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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

More Than a Tough Day in the Market

As investors, days like today are painful. No one likes to see significant losses in their portfolios.

But what’s behind today’s losses is something far more significant than dollars and cents. It’s a horrible disease that has taken nearly 3,000 lives, sickened nearly 52,000 others, put many relief workers in harm’s way, and created fear about how much further the disease may spread.

So today, it doesn’t seem appropriate to write another article about the importance of staying the course with your investment plan. It seems more appropriate to encourage everyone reading these words to pray:

  • For families that have lost loved ones to the disease, that God would comfort them.
  • For those who are ill with the disease, that God would heal them.
  • For medical professionals who may be in harm’s way, that God would protect them.
  • For government officials who are doing what they can to contain the disease, that God would give them wisdom.
  • For anyone living in fear of the disease, that God would give them peace.
  • For anyone touched by the disease in any way who doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ, that He would draw them into such a relationship.

A pastor living and ministering in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, wrote a letter in which he recommended other ways that Christians can pray about the situation (thanks to the Christian Coalition for linking to this letter).

One more way Christians can get involved is to financially support ministries that are actively working to bring aid to those impacted by the disease. What organizations do you know of that are ministering to the needs of those impacted by the coronavirus?

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Money Roundup: 67 is the New 65, Epidemics and Your Portfolio, and More

Some of 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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What Could Hinder Your Financial Future?

What do you think is the number one “financial disruptor” — the most common event or situation people have experienced that has had a negative impact on their long-term financial plans? A health emergency? A lengthy bear market? Unemployment? Divorce?

To be sure, any of those would take their toll. However, according to a new national survey conducted for TD Ameritrade by The Harris Poll, today’s top financial disruptor is the cost of education. More specifically, student debt.

Top Financial Disruptors

Percentage of respondents citing the disruption.

Which of the following events or situations have happened to you and had a negative effect on your financial plans for long-term/retirement?

16%

Education for self or dependent family member (e.g., student debt)

15%

Loss of employment, lower paid job

13%

Supporting others financially

10%

Poor investment, business performance

10%

Accident, illness, disability, unable to work

10%

Divorce, separation, widowed

9%

Planned family

9%

Planned home

While the cost of education might be the most common disruptor, supporting others financially is, by far, the most impactful one, resulting in 80% lower median monthly savings or investments, according to the survey.

The survey also asked people what potential future threats they feared the most. Topping the list were concerns about how much the cost of living, and healthcare costs specifically, could rise.

What to do about such disruptors — or, even better, how to avoid them altogether? For education costs, the ideal would be to begin contributing a college savings account when your children are very young. (See Making the Most of Your College-Savings Program.) If you end up not being able to help cover the cost, your parenting instincts may tempt you to raid your retirement savings, but it would be better to have your kids take out student loans than to put your own financial future at risk.

If you're the parent of a college-bound high school student, do all that you can to help them understand the impact of student loans. According to one analysis, by age 30, college grads who are loan-free saved twice as much in their retirement plans than those saddled with student loans. To avoid that, encourage your son or daughter to weigh the cost/benefits of that out-of-state or private university they have their eye on, consider starting at a community college, and give serious thought to other ways of avoiding student loans.

For many of the other disruptors, having adequate savings on hand would go a long way toward helping. Keeping such savings in a separate account — not mingled with checking account money — is generally the best way to make sure the money willl be there if and when you need it.

What financial disruptor have you experienced and what, if anything, could you have done to lessen its impact? What potential future disruptors concern you?

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Money Roundup: Fractional ETF Trading is Here, Putting the Next Downturn Into Perspective, and More

Some of 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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Investing as a Couple

Investing is arguably the most complicated aspect of managing money. Add to that the challenge of investing as husband and wife and you have a recipe for all kinds of trouble.

Often that trouble manifests itself as one spouse handling all of the investment decisions, leaving the other out of the loop and ill-prepared to invest on their own should that need arise. In other cases, both spouses just do their own thing with their individual investment accounts, which may not be good for their marriage or their investment results.

Two main factors divide couples in this area.

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What Retirees Need to Know, and Other Points to Ponder

The market isn’t “due” for anything

“...with the stellar performance in U.S. markets over the previous decade, it feels like a correction is warranted. However, if you examine the data you will realize that this thinking is just as flawed as the person expecting a tails after seeing five heads in a row. There is little to no relationship between prior 10-year returns and growth over the next 10 years.”

