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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

Will Your Beneficiaries Benefit as You Intend?

A wise steward plans for the future. That means not only setting aside money for your retirement years but also planning for what happens to that money — and your other assets — when you die.

Preparing a will (or a trust if applicable) can help protect the loved ones you leave behind from emotionally wrenching legal struggles and costly financial consequences. But don’t neglect another crucial estate-planning task: naming beneficiaries for your various investment and bank accounts.

Beneficiary designations, along with property titles, take precedence over a will. That means you can pass significant assets to your spouse or other beneficiaries without having to go through “probate” — the sometimes lengthy legal process for validating a will. Properly executed beneficiary and title decisions can keep assets away from creditors, reduce estate expenses, speed up distribution of assets, or even purposely slow down distribution for situations in which it would be beneficial to do so.

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Publication Schedule Update – Plus the Weekly Money Roundup

"Blessed are the flexible, for they will not get bent out of shape!"

You won't find that "beatitude" in Scripture, but it is true — and it came to mind this morning as we opted to alter the SMI publication schedule this week in light of changing market signals:

  • The March newsletter, originally slated for online publication today, has been bumped back to Friday.
  • The monthly DAA and Sector strategy updates are being moved up by one day — they will be posted tomorrow.

Here's why: February is a short month, which means there are fewer days for assessing the various market signals that inform our fund recommendations. Fortunately, the market's DAA and Sector signals are clear enough that we feel confident releasing them tomorrow, a day earlier than usual. On the other hand, we think it's wise to wait an extra couple days before making the final March Upgrading decisions, given the implications this week's market volatility has had on growth vs. value stocks.

In light of those schedule changes, we're rolling out the weekly Roundup today, rather than on Friday.

Comments? Weigh in below!

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SMI on the Radio: In a Hot Market, Focus on Risk First and Returns Second (audio and transcript)

With the stock market rocketing higher and higher, it's tempting to throw investing caution to the wind.

But as SMI executive editor Mark Biller explained on Moody Radio's MoneyWise Live, it is far better to have "the wisdom to show restraint."

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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Money Roundup: Market Madness, Final Thoughts, and More

Here's our weekly roundup of recent articles on investing and other financial topics. We hope you find them interesting and helpful.

Comments? "Join the Discussion" below!

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 1-31-21

We've updated SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings with performance data through Jan. 31, 2021.

• The Personal Portfolio Tracker: SMI's fund-performance database tracks the monthly returns of more than 25,000 traditional mutual funds and ETFs. The Tracker can filter that large amount of data and produce a concise report covering only the funds available in your work-based retirement plan, thus making it easier to apply our Fund Upgrading strategy to a 401(k), 403(b), or similar plan.

The SMI newsletter's Upgrading formula for domestic funds now guides users toward either growth or value funds as appropriate, rather than maintaining both growth and value allocations 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 are using alternatives to our "official" fund recommendations easily gauge (based on the Tracker's percentile-ranking column) how each fund they own is performing relative to its same-category peers. Upgrading calls for selling a fund when it drops below the 25th percentile, so 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.

Note: Any fund that doesn't fit within the five categories mentioned above (Large/Growth, Large/Value, Small/Growth, Small/Value, and Foreign) will be displayed by the Tracker in a category labeled "Other Funds."

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

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

The Fund Performance Rankings report displays the bulk of domestic stock funds (both traditional funds and ETFs) across these 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 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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Money Roundup: The GameStop Frenzy, The Price of Admission, and More

Here's our GameStop-heavy Roundup of recent articles on investing and personal finance. Be careful out there.

Comments? Weigh in below!

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Upgrading in a 401(k) or 403(b) With Help From SMI’s Portfolio Tracker

If you’re new to SMI, you may be wondering if you can implement the Fund Upgrading strategy in your 401(k) or 403(b) workplace retirement plan. The answer is: “Yes” — although doing so likely will require the aid of our online tool, the Personal Portfolio Tracker.

Upgrading involves investing in funds demonstrating strong momentum, and then, when those funds begin to lag, replacing them with better performers. The strategy works best when an investor has access to enough funds to be able to replace laggards with leaders.

Almost all workplace plans present challenges for Upgraders. Most, for example, don’t provide access to exchange-traded funds (ETFs), even those plans that offer a wide range of investment options through a “brokerage window.” Other plans provide just a minimal menu of investment options, giving investors little to choose from. Fortunately, the Tracker offers help for would-be Upgraders in either situation.

Based on your risk tolerance and season of life, first determine how much of your Upgrading portfolio to allocate to stocks and how much to bonds. For Upgraders, this “asset allocation” decision is crucial. Use the guidelines in the “Start Here” section of the SMI website, along with the Fund Upgrading Calculator.

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Can a Fund Become Too Popular?

Although containing general information about fund investing, this post likely will be of particular interest to members following SMI's Sector Rotation strategy.

Mutual funds that are posting great performance numbers sometimes close to new investors. We've seen that happen more than a few times with funds picked as SMI Upgrading recommendations.

Why would a fund manager put up a "Sorry, We're Closed" sign? For reasons both practical and legal.

Morningstar explains the practical side:

[A fund may close to protect current] investors. If a fund's asset base gets too large to effectively execute its investing style, it could cause the managers to stray from their process.

This concern is common for smaller-cap funds, especially when small-cap stocks are on a roll. As the small-cap fund’s assets grow, it’s harder to build meaningful positions in tiny businesses because larger trades are more likely to have an impact on the underlying stocks' prices....

And changing the process to accommodate more money — for instance, moving toward more-liquid investments or running the fund in a less concentrated style — increases the probability that the fund will behave differently going forward, dulling its merit for shareholders.

At Seeking Alpha, writer Dean Young explains it this way:

Most active funds that perform well over a short period of time get significant inflows. Soon, the fund becomes too large to easily replicate the previous performance, especially if the fund is invested in small cap stocks. Investors sell out after poor performance, causing the underlying holdings to fall, causing more sell outs.

For the legal aspect, here's a snippet from 20somethingfinance:

According to the Investment Company Act of 1940, diversified mutual funds are only allowed to buy into positions of companies that equal at most 5% of the value of the fund (you will notice that in holding disclosures that some stocks may be over 5% of a fund's holdings, but this is due to capital gains, not buying a larger position).

This law, combined with bloated assets in a fund usually results in the fund being forced to buy into more and more companies.... It becomes increasingly harder for that fund to outperform. It loses its competitive edge.

In some cases, a fund may close to new investors for only a few months. In other cases, new investors are kept out for many years. Example: A mid-cap fund run by T. Rowe Price reopened in 2020 after being closed to new investors for more than a decade!

Unlike traditional funds, ETFs can't close

Having too much money to manage has never been an issue for exchange-traded funds (ETFs) — until now. Few ETFs were actively managed, and those that were didn't attract much money. Things have changed, as the nearby graph shows. 

But unlike traditional funds, ETFs — which have a different structure than traditional funds — can't close to new investors. Even in the face of massive inflows, a fund manager can't hang up a sign that says, "Sorry, We're Closed."

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SMI on the Radio: Will You Make the “Right” Investing Decisions This Year? (audio and transcript)

Will you be a wise investor in 2021? Do you know the right moves to make?

SMI executive editor Mark Biller talked about what the "right" moves are on MoneyWise Live from Moody Radio.

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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Money Roundup: Staying Rational, Preparing for Weirdness, and More

Here's our mid-January Round-up of articles on investing and personal finance. We hope you find them interesting and helpful.

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