In 1989, investment advisor Austin Pryor was having lunch with his long-time friend, the late Larry Burkett. Larry was the founder of a ministry called Christian Financial Concepts (which later merged with Crown Ministries), author of many books on biblical money management, and host of a poplar nationally syndicated radio program.
As they talked about the financial challenges facing the average Christian family, Larry suggested that an investment newsletter was needed. While his work focused on teaching biblical principles of money and helping people with aspects of money management such as getting out of debt and using a budget, nothing existed to help Christians in the complex and often intimidating area of investing.
Austin’s initial response was, “You’re right. Too bad nobody’s doing anything like that.” It didn’t occur to him that he should publish such a newsletter. After all, he was busy running the investment management firm he had founded a decade earlier. During the first five years, his average client account generated a 25.5% annual return, putting the firm in the top 5% of all 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 later, after much time in prayer and sensing God’s leading, he began addressing that need by publishing the first issue of the Sound Mind Investing newsletter.
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. So, Austin writes the Sound Mind Investing Handbook. Guided by an intention to teach only what one needs to know, not everything there is to know, the book is well received, even earning 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.
Over 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 sixth 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 quarter century, 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.