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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: Shock and Boom, Buying During a Crisis, and More

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

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What We All Need to Know

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

That quote, attributed to various humorists (including Mark Twain), seems especially appropriate right now. At a time like this, it’s important to discern what is really true. Since one of SMI’s goals is to simplify the complex — focusing on what you need to know rather than all there is to know — let’s take a look at what we know for sure that is certainly so.

We know that the world, and as a result, the markets, have been in turmoil because of the fast-moving COVID-19 pandemic. After setting a new record on February 19, it took a mere 16 trading sessions for the S&P 500 to enter bear market territory (a decline of at least -20%), making it by far the fastest switch from a bull- to bear-market in history. Previously, such a fall had taken an average of eight months!

We know that people feel the pain of loss more acutely than the pleasure of gain. So, given the speed and magnitude of this sell-off, it wouldn’t be surprising if you’re feeling some pain right now. All investors are.

But here’s what else we know — reassuring rock-solid truths from God’s Word and important lessons from market history.

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The Enduring Optimism of an Investor

With all the market turmoil in recent weeks, you’ve probably experienced a wide range of emotions — from surprise to concern, and possibly fear. One emotion you may not have experienced is optimism. And yet, while not wanting to paint a smiley face on all that’s been happening, there is reason for optimism among investors right now.

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Not a Recession, Not a Bailout, and Other Points to Ponder

Counting the cost

“Economic data in the near future will be not just bad but unrecognizable.”

– From a Credit Suisse research note, referenced in a 3/21/20 New York Times article about the impossibility of accurately forecasting how much damage the COVID-19 pandemic will inflict on the U.S. economy. While the severity may be in question, the article said it’s all but certain the U.S. will experience a recession. Read more at nyti.ms/2WCrqks

Not a recession, not a bailout

“Frame this as a massive investment in U.S. public health.”

– James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, quoted in a 3/22/20 Reuters article. He said the economic toll taken by the COVID-19 pandemic should not be described as a recession. Recessions, he said, are ordinary, predictable contractions that mark the end of a normal business cycle. He expressed confidence that massive injections of money by the Federal government and the Federal Reserve eventually will enable the economy to pick up where it left off before the pandemic. Read more at reut.rs/3blZrtA

Looking for good news

“Deciphering such clues is like forecasting the weather before radar or telegraphs: Noticing how the wind ruffles the leaves, watching how the animals are acting.”

– CNBC senior markets commentator Michael Santoli, in a 3/22/20 article in which he said there are “tenuous signs” that the market is beginning to find its footing—fewer individual stocks making new lows, better market breadth, and lower trading volume — but you have to squint to see them. Read more at cnb.cx/2xln0DQ

The winner’s game

“You make most of your money in a bear market; you just don’t realize it at the time.”

– Value investor Shelby Davis, quoted in a 3/21/20 MarketWatch article about the opportunity bear markets represent for long-term investors. Read more at on.mktw.net/3ahvUBc

The race is not to the swift

“The advantage of being able to invest for the long-term is at its greatest when it is the hardest thing to do. The only way to benefit from this is to have a sensible investment plan that is clear about objectives and the decision making process. Sticking with this through tough times can provide a major behavioural edge.”

– Fund manager Joe Wiggins, in a 3/16/20 post on his Behavioural Investment blog, in which he said that having a plan is the best way for investors to overcome the many cognitive biases that get so many investors in trouble. Read more at bit.ly/2y11PY9

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The Opportunity of a Lifetime

We all woke up today to news of both the pandemic’s continued spread and a massive wave of governmental intervention designed to shore up the economy and stem the market’s fall. For investors, the latter is already having a welcome impact, at least in some corners of the market.

Gold and bond funds that have corporate bond exposure, such as BLV and BIV, which had been confounding investors by falling with the rest of the market instead of acting as the safe havens many expected them to be, are both reacting positively to today’s news. The rest of the market, not so much.

None of this requires action on the part of SMI investors, but by the same token, it can be helpful to understand as much as can be understood about the tumultuous times we’re living in. We’ll provide a closer look at the bond market in particular in the April issue of the SMI newsletter coming later this week. In the meantime…

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All That Has NOT Changed

Under the best of circumstances, the Bible describes us as strangers in a strange land, exiles living temporarily far from home. But this? Well, this is really strange.

Grocery store shelves picked clean. The kids — even our 5th grader — engaged in “distance learning.” And gas below $2.00 a gallon.

In one sense, it’s horrible beyond words. Many people have died. Many others are sick.

It always feels wrong to turn too quickly to financial matters at time like this, but the extreme volatility and losses in the stock markets have been jarring as well. Even for seasoned investors, it may be unnerving.

Now is a good time to consider all that truly matters, because so much of what truly matters hasn’t changed at all.

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Money Roundup: Control the One Thing You Can, Bear-Market Rallies, and More

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

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Is This a Good Time to Buy?

With all the carnage in the markets of late (the Dow has shed some 5,000 points since February 21, or nearly 18%), is this a good time to pick up some “bargains”? Should you be thinking of this as a stock market sale, with equities on deep discount?

We understand that some of our members may be thinking along those lines right now. As you’ve found your bearings after adjusting to the shock of how far and fast the market has fallen in recent weeks, perhaps you’re hearing Warren Buffett’s words ringing in your ears: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."

As much as this may seem like a good time to do some stock market bargain hunting, we urge caution. Remember, the Bible teaches a slow and steady approach to building wealth.

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Making the Most of What’s Left of the Stretch IRA

Last month SMI reported on significant new restrictions on the stretch IRA. This month we want to follow up in more detail.

While it’s true that under the 2019 SECURE Act certain types of beneficiaries can no longer stretch distributions from an inherited IRA over their entire lifetime, some still can. (Spouses, disabled beneficiaries, and beneficiaries no more than 10 years younger than the account’s owner can still make full use of the stretch IRA. For minor beneficiaries, the 10-year clock starts ticking when they reach the age of majority.) Others are allowed to stretch distributions over 10 years. With the right beneficiary designations and the right conversations, the benefits of an inherited IRA still can stretch pretty far.

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Is Your Home an Investment?

Normally, articles about buying a home would be found in the Level One section of the newsletter. This article is appearing here in Level Three because whether you think of your home as an “investment” or an “expense” isn’t just a matter of semantics. It could impact several other important financial decisions.

One caveat before going further: We’re talking about your primary residence here, not rental real estate.

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