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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 web site. 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: Valuations Are High AND Low, Why Investors Feel So Bad, and More

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

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What Are You Doing About Distributions?

One of the most frequent questions we get has to do with calculating the performance of our various strategies. More specifically, some people wonder why the returns we report don’t match the numbers they came up with when comparing a fund’s starting and ending net asset values. Invariably, they failed to factor in the impact of a fund’s distributions.

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Money Roundup: Getting the Most From an HSA, Why Market Forecasting Persists, and More

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

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What Is Your “Policy” for Dealing With Downturns?

When you buy clothing, it can be helpful to know the store’s return policy. When you book a trip, it can be helpful to know the hotel’s cancelation policy. Such policies help manage your expectations, and knowing in advance what to do if the clothing doesn’t fit or your plans change can provide much peace of mind.

It’s for those same reasons that all investors would benefit from a written document that describes why you’re investing, how you’re investing, and perhaps most importantly, what you will do — or not do — under challenging market conditions. In financial industry-speak, this is known as an investment policy statement.

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Investing Math: Why the Numbers Don’t Always Add Up

Being an investor is tough enough with all of the investment choices available today (that’s why SMI is here!). But some investors make the challenges even greater by misunderstanding common — but important — numbers used in making decisions and keeping score. Let’s look at three of these pivotal metrics.

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Two Ways to View the Future and Other Points to Ponder

It isn’t the new normal; it’s the old normal

“Five percent drawdowns are actually quite normal in any given year and sometimes occur several times in a year. What is not normal is 15 months of less-than-2% drawdowns, which we just experienced. The volatility of February was not the odd thing; it was the preceding 15 months that was extraordinary.” – John Mauldin, writing in his Thoughts from the Frontline newsletter on March 19, 2018, that investors would do well to get reacquainted — and comfortable — with volatility. Read more

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Money Roundup: The Mystery of Inflation, Expectations Are Not Forecasts, and More

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

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529 Plan Money Now Available for Private K-12 Expenses – Or Is It?

One of the more confusing provisions of the new federal tax code centers on how 529-plan savings account money can be used. It has long been the case that earnings in such accounts are tax-free if used for qualified higher education expenses, such as tuition and room and board. In addition, more than 30 states allow state income tax deductions or credits for contributions.

But the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Trump signed into law at the end of 2017, made such money available for qualified private K-12 education costs as well — up to $10,000 per student per year starting this year.

Almost immediately, some parents of private school kids in states that allow deductions or credits for contributions saw an opportunity. They could deposit money into a 529-plan account and just as quickly withdraw money to pay their kids’ tuition and other allowable expenses. Voila — their private school expenses would suddenly become tax-advantaged.

Just as quickly, some state officials cried foul. Concerned over a sudden drop of millions of dollars in tax revenue, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, and New York were among states telling 529 plan participants, “Not so fast.”

In about 20 states, legislation governing their 529 plans explicitly states that money in such plans may be used only for higher education expenses. If parents in such states use 529-plan money to pay private K-12 expenses, they will have to repay any contribution-related tax savings, the officials warned. Even if parents use money they previously contributed to a 529 plan, they will have to pay state taxes on the earnings, and possibly a penalty.

Some of these states may eventually change their legislation to comply with the new federal rules, but they’re buying time to adjust their budgets accordingly. Others may keep their rules as they are, thereby disallowing state tax benefits for 529-plan money used to pay private K-12 expenses.

If you’re considering using 529-plan money to pay private K-12 expenses, it appears safe to assume that no federal income taxes will be due on earnings on such money. As for state taxes, including taxes on earnings and any contribution-related tax savings, check with your tax advisor.

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Money Roundup: Opportunities in the New Tax Code, Staying the Course, and More

Here's our heading-into-St.-Patrick's-Day collection of interesting reads on investing and other financial topics. Enjoy!

And from the pundits and bloggers…

Have comments? Scroll down slightly and "Join the Discussion."

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Nerves of Steel?

If we seem to talk about the importance of preparing for a bear market a lot, it isn’t your imagination. But that doesn’t mean we believe a bear market is imminent. It’s just that, after such a long upward climb, we feel the need to remind you that the market doesn’t always go up. 

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