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Matt Bell

Matt Bell

Managing Editor

Matt joined SMI in 2012. He leads SMI’s content strategy — managing the company’s monthly editorial calendar, writing many of the articles, sourcing content from outside the company, and either writing or overseeing much of what appears on our website. He also represents SMI in various radio guest appearances.

Prior to joining SMI, Matt was an independent biblical money management writer and speaker. He is the author of four personal finance books that were published by NavPress, including Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples and The Grad’s Guide to Money (written for high school seniors and college freshmen). He does some outside speaking as well at churches, universities, conferences, and retreats throughout the country. Matt 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 influence of our consumer culture.

Matt and his wife Jude have three children at home. 

Most Recent Articles

Money Roundup: The ABCs of Your RMDs, Saving Your Retirement From a Market Crash, and More

Our latest picks for the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web.

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The Always-Learning Investor

One of my favorite comic strips was Calvin and Hobbes. As you may recall, Calvin was a young boy and Hobbes was his toy stuffed tiger. At least, that’s what Hobbes appeared to be to other people. To Calvin, Hobbes was very much alive. The comic strip centered on their adventures and philosophical ruminations.

In one memorable piece, Calvin and Hobbes are flying down a hill in a little red wagon as Calvin waxes on about knowledge being overrated.

It’s true, Hobbes. Ignorance is bliss! Once you know things, you start seeing problems everywhere. And once you see problems, you feel like you ought to try to fix them. And fixing problems always seems to require personal change. And change means doing things that aren’t fun. I say phooey to that! But if you’re willfully stupid, you don’t know any better, so you can keep doing whatever you like.

As they barrel toward the edge of a cliff, Hobbes tries to warn Calvin, who closes his eyes and says, “I don’t want to know about it.”

Lying bruised and battered after the inevitable crash, Hobbes says, “I’m not sure I can stand so much bliss.” To which Calvin replies, “Careful! We don’t want to learn anything from this.”

After last week, when the S&P 500 lost four percent (but was down as much as -5.5% at one point), maybe you’re feeling a little bruised and battered as well. While the market didn’t exactly fall off a cliff, it might have felt that way. Last Wednesday’s 800+ point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Index was the steepest single-day decline in eight months.

But unlike Calvin, it would be helpful to learn from the experience. As we’ve written before, there’s nothing like a downturn to find out if your risk tolerance is as strong as you assumed. Of the following three reactions to last week’s declines, where would you place yourself?

  • "The market fell last week? I had no idea.” This would be the ideal reaction. It means you’re comfortable with your investment approach and check on your portfolio infrequently, perhaps just once a month when we update our strategies. Admittedly, though, this reaction is pretty unrealistic. You’d have to be well insulated to avoid hearing anything when the market is selling off sharply.
  • "I sure don’t like it when the market falls, but I know it comes with the territory of investing in the stock market, so I made no changes to my portfolio.” This seems to have been the most common reaction among SMI members, based on the feedback we receive. No one enjoys seeing their portfolio balance decline sharply, but down days (and months and years) do, indeed, come with the territory of being a stock market investor.
  • "I admit it. I couldn’t take the heat and sold some of my stock holdings.” If this describes you, your portfolio is likely not aligned with your true risk tolerance. However, especially if you have 10 or more years until retirement, it may be more profitable to develop thicker skin than to thin out the risk in your portfolio.

Three factors can help you take more of a steady-hand-on-the-wheel approach to investing.

1. Have faith. If you’ve bathed your investment decisions in prayer and sought Godly counsel in how you’re investing, those steps should provide peace of mind. And when the market tumbles, we would all do well to look to God before looking at our investment portfolios (1 Peter 5:7).

2. Know a little market history. One of the clear lessons from the history of the stock market is that the longer you stay invested, the better your chances of making money. On a daily basis, the odds that the market will generate a gain are about 50-50. But looking at 20-year historical holding periods, the odds of a positive return rise to nearly 100 percent. Two other important lessons are that: 1) The market cycles between bull markets and bear markets, and; 2) Bull markets have lasted longer than bear markets and they’ve added more value than bear markets have taken away.

So, expect short-term volatility and a long-term cycling between bull and bear markets.

3. Use a trustworthy strategy. Central to such a strategy is objectivity — having a time-tested, rules-based process for making investment decisions. As SMI members know, that’s exactly the approach taken in each SMI strategy.

How well did you navigate last week’s downturn and what did you learn from the experience?

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Money Roundup: Ignore a Bear at Your Peril, Peak Analysis, and More

Our latest picks for the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web.

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Voices of Reason, Reasons for Caution

Every week, as we put together the Money Roundup, we scan the headlines from over 100 investment-related publications and we read countless articles that catch our attention.

Reading so much about investing on such a regular basis has given us a pretty good feel for which voices to listen to and which ones to shrug off — which ones are aligned with SMI's overarching investment philosophy and which ones amount to no more than noise.

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What Does It Mean to Invest With a “Sound Mind?”

Have you ever wondered why SMI founder Austin Pryor named the company based on 2 Timothy 1:7? I certainly did. When I joined SMI in 2012, I had been involved in stewardship ministry for over 20 years, yet had never heard that verse mentioned in relation to managing money. Ever. So why make it the cornerstone verse for a company providing investment advice to Christians?

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Funding a Retirement Nest Egg – Before Graduating From High School

What if your kids could have their retirement significantly funded before they graduated from high school? An impossible dream? Maybe not.

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Regrets, We’ve Had a Few and Other Points to Ponder

Taking the bad with the good

“From Sept. 12, 2008 to yesterday, the S&P 500 is up +185.9%, or +11.08% annualized. Your money nearly tripled in 10 years. [But] from Sept. 12, 2008 to March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 lost -45.15%. You lost almost half your money in less than six months. You can’t have one without the other.”

– Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig in a 9/12/18 tweet.

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October Sightings

Sighting: The Case for Actively Managed Funds

In the United States, assets have shifted away from actively managed funds and towards passively managed index funds and ETFs; specifically, less than 8% of the assets in equity funds were passively managed in 1997, but over 40% were passively managed in 2017.... The conventional wisdom [is that active management does not create value for investors]. That wisdom is based on [research showing] that: (1) The average fund underperforms after fees. (2) The performance of the best funds does not persist. (3) Some fund managers are skilled, but few have skill in excess of costs....

Taken as a whole, our review of current academic literature suggests that the conventional wisdom is too negative on the value of active management. [Multiple studies suggest] that active managers have a variety of skills and tend to make value-added decisions, such that, after accounting for all costs, many actively managed funds appear to generate positive value for investors. While the debate between active and passive is not settled and many research challenges remain, we conclude that the current academic literature finds active management more promising for investors than the conventional wisdom claims.

— From “Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Active Management: A Review of the Past 20 Years of Academic Literature on Actively Managed Mutual Funds,” by researchers K.J. Martijn Cremers, Jon A. Fulkerson, and Timothy B. Riley. Read the Entire Article

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Money Roundup: Choosing the Right Bonds, Economic News That Matters, and More

Our latest picks for the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web.

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Parents Expecting Their Kids to Cover More College Costs, But Haven’t Told Them

Fewer parents of college-bound children are planning to cover all of their kids’ college costs, and those who plan to share the cost are less certain as to how to the bills will be paid. Those are some of the key takeaways from a new Fidelity study.

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