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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

Pandemic Lessons — Will They Last?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. With the worst of it apparently behind us now, many people are reflecting on what they’ve learned from it, how it has impacted their priorities, and what changes they’d like to maintain.

Financial services firm Edward Jones, along with Age Wave, an organization that studies issues important to aging, teamed up with The Harris Poll to track how the pandemic has impacted the attitudes and experiences of American adults throughout the pandemic, conducting surveys at several points along the way.

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Money Roundup: Whether Rising Inflation Will Be Temporary, Donor-Advised Funds Might Get a Distribution Deadline, and More

Some of the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web.

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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I-Bonds: A Great Option for Emergency Fund Money

While we’ve linked to articles about I-Bonds in the last two Friday roundups, they’re getting enough publicity and we’re receiving enough questions about them that a separate article seems warranted.

Because savers have had to endure such a long season of extremely low interest rates, the appeal of I-Bonds is easy to see: an interest rate of 3.54%, which far exceeds what online savings accounts or CDs are paying, and protection against loss. The interest rate on I-Bonds consists of a fixed rate and an inflation rate (hence, the “I” in I-Bonds) that adjusts every six months. Currently, the fixed rate is 0% and the annualized inflation rate is $3.54%, so the composite rate is $3.54%. The inflation rate, which is based on the federal government’s CPI-U rate, adjusts twice a year — on the first business day of May and the first business day of November.

While I-Bond interest rates are tied to inflation, the composite rate can never fall below 0%. Even in a deflationary period in which the deflation rate might exceed the I-Bond’s fixed rate, the composite rate is not allowed to go below 0%. That’s different than the federal government’s other inflation-based bond offering, TIPS (Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities), which can generate negative returns in a deflationary environment.

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Money Roundup: What a Difference a Year Makes, Working With “Holy Intent,” and More

Some of the best investing and personal finance articles from around the web — a day early this week because we'll have Dynamic Asset Allocation and Sector Rotation strategy updates for you tomorrow.

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 Well Protected Are Your Investment Accounts?

Investors face many risks, from market risk to inflation risk, and from longevity risk to sequence-of-returns risk. What about the risk that your brokerage account could be hacked or your broker could go out of business? Would your money be protected?

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Do You Need Rental-Car Insurance?

With the summer vacation season upon us, you may soon find yourself standing at a rental-car counter engaged in a potentially awkward conversation about insurance coverage. The rental-car agent may tell you there are two options: full coverage or basic.

As you do the math and realize the cost of your rental car may be about to double, the agent bolsters his pitch by rattling off a series of unfortunate events that would make the insurance a bargain: collision, vandalism, theft — oh my.

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Preparing Financially for the Death of Your Spouse

There are turning points in life that prompt important financial decisions. What you choose to do — or not do — at such times can have a significant impact on your long-term financial well-being. The death of a spouse is one such turning point.

Of course, it’s an emotionally wrenching time. But it can become financially painful as well if you’re not careful. This article highlights one of the most common financial mistakes made at this difficult time, describes several manifestations of the mistake, and suggests better steps to take instead.

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What Money Can’t Buy and Other Points to Ponder

Too good to be true?

“The problem is that the massive government ‘stimulus’ checks have put the economy in a strange position, where retail sales are far above where they would be if COVID had never happened, even as the production side of the economy remains relatively weak.”

– From a May 17, 2021, report from economists at First Trust Advisors. They said that as the government’s efforts to inject life into the economy taper off, retail sales will as well. Read more at bit.ly/2RzEabm.

Resilience

“When the stock market next plunges, it won’t be the same as 2000-02, or 2007-09, or early 2020. But it’ll have similarities: the panicked investors, the widespread fear that the decline will only get worse, the declarations that this market crash is somehow different from all earlier market crashes, and that stocks won’t recover any time soon. Which, needless to say, is about the time when stocks do indeed defy the naysayers and head higher.”

– Jonathan Clements, in a 5/8/21 post on his Humble Dollar blog. He said the market’s rapid recovery from last year’s dramatic decline shows just how resilient the market is. To survive the next downturn, he said investors need tenacity and some knowledge of market history. Read more at bit.ly/2T0XZZv.

The only free lunch

“Diversification is ultimately an exercise in humility and risk management. For at its core it’s an admission that you cannot predict the future and is employed to withstand the many possible outcomes that lie ahead. One of those possible outcomes is that the high valuations in US equities today portend a more difficult road ahead. If that’s indeed the case, a little diversification can go a long way in helping you navigate that road and stay the course.”

– Charlie Bilello, in a 5/10/21 post on his Compound Advisors blog. He suggested that investors consider multiple forms of diversification, from asset classes to investment strategies. Read more at bit.ly/3u5lrlk.

The wisdom to wait

“We are sort of the polar opposites of a lot of investors. We do a lot of thinking and not a lot of acting.” – Lou Simpson, quoted in a 5/19/21 post on the Novel Investor blog. In 1979, Warren Buffett picked Simpson to manage GEICO’s investment portfolio, which went on to generate an average annual return of more than 20% over the next 25 years. Upon Simpson’s retirement in 2010, Buffet called him “one of the investment greats.” Read more at bit.ly/3vel9Kg.

What money can’t buy

“In 2018, 65 percent of respondents felt that wealth gave them peace of mind, but that number had fallen to 53 percent by this spring. Half of the respondents equated wealth with happiness, four percentage points lower than in 2018.”

– New York Times writer Paul Sullivan in a 5/21/21 article about two recent surveys that suggest the pandemic has changed people’s views of wealth. Read more at nyti.ms/3wmzpRk.

True peace

“If there is one thing that the story of the rich young ruler teaches us it’s this: to truly have the peace you need and the peace that Jesus provides, you must love him more than anything else in this world. He is the anchor that can bring stability to your soul in the midst of unstable times. He is the only one who can bring purpose out of your every pain, even if the breakthrough you’ve been praying for hasn’t happened yet, or may not happen at all.”

– Costi Hinn, in a 5/13/21 post on his blog, For the Gospel. Read more at bit.ly/3f9S6Sk.

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Investment Lessons From Phil Mickelson

In capturing the PGA Championship yesterday, 50-year-old Phil Mickelson became the oldest winner of any of golf’s four major championships. He broke a record that had stood for 53 years. Julius Boros was the previous oldest major winner, taking the 1968 PGA Championship when he was 48.

As one who loves the game of golf and sees countless life lessons in the game, here are a few take-aways that relate how we manage money.

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Fidelity Courts Teenage Investors

Fidelity Investments this week introduced its Fidelity Youth Account, which the company says is the industry’s first brokerage account for 13- to 17-year-olds. Unlike a custodial account, teens will be able to make trades on their own.

Investment options will include domestic stocks, most ETFs, and Fidelity mutual funds. When an account holder turns 18, the account will be automatically converted into a standard brokerage account, which will open up additional investment options.

The account, which may be accessed via computer or mobile app, also comes with a debit card for spending uninvested cash, which can be kept in one of several interest-bearing sweep accounts. There are no fees and no minimum balance requirements, although eligibility is limited to families where the parents or guardians have their own Fidelity accounts.

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