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Austin Pryor

Austin Pryor

Founder and Publisher

Austin leads SMI, the newsletter business he founded in 1990. With over 35 years of experience in the investment business, Austin provides overall direction to the organization while continuing to author many articles for the SMI newsletter and web site. Before founding SMI, Austin started and ran his own investment management firm, which ranked in the top 5% of all investment advisers in the U.S. during its first five years of operations. 

He is the author of the Sound Mind Investing Handbook, A Step-By-Step Guide to Managing Your Money from a Biblical Perspective, which enjoys the endorsements of numerous respected Christian teachers and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

Austin was once on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, working directly with founder Bill Bright, helping to develop the ministry’s approach to working with high-capacity donors. He was a founding board member of Pro Athletes Outreach, a Christian training ministry to pro athletes and coaches of many sports, and The Christian Embassy, an outreach ministry to government and diplomatic officials in Washington, D.C.

Austin received an undergraduate degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Kentucky. He and his wife, Susie, have three adult sons and 10 grandchildren, and live in Louisville, Ky.

Most Recent Articles

No Such Thing As “Normal”

By all accounts, 2008 was a most unusual year. The economy and financial system were rocked with abnormal events, and the prices of most financial assets fell sharply. Ever since, many have been eagerly anticipating a time when the markets return to normal. Some may even have sold all their stock holdings at that time, and are still waiting until normality returns so they can get off the sidelines and invest again.

There’s only one problem: when it comes to the investment markets, “normal” conditions don’t exist. A generation of investors has been taught that “the stock market averages gains of +10% per year.” Never mind the fact that this statistic applies to only one portion of the stock market—the largest companies that make up the popular S&P 500 index. More importantly, investors have failed to learn how those returns are experienced in real time. We suspect that even among SMI readers, what follows will be something of a surprise.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings with Data through 2-28-17

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings report have been updated to reflect mutual-fund performance data current through 2/28/2017. The Tracker and FPR are typically updated monthly between the 10th-14th of the month, depending on when the weekend falls.

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It allows SMI members to easily personalize our mutual-fund rankings to their specific situation. The end result is a personalized monthly report showing only the funds each member is interested in, ranked by momentum and sorted according to SMI's risk categories (or without the categories, if a member prefers). This allows a member to take the 20,000+ funds SMI tracks every month and instantly transform those rankings into a concise report covering only the specific offerings of their 401k (or other plan).

The Fund Performance Rankings report contains performance data and momentum rankings on more than 1600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability. You'll find help in understanding how to use the FPR (page 2), an overview of the 70+ risk categories that help you compare "apples to apples" (page 3), and explanations for the various data-column headings (page 4).

You can sign up to receive an email each month when the data goes live. Just go to the SMI home page and click on "My Account" under Quick Links. From there you can go to the "Email Subscriptions" page and check the box next to "FPR/Tracker Update" to receive the monthly email notification.

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Things Are Not As They Seem

Sorting out the real from the illusory is one of the great challenges in investing, as in life. There’s often a disconnect between our perceptions and the underlying reality. Things are not as they seem. For example:

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Market Probabilities: What the Past Suggests About the Future

Even after the dreadful losses of 2008—and despite numerous past recessions and even a Great Depression—the remarkably resilient U.S. stock market has returned, on average, +11.5% per year since the mid-1920s. That’s for a portfolio of one-half large-company stocks and one-half small-company stocks (based on data from Ibbotson Associates, an industry leader in compiling market statistics). This assumes all dividends were reinvested and ignores the sad fact that in real life Uncle Sam may confiscate a hefty portion of your gains.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings with Data through 1-31-17

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings report have been updated to reflect mutual-fund performance data current through 1/31/2017. The Tracker and FPR are typically updated monthly between the 10th-14th of the month, depending on when the weekend falls.

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It allows SMI members to easily personalize our mutual-fund rankings to their specific situation. The end result is a personalized monthly report showing only the funds each member is interested in, ranked by momentum and sorted according to SMI's risk categories (or without the categories, if a member prefers). This allows a member to take the 20,000+ funds SMI tracks every month and instantly transform those rankings into a concise report covering only the specific offerings of their 401k (or other plan).