– Nick Maggiulli, in a 1/14/20 post on his Of Dollars and Data blog about what he called “the investor’s fallacy.” Read more at bit.ly/2tGTtTP

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What’s a Worrier to Do?

I confess. I’m a worrier.

And apparently, I’m not alone. Of the 35.6 billion chapters of the Bible read and 5.6 billion chapters listened to via the YouVersion app last year, Philippians 4:6 was the most shared, highlighted, and bookmarked verse of all.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Sounds easy enough. And yet, I tend to worry.

I’ll never forget our pediatrician’s words when we took our first-born for a check-up. There was nothing wrong. It was just a standard check-up. But my face must have looked like that of an untrained pilot who was forced to take the controls of a plane after the real pilot passed out. The doctor took one glance at me and said, “It’s okay. You’ll stop worrying. In about 50 years.”

Go to God

While it’s unlikely that any of us will ever completely stop worrying, there are some helpful steps we can take in the face of worry (short of dying!), some of which are right there in Philippians 4:6.

Step one? Pray. We’re not bothering God when we come to him about what concerns us. We’re doing exactly what he encourages us to do.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

It’s also interesting to notice how we’re instructed to pray — with thanksgiving.

Shortly after becoming a Christian in my mid-20s, I was taught the ACTS “method” of prayer — adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. There is something about ordering prayers that way that often helps ease whatever I might be worried about.

Go to others

One thing I tend to worry about is our house. (It probably doesn’t help that I think of a house as a ticking time bomb, with any number of really expensive things that could go wrong at any time!) I remember being very stressed about a slow-running faucet in a former home. I envisioned our plumber sending all of his kids to prestigious private universities courtesy of all the money he made re-piping our entire house.

In worrisome situations like that, sometimes we just need the input of someone who knows more about the situation we’re dealing with than we do.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

Fortunately, a few minutes searching the Internet turned up a simple solution that even I could handle. I just needed to unscrew the aerator at the end of the faucet (who knew faucets had such things?) and give it a thorough cleaning.

Over time, I’ve learned not to get too worked up over strange noises I hear around our house. Instead, I seek wise counsel, whether through the Internet, handy friends and neighbors, or trusted contractors.

When it comes to our kids, I’ve been greatly encouraged by the counsel and example of some very wise parents I know. (Thank you Dick and Sibyl and John and Joan!) While I certainly still pray for our kids' health and safety, I now emphasize prayers for our kids’ boldness, courage, and confidence rooted in knowing that God is walking with them and working through them.

A common concern

Of course, finances are a prime source of worry for many people. Here, too, taking such concerns to God and to trusted counselors can help. At SMI, we strive to serve as helpful counselors for those who follow our strategies.

Every Monday morning, we pray as a team, lifting each others’ concerns to God and asking for his wisdom as we begin each new week.

As you may know, we use the SMI strategies ourselves. Given that, I don’t stress over my family’s investments — and as I’m writing these words, the Dow is down over 400 points! I understand how momentum works, take comfort in knowing the SMI strategies are based on objective, rules-based criteria, and realize that markets move in cycles and even good years are often marked by periods of decline.

Ultimately, I know that none of this — our kids, our home, our investments — really belong to us. I thank God for temporarily entrusting them to us. I ask for his wisdom in how to raise our kids, care for our home, and manage our investments. When worry creeps in, I take God up on his incredible offer to cast my cares on him, and I trust in his promise that when we bring our prayers and petitions to him with thanksgiving, his peace, “which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

How do you deal with worry?

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Money Roundup: An Ill-Timed Retirement, Preparing for Risks You Can’t See, and More

Some of 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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It’s Always Something

Ten days ago, when a U.S. drone strike killed an Iranian general, and days later, when the Iranians retaliated by firing missiles at military bases in Iraq where U.S. troops were housed, your investment portfolio probably wasn’t your first concern. But it was probably somewhere on your list of concerns.

With the drone attack happening right when Dynamic Asset Allocation called for a change toward the more aggressive side of the risk spectrum — from bonds to foreign stocks — did that give you pause?

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Money Roundup: Reasons for Caution, Rules to Invest By, and More

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

And from the blogosphere…

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


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