Home > About SMI > Meet The Team > Joseph Slife

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

Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 9-30-22

We've updated SMI's online Personal Portfolio Tracker with performance data through Sept. 30, 2022, and we've posted the September update of our Fund Performance Rankings (FPR).

If you're new to the Tracker and FPR, read the following 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 displays 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."

To view our Tracker 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.

Continue Reading

Money Roundup: Bond Returns Are (Finally) Looking Up, The Compounding Effect of Good (and Bad) Habits, and More

We're posting the Roundup a day early this week. Tomorrow, look for the end-of-month updates for DAA and Sector Rotation (if you're a Premium-level member).

Your comments are welcome. Weigh in below!

Continue Reading

Recessions and the Stock Market

Some things resist easy definition. “Beauty,” for example. Some argue that it is “in the eye of the beholder.” Another concept that runs into definitional difficulty is “recession.” Most people understand the idea generally, but the specific definition can be elusive.

For simplicity’s sake, many pundits and politicians, and even some economists, tout the following “working definition” of a recession: “Two consecutive quarters of negative real (inflation-adjusted) economic growth as measured by the U.S. gross domestic product” (GDP). That definition has some validity — six months of declining growth (after accounting for inflation) is an important indicator. But it’s a definition that suggests that recessions fit in a tidy statistical box. They do not.

Indeed, Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder of the Economic Cycles Research Institute, says a recession is “really a process.” In a recent interview, he noted that it is more accurate to define a recession as a “pronounced, pervasive, and persistent decline” across four broad measures of the economy — measures that tend to spiral down in concert or in cascading fashion.

Continue Reading

A Change in Prescription: Congress Alters Medicare RX Coverage

Nearly 65 million Americans utilize Medicare, the government-run healthcare program for people aged 65 and up. So when Congress makes a series of changes to Medicare, as it did in the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act, it causes seniors to sit up and take notice.

But in several ways, there is less here than meets the eye. Most changes relate to Medicare’s optional prescription-drug benefit and likely will have little direct impact on most recipients — except perhaps in the cost of monthly prescription-coverage premiums.

Before discussing what’s new, here’s a refresher on Medicare’s drug coverage. Congress added coverage for prescription medications about 20 years ago. The coverage, which is voluntary, not mandatory, is provided by private insurers via Medicare Part D and many Medicare Advantage plans. About 75% of Medicare enrollees have drug coverage. Roughly 25% have decided to forgo it.

The new law makes several changes to Medicare prescription coverage, most of them tailored toward individuals who incur higher-than-normal drug costs due to their particular health situations. Other provisions of the new law are aimed at holding down prices generally, but some won’t take effect until years into the future. Even then, the impact may or may not benefit the average Medicare user.

Here’s a roundup of what’s in the new law.

Continue Reading

Pushback Begins Against “ESG” Investing

Energy stocks got hammered Friday — and, to a lesser extent today — making this a painful stretch for SMI's Sector Rotation investors. Since being recommended early this year, SR's investment in the energy sector has yielded solid results until recently (SR was still up +10.9% from February 1, when the strategy pivoted into energy stocks, through Friday's close).

As to whether SR will stick with energy or move on, Mark will have those details, based on the latest trend numbers, in his monthly SR post this Friday (9/30).

For today, we'll seize the opportunity presented by energy's current slide to remind you that the energy sector's short-term performance obscures the longer-term picture. The factors affecting energy suggest a bullish outlook for the longer term — although we make no assertion about timing. If a recession is at hand, that's certainly not bullish for energy. Recessions always suppress energy demand, which, in turn, pushes down prices. 

But in the longer run, energy will continue to face pressure on the supply side, partly because of government and investment-community hostility toward fossil fuels.

In the investment world, that hostility takes the form of "ESG" investing, which stands for Environmental, Social, and [Corporate] Governance. As Mark noted earlier this year, "ESG has become a major force in institutional investing. Environmental criteria have caused many large investors (pension plans, insurance funds, even ETF providers) to not only avoid new investments in conventional energy companies but to divest any such investments already in their portfolios."

Continue Reading

SMI on the Radio: Your Spending Patterns in Retirement Will Be Much Different Than Now

As you plan for your retirement years, don't overlook how household spending changes during retirement. Some expenses typically go way down, while others tend to rise.

SMI's executive editor Mark Biller discussed those changing spending patterns with host Rob West yesterday on MoneyWise. Mark also answered questions from callers. 

The audio is posted below. Scroll down for a transcript.

MoneyWise airs weekday mornings on American Family Radio. A different version airs weekday afternoons on Moody Radio.

Continue Reading

Money Roundup: Bracing for a Hard Landing, Giving for the Wrong Reason, and More

We're heading into the final weekend of summer! (Fall officially begins next Thursday.) Here's our latest Roundup of interesting articles related to investing, personal finance, and stewardship. Enjoy!

Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. "Join the Discussion" below.

Continue Reading

Video: Mark’s Strategy Update for September

Once a month, Mark Biller provides a half-hour video update for those who invest with SMI Private Client. (Private Client is separate from the SMI newsletter but it is an affiliated business.)

Since the strategies employed by Private Client are similar to those published by the SMI newsletter and website, and since Private Client and SMI's do-it-yourself strategies follow the same market trends, SMI Advisory Services — which manages Private Client — is providing our readers access to this month's 22-minute video. (The video was released to Private Client investors last week.)

Continue Reading

Running With the Winners

Investment blogger Morgan Housel recently wrote about "long tails" — those unusual and unexpected outcomes that can either be deeply destructive or greatly rewarding.

The sudden collapse of energy giant Enron in 2001 is an example of the former. The decades-long mega-success of Amazon, once a small online bookstore, is a case of the latter.

Other "long-tail" winners spring immediately to mind: Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google.

Morgan Housel notes that once a company emerges as a winner, its very success tends to attract even more investors and customers, along with top-quality employees. As a result, the winners tend to keep on winning.

Most competitive fields have strong feedback loops: Losers keep losing because no one wants to be associated with losers, and winners keep winning because winning opens doors, and open doors beget more open doors.

Amazon is successful in part because it has cheap capital, and it has cheap capital because it’s successful. Sears, on the other hand, has virtually no shot at redemption.

In many industries, customers do not want the fifth-best product. Talented employees don’t want the fifth-best employer. They want the best. So winning accrues to just a few.

Looked at from an SMI perspective, Housel has described why a momentum-based investing approach works: winners tend to keep winning — at least for a time. And it can be quite a long time.

To be sure, not all successful companies are huge winners like Amazon and Google. It is also true that even big winners can stumble, as company leaders make missteps or navigate marketplace transitions. Once-successful companies can even fall by the wayside (note the mention of Sears above).

Perhaps someday your great-grandchildren will ask, "What was Amazon?" Nothing lasts forever. But fortunately for momentum investors, as winners fade, new winners eventually emerge, providing an opportunity to win along with them — at least for a season. Sometimes a long season.

Continue Reading

Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker & Fund Performance Rankings With Data Through 8-31-22

We've updated SMI's online Personal Portfolio Tracker with performance data through Aug. 31, 2022, and we've posted the September update of our Fund Performance Rankings (FPR).

If you're new to the Tracker and FPR, read the following 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 displays 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."

To view our Tracker 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.

Continue Reading