latest collection of interesting articles from around the web.

(We're posting the weekly Roundup a day early because a new issue of the SMI newsletter will be released online tomorrow.)

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. Scroll down a bit and "Join the Discussion."

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SMI on the Radio: Going Steady With Your Investment Plan (audio & transcript)

"Slow and steady wins the race."

You may have learned that phrase long ago from the fable, "The Tortoise and the Hare." It's certainly an apt phrase for investors. 

SMI's executive editor Mark Biller (pictured) discussed the "steady" approach this week with host Rob West on Moody Radio's MoneyWise Live.

To listen, click the play button below. Scroll down for the transcript.

(And for more radio appearances by members of the SMI team, visit our Resources page.)

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Now Available: A New Edition of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook

We're pleased to announce the new 7th Edition of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook, just released by Moody Publishers!

SMI's founder Austin Pryor wrote the original edition of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook nearly three decades ago. Since then, more than 100,000 readers have turned to it for clear instruction on investing essentials plus guidance on developing a personal plan.

The new 7th Edition features updated performance data, discusses investor-friendly developments in the mutual-fund industry in recent years, and reflects tax-law changes. You can see the table of contents and read the first chapter here.

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