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Mark Biller

Mark Biller

Executive Editor

Mark joined SMI in 2000. He leads SMI newsletter’s overall content strategy, managing the editorial direction and writing many articles. He led the company’s efforts to create its first web site, helped develop several of SMI’s investment strategies, and has been a contributing author to the Sound Mind Investing Handbook. 

In addition, Mark helped design and launch the three Sound Mind Investing mutual funds. He has served as the Senior Portfolio Manager since the original SMI Fund was launched in 2005. Mark also serves as Senior Portfolio Manager to SMI Advisory Service’s Private Client managed account program.

Mark earned his undergraduate degree in Finance from Oral Roberts University.   

Mark and his wife, Cindy, have three children.

Most Recent Articles

News Events and Your Portfolio

The events of the past two weeks involving Iran and the U.S. have shaken the nerves of many investors, as these types of geopolitical events often do.

As most everyone is already aware, following the killing of a U.S. contractor in Iraq by missile attack attributed to Iran proxies, the U.S. killed Iran's top military leader last Friday. Three days of national mourning followed in Iran, which concluded last night with a direct missile attack from Iran against U.S. bases in Iraq.

It appears those attacks were low impact (which may well have been by design), and hopefully will mark the end of the overt ramping up of hostilities.

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DAA – New Recommendation for January 2020

There is one change to the DAA lineup for January. Read on for the full details.

DAA is a core portfolio strategy that is designed to help SMI readers share in some of a bull market’s gains, while minimizing (or even preventing) losses during bear markets. The strategy involves using exchange-traded funds to rotate among six asset classes, holding three at any one time.

DAA is a defensive, low-volatility strategy that nonetheless has generated impressive back-tested results when evaluated over full market cycles, demonstrating the power of "winning by not losing."

The recommended categories/ETFs for January are (in order of current momentum):

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Sector Rotation – January 2020 Update

There is no change to the official SR recommendation for January. Read on for the details.

Sector Rotation is a high-risk/high-volatility strategy. While its peaks and valleys have been more extreme than SMI's other strategies, it has generated especially impressive long-term returns, as discussed in Sector Rotation Is Risky, But Highly Rewarding.

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Stock Upgrading – New Fund Recommendations for January 2020

Our most aggressive core strategy, Stock Upgrading is a “momentum” strategy premised on the idea that recent past performance tends to persist. The strategy has you diversify your portfolio across five stock fund “risk categories” (along with up to three bond fund categories). You then buy the funds SMI objectively determines to have the highest momentum, occasionally replacing lagging funds with those showing stronger momentum. With only monthly maintenance, Fund Upgrading has generated better long-term returns than the overall market. This article explains the changes to put in place for the coming month.
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A New, Better Process for Getting Started With MoneyGuidePro

It’s been nearly three years since we introduced SMI readers to the web-based financial-planning software MoneyGuidePro® — the most-popular such software among professional financial advisors — and our affiliates at SMI Advisory Services made it available to SMI Premium-level members for a remarkably low $50 one-time fee.

Now, MoneyGuidePro® has gotten even better with the addition of MyBlocks — a system that offers 1) a simpler "getting started" process for first-time users and 2) helpful new features for existing users.

Think back to your high school algebra class (but don’t freak out!). No longer are you doing math with numbers, as you’ve done since first grade. Instead, your algebra textbook is all about letters: x’s, y’s, and z’s. Your task: solve equations that have unknown variables.

Planning for your financial future is a lot like high school algebra — except that the variables tend to be more numerous and, in some cases, unknowable! For example, maybe you intend to work until age 70, but what would happen to your finances if you lose your job at 66? Or if you had to cut back to part-time to care for an aging parent? What would happen if your spouse dies earlier than expected, and, as a result, you receive only one Social Security retirement benefit instead of two? What if inflation turns out to be higher than anyone expected?

In trying to plan your future finances, how can you “solve for x” when, to borrow words from the Apostle James, “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow” (James 4:14)? All these uncertainty factors are what make long-term planning such a challenge.

Since there is no way to know what the future may hold, it’s wise to develop a plan that takes into account multiple “what if” scenarios. In other words, you need a plan that — despite all the unknowable variables — can offer a reasonable likelihood of ensuring financial stability in your later years.

That’s a tall order, but unlike a high school algebra test, it’s okay to get outside help! The web-based MoneyGuidePro® software can help you formulate a plan that will enable you to face the financial future with greater confidence and peace of mind.

MoneyGuidePro® isn’t just another planning tool. Among professional advisors, it is considered the best planning software available. Typically, MoneyGuidePro® is available only to clients who are working directly with a financial advisor. But, by special arrangement, we’ve been able to offer the software directly to SMI do-it-yourselfers since 2017. The 1,500 SMI members who have signed up have been equipped to seize control of their retirement preparation, reduce uncertainty, and move toward accomplishing their most important financial goals.

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SMI’s 2020 Rebalancing Guide

As we discuss how to rebalance to your ideal portfolio allocation for 2020, remember that the most crucial characteristic of your portfolio — the factor that influences the performance of your portfolio more than any other — is the way you divide your money between asset classes.

An “asset class” is a broad category of investments that tend to have similar risk characteristics and respond similarly to market forces. The most common classes are stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, and cash equivalents.

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Two Types of Risk

What is risk?

In an investment context, risk means different things to different people. Because there is more than one type of risk, it’s easy for misunderstandings to result. Unfortunately, these misunderstandings create problems for investors.

Technical risk measurements

There are numerous methods investors use to measure risk. The most common measurements for investment risk typically focus on volatility. It’s important to recognize that when you see risk discussed in an investment context, what is usually being measured is the volatility of an investment.

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An Upgrading Overview: Easy as 1-2-3

Why Upgrade?

SMI offers two primary investing strategies for “basic” members. They are different in philosophy, the amount of attention they require, and the rate of return expected from each. Our preferred investing strategy is called Fund Upgrading, and is based on the idea that if you are willing to regularly monitor your mutual-fund holdings and replace laggards periodically, you can improve your returns. While Upgrading is relatively low-maintenance, it does require you to check your fund holdings each month and replace funds occasionally. If you don’t wish to do this yourself, a professionally managed version of Upgrading is available.

SMI also offers an investing strategy based on index funds called Just-the-Basics (JtB). JtB requires attention only once per year. The returns expected from JtB are lower over time than what we expect (and have received) from Upgrading. JtB makes the most sense for those in 401(k) plans that lack a sufficient number of quality fund options to make successful Upgrading within the plan possible. Here are the funds and percentage allocations we recommend for our Just-the-Basics indexing strategy.

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The Best Way to Invest a New Lump Sum

A common question SMI has fielded over the past 30 years is what is the best way for a person to invest a new lump sum amount. Specifically, what most people are wondering is whether it's better to invest it all at once, or spread out their investing over time using some type of dollar-cost-averaging (DCA) approach.

This question is trickier than it seems because there are two aspects to the decision. There's the strictly financial aspect and the emotional aspect. As someone recently remarked (I'd give them credit but I don't remember where I saw it), "What works in a spreadsheet doesn't always work at the kitchen table." Very true.

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Plugging the Holes in Your Portfolio

There are three primary reasons why investors don't get the returns they expect from their portfolios. I'm not talking about when a person makes poor investing choices out of ignorance, or when a portfolio simply underperforms expectations — those are separate issues. I'm referring specifically to someone who has carefully selected an appropriate portfolio, but then fails to get the returns they expect from that portfolio.

From what I've seen, the three main reasons investors underperform their expectations are the following:

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