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Matt Bell

Matt Bell

Managing Editor

Matt joined SMI in 2012. He assists with SMI’s content strategy and writes many of the company’s articles. Matt is the author of four personal finance books: “Money, Purpose, Joy,” “Money Strategies for Tough Times,” Money and Marriage,” and “The Grad’s Guide to Money.” He does some outside speaking as well at churches, universities, conferences, and retreats.

Prior to joining SMI, Matt was an independent biblical money management writer and speaker. He has been involved in stewardship ministry since 1990 when he began serving in the Good $ense ministry at Willowcreek Community Church.

Matt earned an undergraduate degree in Journalism from Northern Illinois University and a graduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from DePaul University, where he wrote a thesis about the history and impact of our consumer culture.

Matt and his wife, Jude, have three children at home. 

Most Recent Articles

Money Roundup: Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy, DeFANGing a Common Market Narrative, and More

This week’s picks for the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web.

How to stop being your own worst enemy in the stock market (MarketWatch). Practical ideas for taming your emotions.

This bull market might not be hated, but it still isn’t trusted (CNBC). Our love/hate relationship with the market - it’s complicated.

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Upgrading In Your 401(k) Plan When Your Options Are Limited — A Guidestone Case Study

What’s an SMI member with a bad 401(k) plan to do? In this case, “bad,” means a plan with limited investment options. SMI’s Personal Portfolio Tracker, available to both Basic and Premium members, was designed with that scenario in mind. If you’re not making use of this powerful member benefit, hopefully you’ll be motivated to do so by the time you’re done reading this article.

What’s the issue?

According to the Investment Company Institute and Brightscope, the average 401(k) plan offers 25 investment options. For many investors who try to select mutual funds on their own, that’s too many choices. However, for SMI members trying to implement Fund Upgrading, it can appear to be too few.

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Living in the Tension and Other Points to Ponder

Should I stay or should I go?

  • “It ‘feels’ like there is a rug-pull moment coming any day now.” — Michael Batnick, author of the Irrelevant Investor blog, on 5/17/17. For many investors, he said, every time the market falls a little, it feels like it might fall a lot. But that feeling isn’t unique to today’s environment, he added, it’s true much of the time. Read more
  • “…the difficulty with market timing is that you have to be right not once, but twice, and you have to be right by enough to overcome the transaction costs including taxes and the value of your time. It is so hard to do that consistently over the long run that it isn’t worth trying. As a general rule, all that ‘going to cash’ is going to do is decrease your returns.” — Jim Dahle, author of The White Coat Investor blog, writing on 5/15/17 that investors should avoid allowing fear to push them to the sidelines. He said the idea of “taking money off the table” applies to gamblers, not investors. Read more
  • “…trying to judge whether a market is overvalued is a fool’s errand. Pricey stocks can and do get pricier, often for years. If your strategy is to wait for prices to decline to where you think they should be before buying, the market might very well outlast your patience.” — Barry Ritholtz, Founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management, writing on Bloomberg View on 5/1/17 about the difficulty of determining whether stocks are overpriced. Read more
  • “Predictions create reason for more trading activity. More trading activity typically leads to more errors… you’re better off planning on downturns regularly occurring than trying to predict when stocks will take a tumble.” — Peter Lazaroff, writing on his blog by the same name on 5/15/17 that stock market downturns have been common historically and are not to be feared. Understanding the market’s historical volatility can help investors control their emotions. Read more

Living in the tension

  • “Bottom line: everyone believes the same thing (equities will work), and the crowd will be right (albeit with subdued returns) until [the crowd] is very, very wrong.” — Nicholas Colas, Chief Market Strategist at ConvergEx, quoted on ZeroHedge on 5/17/17, arguing that earnings and interest rates still make stocks worth owning at today’s valuations, but those valuations suggest long-term returns will be below average. Read more
  • “When the economy is doing terribly, it’s typically a great time to invest, but no one wants to put money to work at that point because things could always get worse. And when things are going swimmingly with the economy it’s typically a time to temper your expectations, but no one wants to do that because things could always get better.” — Investment blogger/author Ben Carlson, writing on 5/12/17 about the emotional roller coaster investors ride. Read more

What will happen when the market turns?

  • “Vanguard loses 10-15% of its [assets under management], an enormous outflow in a very compressed period of time as newly-minted passives realize they’re not quite cut out to be passive after all. The pain will prove too much for many recent indexing dilettantes who thought this was easy.” — Josh Brown, writing on The Reformed Broker blog on 5/9/17 about how the next bear market may tilt the balance between active/passive investing. Read more

Deciphering signal from noise

  • “While Big Data has grown, Big Anecdotes has exploded....[W]e have more statistics than ever to help us make smart decisions, but it’s also easier than ever to let stories pull us toward bad decisions.” — Morgan Housel, writing on the Collaborative Fund blog on 5/4/17 about the persuasive nature of investing narratives. Read more
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Are You Saving to Live or Living to Save?