The Fund Performance Rankings report contains performance data and momentum rankings on more than 1600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability. You'll find help in understanding how to use the FPR (page 2), an overview of the 70+ risk categories that help you compare "apples to apples" (page 3), and explanations for the various data-column headings (page 4).

You can sign up to receive an email each month when the data goes live. Just go to the SMI home page and click on "My Account" under Quick Links. From there you can go to the "Email Subscriptions" page and check the box next to "FPR/Tracker Update" to receive the monthly email notification.

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An Upgrading Overview: Easy as 1-2-3

Why Upgrade?

SMI offers two primary investing strategies for “basic” members. They are different in philosophy, the amount of attention they require, and the rate of return expected from each. Our preferred investing strategy is called Fund Upgrading, and is based on the idea that if you are willing to regularly monitor your mutual-fund holdings and replace laggards periodically, you can improve your returns. While Upgrading is relatively low-maintenance, it does require you to check your fund holdings each month and replace funds occasionally. If you don’t wish to do this yourself, a professionally-managed version of Upgrading is also available.

SMI also offers an investing strategy based on index funds called Just-the-Basics (JtB). JtB requires attention only once per year. The returns expected from JtB are lower over time than what we expect (and have received) from Upgrading. JtB makes the most sense for those in 401(k) plans that lack a sufficient number of quality fund options to make successful Upgrading within the plan possible. Here are the funds and percentage allocations we recommend for our Just-the-Basics indexing strategy.

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Personalized Financial Planning Is Now Within Your Reach

A few years ago, ING ran an ad campaign that showed people going about their day, each carrying a number. The number was the unique amount each of them needed to save for retirement, and the focus of the ads was asking “Do you know your number?”

This is what most people think of as financial planning—figuring out “their number.” And it’s a reasonable first step, better than most people ever achieve. Unfortunately, there are two problems with that approach to financial planning.

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Making It Easy On Yourself To ‘Do The Right Thing’

When the stock market experiences sharp downturns, as it did in August of 2015 and again in early 2016, we often hear from readers asking, “What should I do now?” Our answer is always the same: “Ignore the market and follow your long-term plan.”

It’s at this point some readers discover they really don’t have an objective long-term plan to guide them. Others are following SMI’s suggestions, but are nevertheless fearful.

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Now Available: Personal Portfolio Tracker and Fund Performance Rankings with Data through 12-31-16

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker and monthly Fund Performance Rankings report have been updated to reflect mutual-fund performance data current through 12/31/2016. The Tracker and FPR are typically updated monthly between the 10th-14th of the month, depending on when the weekend falls.

Note: We ran a little late this month because a change in the Morningstar download created errors in the final output. It took a few days to track these down and fix them. Everything should be fine, but there remains an issue with the Relative Risk calculation for a few of the leveraged ETFs. If a Relative Risk score you see in the Tracker is far higher than usual for that ticker, disregard it. The issues that caused these problems should be resolved before next month's release.

SMI's Personal Portfolio Tracker is our most popular web tool. It allows SMI members to easily personalize our mutual-fund rankings to their specific situation. The end result is a personalized monthly report showing only the funds each member is interested in, ranked by momentum and sorted according to SMI's risk categories (or without the categories, if a member prefers). This allows a member to take the 20,000+ funds SMI tracks every month and instantly transform those rankings into a concise report covering only the specific offerings of their 401k (or other plan).

The Fund Performance Rankings report contains performance data and momentum rankings on more than 1600 no-load funds and ETFs. The funds included have been selected on the basis of asset size, brand familiarity, and brokerage availability. You'll find help in understanding how to use the FPR (page 2), an overview of the 70+ risk categories that help you compare "apples to apples" (page 3), and explanations for the various data-column headings (page 4).

You can sign up to receive an email each month when the data goes live. Just go to the SMI home page and click on "My Account" under Quick Links. From there you can go to the "Email Subscriptions" page and check the box next to "FPR/Tracker Update" to receive the monthly email notification.

Continue Reading

Enhanced Just-the-Basics Update: Q1 2017 — and More

For those following our Enhanced Just-the-Basics (EJtB) strategy, first quarter 2017 recommended fund selections are now available. Be sure to read this entire article as an important strategy update follows the latest recommendations.

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