In 1989, investment advisor Austin Pryor was having lunch with his long-time friend, the late Larry Burkett. Larry was the founder of the ministry Christian Financial Concepts (which later merged with Crown Ministries), as well as the author of many books on biblical money management and the host of a popular national radio program.
As they talked about the financial challenges facing Christian families, Larry suggested an investment newsletter was needed. His work focused on teaching biblical financial principles and helping people with aspects of money management such as getting out of debt and using a budget, but nothing existed to help Christians in the complex and often intimidating area of investing.
Austin's initial response was, "You're right, Larry. Too bad no one is doing anything like that." It didn't occur to him that he should publish such a newsletter. After all, he was busy running an investment management firm that he had founded a decade earlier. During the first five years of that business, his average client account generated a 25.5% annual return, putting the firm in the top 5% of investment advisors nationwide. Austin was an expert in mutual fund investing, not a writer or publisher.
But as he put it, "The Lord seemed to keep bringing me back to the need." A year after that conversation with Larry Burkett, and after much time in prayer and sensing God’s leading, Austin began addressing the need for an investing newsletter for Christians by publishing the first issue of Sound Mind Investing.
The History of Sound Mind Investing
Austin writes a 12-page, easy-to-read newsletter with content that can be tailored to any situation. He prints 500 color copies. While the endeavor is physically exhausting and financially unprofitable at first, it is also emotionally satisfying and spiritually fulfilling. Fueled by encouraging feedback from those who read that first issue, he continues.
As the company grows, so do the number of questions newsletter subscribers have about retirement vehicles, college plans, savings accounts, and investing in general. Guided by an intention to teach "only what one needs to know, not everything there is to know," Austin writes The Sound Mind Investing Handbook. The book is well received and earns an Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) Christian Book Award nomination.
With Internet usage growing strongly in the late 1990s, SMI sees the tremendous potential for a web presence to complement and enhance its print newsletter. The company adds staff to develop SoundMindInvesting.com.
A common refrain during the first 15 years of SMI's existence was, "I love your Upgrading strategy, but can you do it for me?" SMI's management team partners with another firm to form SMI Advisory Services, an independent entity, and launches the Sound Mind Investing Fund (SMIFX). That makes it possible for investors to follow a similar Upgrading strategy to what the SMI newsletter teaches, but have it professionally managed for them on a daily basis. The response to the new fund is tremendous, with the fund's assets rocketing to over $200 million in less than two years.
More than a quarter-century has passed, but SMI's passion to serve its thousands of members remains. Additional strategies and tools have been (and continue to be) added. The SMI Handbook is in its 6th edition, with over 100,000 copies in print. SMI Advisory Services now offers five mutual funds to meet the needs of those who prefer to delegate the day-to-day management of their portfolios.
While much has changed at SMI over the past 27 years, one thing has remained the same — a mission to help individuals invest successfully and apply biblical principles to all aspects of their financial life so they will experience the joy of:
– providing well for their family (1 Timothy 5:8), and
– generously supporting God's work (2 Corinthians 8:7).
In other words, we help people manage money well so they can truly live well.