Frugality is generally a good thing, but even good things can be taken too far. And there have been a number of studies recently indicating that some older people may be having a tough time spending the money they diligently saved over the years.

Last year, Michael Kitces drew attention to a consumption gap between what wealthier retirees (those with over $500,000 in savings) could and should spend versus what they actually do spend.

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Money Roundup: The End of the Trump Rally, The Fear of Falling, and More

This week’s SMI picks of some of the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web.

The end of the Trump rally has a silver lining (Bloomberg). Do markets really care about headlines and narratives?

Record level of investors see ‘Goldilocks’ economy (CNBC). If you can look past the headline-of-the-day coming out of Washington, the global economy looks good.

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Listen and Learn

If you love to learn, never have there been so many opportunities to hear from great teachers. Blogs and podcasts have given a platform to people with unique expertise or a unique point of view.

Since anyone with a computer can create a blog or podcast, that can lead to some questionable content being “put out there.” But it has also given a voice to people with important and helpful messages who otherwise might not have been heard.

Listening to podcasts has become a regular part of my media diet.

A favorite

While I haven’t done an exhaustive review of investing podcasts, one of my favorites is Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s Invest Like the Best. O’Shaughnessy is a Chartered Financial Analyst and portfolio manager at O’Shaughnessy Asset Management.

Patrick is a skilled interviewer—obviously preparing well for his conversations, effortlessly building rapport with his guests, and interjecting helpful points without becoming the focus of the interview.

A couple of episodes I especially enjoyed recently were his interviews with Morningstar Founder Joe Mansueto and Patrick’s father, Jim O'Shaughnessy, founder of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management and author of the book, “What Works on Wall Street.”

You can listen right from his Investor’s Field Guide web site, or do what I do — download podcasts to your phone and then listen in your car or when you’re out for a walk or run.

Adding value

If I listened to anything while driving, for the most part I used to listen to news programs. In fact, I used to be something of a news junkie. My parents always read a morning newspaper, listened to the most popular all-news radio station in Chicago, and always caught the evening news on TV. That probably explains why I studied journalism as an undergrad and worked as a radio journalist for the first eight years of my career.

But I found coverage of last year’s presidential election so disturbing and depressing that something in my love for the news broke. And that’s when I turned to podcasts. I’m enjoying finding new voices with something positive to add to my day.

On a somewhat regular basis, we plan to start including links to noteworthy money-related podcasts in our Friday Money Roundup.

What podcasts do you listen to on a regular basis—whether about investing or other topics?

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Money Roundup: Social Security Knowledge Runs Low, Calming Your Market Concerns, and More

This week’s picks for the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web.

The 1 thing Americans get right about Social Security (and the 4 things they get wrong) (Time). How well do you understand your options and the rules?

Is dollar-cost averaging the cure for market jitters? (CNN Money). What to do with a lump sum when the market seems high.

Retirement-age Americans are failing this financial literacy quiz (MarketWatch). Only 6% got an A or B. Take the test and see how you do.

Is there really a retirement-savings crisis? (Wall Street Journal). How two experts can look at the same data and come to very different conclusions.

7 tricks fraudsters use to entrap the elderly (CBS Money Watch). Warning signs to beware of.

And from the blogosphere…

Should I get out of the stock market? (Ron Blue Institute). Words of wisdom from one who has seen the market move through many ups and downs.

Experts on an earlier version of the world (A Wealth of Common Sense). When expertise can be a liability.

Whatever you do, don’t read this column (Jason Zweig). Unrealistic expectations among investors are very common.

Myopic loss aversion (Peter Lazaroff). You can look at your portfolio too often, but you can’t be reminded of the dangers of doing so often enough.

Rates change, but the role of bonds doesn’t (Vanguard blog). What to expect from a rising rate environment.

We’d love to hear your responses to any of the above. To weigh in, just meet us in the comments section.

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Sideline Confessions

It happened again this weekend. Another dad came up to me during our sons’ soccer game and confessed. After some small talk, he lowered his voice and got to his main point. He had recently sold all of his stock market holdings. He explained that he was concerned about the U.S. getting into a conflict with North Korea and he didn’t want anything to do with the stock market when that time comes.

He wasn’t looking for advice. He just seemed to need someone to talk to. Knowing that I do something related to the stock market, he chose me.

