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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 Damage May Be Done, A Better Kind of Abundance, and More

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

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More Retirees Leaving 401(k) Money in Former Employer’s Plan. Is That a Good Idea?

A year after retiring, more than half (55%) of workers have left their 401(k) balance in their former employer’s plan — up from 45% four years ago. That’s according to Fidelity’s data pertaining to the plans it manages.

Why are people leaving their money in their employer’s plan after retiring? Fidelity’s Dave Gray, head of workplace retirement offerings and platforms, thinks many such investors may be motivated by their plan’s low fees or simply want to stay with the same administrator. Of course, it also could be attributed to lethargy, the same reason why so many people who were automatically enrolled in their workplace plan never get around to increasing the typically low default contribution rate.

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Money Roundup: How Long $1 Million Might Last, Your Recession Answer Guide, and More

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

And from the blogosphere…

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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How to Write an Investment Plan

Wise investing is often simple, but it isn’t always easy. In other words, while the principles of smart investing are fairly straightforward, practicing those principles can be difficult at times. That’s primarily because of our emotions. When the market falls, fear tempts us to sell. When the market rises, greed tempts us to take more risk.

One of the best ways to minimize the impact of emotion in investing is to develop a written investment plan. (Yes, actually writing it down is important!) If your plan is: (1) based on sound investing principles, (2) written when you are in an objective, level-headed mood, (3) tailored to your specific circumstances and goals, and (4) if you’re married, developed with the input and buy-in of your spouse, it will greatly simplify your decision-making, while making your investment journey more profitable — and peaceful.

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The Day Thanks Went Missing

Think about one of the greatest gifts you’ve ever received. I’m not talking about something you found under the tree one Christmas morning. Think bigger, more miraculous.

Maybe a time when you were out of work and a job materialized that couldn’t be traced to all the resumes you sent out. Or when you were sick and then got better faster than the doctors thought you would. Or when you were so worried about your son or daughter or someone else and through circumstances you still don’t understand everything worked out okay. What was your response? Weren’t you so incredibly thankful?

Where are the other nine?

Our pastor recently reminded us of one of the most amazing acts of healing recorded in the Bible. It was followed by an equally amazing response by most who were healed. But what made their response so stunning was that it wasn’t at all what anyone would have expected.

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What “Free” Really Costs, and Other Points to Ponder

What “free” really costs

“Investors need to be on their toes. They need to be asking more pointed questions and they never should accept the word ‘free’ at face value because nothing is free.”

– Ben Johnson, Morningstar global director of ETF research, in a 10/2/19 Morningstar article about the costs investors will continue to incur in an era of free trading. Read more

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What Did You Expect?

Successful investing is largely about managing expectations. How else to explain the fact that the Great Recession of 2008 took out many investors — perhaps permanently? According to Gallup, in April, 2007, 65% of U.S. adults had money invested in the stock market. Today, just 55% do.

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Money Roundup: New Shot Fired in the Brokerage Wars, Your Dividends Might Not Last, and More

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

And from the blogosphere…

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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Money Roundup: Fidelity Joins the $0 Commission Crowd, A Closer Look at Commission-Free Trading, and More

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

And from the blogosphere…

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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Financial Regrets — We Have Probably All Had a Few

Are there any financial decisions you’ve made where you wish you could have a do-over? Are there steps you took — or didn’t take — that you would change if you could?

In a recent New York Life survey, 2,200 adults were asked about their financial regrets. Topping the list were:

  • Not starting to save for retirement early enough
  • Relying too much on credit cards
  • Not maintaining an adequate emergency fund
  • Not paying off credit card balances each month

In my early 20s, I ruined the engine of a perfectly fine car by not maintaining it. Today, my wife and I budget $75 per month per vehicle for maintenance and repairs and I’m ruthless about getting our vehicles maintained regularly.

That’s the value of making some mistakes, isn’t it? Learning from them. And especially, trusting God as we live through the consequences of them.

One of my favorite financial stories is the story of Scott and Karen. When they got married, Karen had $50,000 of non-mortgage debt. In the early days of their marriage, Karen often expressed regret over “my debt” and how it was preventing them from buying a home, especially as some of their friends were buying multi-unit rental properties.

Scott would always correct her, saying it was “our debt.” It took them seven years to pay off all the debt. Looking back, Karen saw God’s hand of protection in the debt. If they had bought a home when she most wanted to, it turned out that it would have been at the peak of the real estate bubble that sparked the Great Recession.

And the way they went about getting out of debt — pursuing the goal together, and giving generously along the way — built strong bonds in their marriage and in their relationship with Christ.

Another way to think about financial regrets is to try to anticipate regrets you might have in the future, and take steps to prevent them. Of course, we human beings are notoriously bad at envisioning what life might be like for us down the road. (Interestingly, researchers who are looking for ways to motivate people to save more for retirement have found success in using photo-enhancing software that shows people what they are likely to look like at age 65 or 70. Apparently, when people can actually see their future self, they’re more motivated to prepare for the future.)

Something I wrestle with is how to strike the proper balance between saving enough for the future and spending enough to make memories while our kids are still at home. I certainly don’t want the regret of having spent so much now that my wife and I are left with too little to live on in the future. But I also don’t want the regret of having saved so much that it prevented us from spending more to enjoy family experiences. At both ends of the spectrum, the dangers are clearly seen; finding the right mid-point isn’t so easy. (Dina Isola wrote a powerful post on this topic recently.)

What about you? What are some of your top financial regrets? What have you learned from them? How have you seen God at work in them? And what are you doing now to try to avoid looking back with financial regrets in the future?


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