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Money Roundup: When Enough Really Is Enough, The Challenge of Holding On During a Bull Market, and More

This week’s picks for the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web — a day early this week because we'll have updates for Dynamic Asset Allocation and Sector Rotation tomorrow.

When ‘enough’ doesn’t have to mean ‘more’ (Wall Street Journal). How one writer found peace in a culture obsessed with the pursuit of more.

Yes, the stock and bond markets can both be right (Bloomberg). When both asset classes rally, investors tend to worry.

Is your retirement account underfunded? (US News). The headlines say, “yes,” but do they apply to your account?

The mental mistakes we make with retirement spending (Wall Street Journal). Refusing to touch the principal in your retirement account sounds wise, but it can bring misery as well.

How earned income affects Social Security in retirement (Morningstar). If you’re among the many who plan to work in their later years, you need to know how doing so will impact your Social Security benefits.

And from the blogosphere…

When holding is the hardest part (A Wealth of Common Sense). Riding out a bear market isn’t easy, but holding on during a bull market brings its own challenges.

Which makes more sense for retirees: A total-return or income portfolio? (Retirement Researcher). Which approach are you taking?

Buying happiness and life satisfaction with greater cash-on-hand reserves (Kitces). It may not make sense on a spreadsheet, but that isn’t the point.

What to do with a lump sum in retirement (Can I Retire Yet?). Whether you receive a pension payout or an inheritance, you’ll have some important decisions to make.

A tribute to a generous man (Matt About Money). My father-in-law died recently, leaving a legacy to aspire to.

We’d love to hear your responses to any of the above. To weigh in, just meet us in the comments section.

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The Dangers of Getting Out and Other Points to Ponder

Reasons for caution

  • “If there is no recession by 2020, we will have lived through the first decade in 120 years without one. But for that to happen, everything has to go right.” — John Mauldin, chairman of Mauldin Economics, in an article on his web site on 4/9/17 in which he analyzes multiple economic indicators and explains why he believes investors should be cautious right now. Read more.

The market can’t always be above average

  • “There is no doubt that the market can grind higher to more dizzying valuations. However, there is also strong historical evidence that this market will normalize to average valuations.” — Michael Lebowitz, founder of 720 Global, writing on the See It Market blog that markets don’t stay overvalued indefinitely. Read more.

Taking the long view

  • “The stock market is almost 11 times higher today than it was in 1990. So reading a 1990 article about what a 0.5% decline meant for investors makes you want to yell, 'None of this matters! Just take a long-term view!'” — Morgan Housel, writing on the Collaborative Fund blog on 4/5/17. Read more.
  • “Over the last few decades, investors’ timeframes have shrunk. They’ve become obsessed with quarterly returns. In fact, technology now enables them to become distracted by returns on a minute-by-minute basis. Thus, one way to gain an advantage is by ignoring the ‘noise’ created by the manic swings of others and focusing on the things that matter in the long term.” — Howard Marks, chairman, Oaktree Capital Management, in a presentation called “The Truth About Investing.“ See the full presentation.

The dangers of getting out

  • “No one really knows if we’re in the seventh-inning stretch, the bottom of the ninth, or heading into extra innings.” — Author/blogger Ben Carlson, writing on Bloomberg View on 4/21/17 about concerns the market may be overvalued and how market valuation metrics tend to be poor timing indicators. Read more.
  • “It takes extraordinary self-discipline to admit having made a market-timing error and to get back into equities before too much damage has occurred. Historically, few have managed that feat.” — John Rekenthaler, VP of Research for Morningstar, writing on 3/21/17 about the difficulty of reentering the market after fear drove you out. Read more.

Who are you listening to?

  • “Chasing nonsense (false narratives) is not an effective investing strategy.” — Charlie Bilello, director of research at Pension Partners, writing on 4/18/17 about the dangers of too readily accepting analysts’ explanations of the market. Read more.

The retirement gamble

  • “Phyllis stops playing roulette when she runs out of money but, unlike roulette players, we can’t stop being retired when we go broke. We have to figure out how to continue playing retirement until the end.” — Dirk Cotton, writing on his Retirement Café blog on 4/19/17 about the similarities between gambling and retirement planning. Read more

An undervalued asset

  • “Some people (such as tenured professors, doctors and government employees) have stable jobs, and thus their labor income is almost like an inflation-indexed annuity. In other words, it acts very much like a bond. Other people (such as commissioned salespeople and construction workers) have labor income that is more volatile, and thus acts more like equities.” — Larry Swedroe, director of research for the BAM Alliance, writing on ETF.com on 4/12/17 about incorporating “human capital” (your earning ability) into your financial plan. Read more.
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