New Book - Coming November 2010

New Book - Coming November 2010
Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Are You Linked In?

Are you "LinkedIn" to social media? LinkedIn  is a professional business networking website, which launched in May 2003.

Wikipedia states that Linked In has over 50 Million users in more than 200 countries and territories. According to LinkedIn, a new member joins the site every minute. You can learn some of the basics of LinkedIn at There is an orientation video here which may help you to utilize some of the site's features.

My first exposure to LinkedIn was in 2006. I was invited to connect by Debra Gould, an acquaintance of mine, whom I had met at networking events a few times. I figured it wouldn't hurt, so I set up my profile, and "Voila!" - I was now part of social media and the internet!

Of course, I could say that my financial advisory business and LinkedIn page grew like wildfire from there, but that wouldn't be true. Several months went by before I even added a second connection. It can can a while for the "lights to come on". Even as I look through my contacts today, I counted 21 who have only 1 connection (me), and 87 (including the onesies) who have 10 or less. This tells me that LinkedIn is still a largely untapped resource.

After I finally did add a few more people in 2007, I started looking at LinkedIn as a good resource for networking. I could see some value in the site and started looking for ways to utilize it better. I started to join groups and also looked for companies in the South Bend, IN area that I wanted to build relationships with, especially for 401(k) marketing and employee education. Using LinkedIn gave me a chance to show them my 'online resume'.

Of all the Social Media sites, LinkedIn has been viewed by many as the most professional and businesslike. I know of a few people who have effectively used LinkedIn in their career search. (Maybe THAT should have been referred to in the "State Of The Union" address with the topic of 'Job Creation'.)

Before I digress too far - Here are a few basic ways you can use LinkedIn as an effective marketing tool and networking resource for your business.

* Add People - That seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes we need to figure out how to get started.  Don't be shy. When you get business cards from others at networking events or other places, invite them to
connect. Most cards include an e-mail, which makes it easy. LinkedIn has also done many things to make
the site more user friendly. One of them is "People You May Know", which is a bit similar to Facebook's friend suggestions. If you know them, it is easy to invite and add them as contacts.

In fact, invite your Facebook friends also. You may be surprised at how many of them may view you in a
different light when they see your professional profile on LinkedIn. You can also go through your e-mail contacts and import the list into LinkedIn. This will tell you which of your friends already has a profile here. Again, you will be surprised.

* Enhance Your Profile - LinkedIn should be your online resume. Keep it real, and be yourself, but be your BEST self. Don't just fill in the boxes. Tell others up front what makes you unique and what you can do to help them. Why should they work with you? Do you write a blog? Manage a scout troop? Sing in the church choir? Put those things in your profile, along with previous jobs. You never know what may catch someone's eye and attract them to your business.

* Recommendations - These are your testimonials. Ask people you trust to write one for you. (They may ask for one in return.) My only rule of thumb on giving or receiving is - Make it specific and sincere! The testimonial must mention special skills or services you have performed. "John is a great guy." doesn't cut it. Only sincere, well thought out recommendations will make your profile stand out.

* Join A Group - What topics are you interested in? You can probably find a group that discusses them.
Participate in the discussions by asking and answering questions. Some of my current groups include
Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County, Indiana Small Business Development Center, Linking Indiana,
and the Economic Club of Michiana. I have also created 2 of my own, Help My 401(k), and Always Illinois.

A great way to add contacts is to look through the members list. Just click on their profile and send them an invite.

* What Are You Reading? - If you have read something recently which you think others may find interesting, add this to your profile. You may see others also who have read the same book, and that can be common ground for a new connection. If you write a blog on Wordpress, you can also have the blog connected to LinkedIn.

* Search - You can search for people or companies. Are there any companies you'd like to call on, but don't know where to start? Look for them on LinkedIn. More and more companies are on LinkedIn everyday. A company search can tell you everyone who is with that company who has a profile. One word of caution - if the person is no longer with the company, and they aren't an active LinkedIn user, the profile may not be current. But profiles do offer great contact information, including e-mail addresses. The search feature is very easy to use.

I hope these tips help you get started with LinkedIn, or help you utilize the site more effectively.

You can contact me through my website, You can also contact me on LinkedIn at, or Twitter at I am currently hosting a weekly financial advice program, "Improving Your Financial Health" on Blog Talk Radio at Let me know how I may help you!

How I Use Social Media In South Bend

Recently I thought of how social media has impacted my business as an independent financial advisor. February 5, 2010 officially marks my first anniversary of starting my own office.

Over the past year, I have put together a website, as a resource for individuals and small businesses for long-term savings. There are articles, links to other 401(k) related sites, calculators and budget forms to help you with your planning. These tools are especially helpful to help someone see how much they should be saving for retirement.

At that time 1 year ago, I also had a profile on Linked In .

However, I also knew I wasn’t using that as effectively as I could have used it.

Little did I know at the time that having a website was really one the tip of the iceberg. Over the next several months, I tried to learn more about e-mail marketing, blogs, search engines, Twitter, You Tube, and Facebook. I also learned more about how to expand my Linked In profile and improve how I was using it. I established profiles on these social media sites and others. I began writing blog articles, and added more friends on Facebook. I also learned about “breadcrumbs”, to add links to my website whenever I posted a blog, or responded to one. Breadcrumbs can help to drive potential clients back to your site.

Over the summer, I learned about another website, Blog Talk Radio. Blog Talk Radio provides a forum for creating a radio pod cast. You can talk about nearly any topic. Anyone with a computer and a telephone can use it. Simply create a profile, schedule a program, and you are all set.

I named my show, “Improving Your Financial Health”. The format is a financial advice program. Listeners can send me questions by e-mail or phone and I answer them on the program. Guests became a key part of the show also. Soon I had a diverse list of financial experts and other interesting people whom I had interviewed.

This was a WIN-WIN for both my guests and also for me. The guests were given a forum to promote their work and I also had a unique way of keeping my name in front of potential clients.

Guests have included Charlie Adams, Darin Pritchett, Kristin Harmel, Laura Rowley, Erica Sandberg, Ruben Gonzalez, and Eric Tyson, to name a few. Another thrill for me came when I was interviewed in December by the South Bend Tribune Business Weekly. Gene Stowe wrote a great article about my business and use of social media websites.

Recently, I have been contacted by WHME-FM (103.1) in South Bend, IN. We have agreed to begin rebroadcast my “Improving Your Financial Health” programs with a 30 minute financial advice show. The first program will be Saturday February 6, 2010. Ruben Gonzalez will be my guest on the first broadcast. Ruben has an amazing story, and will be competing in his 4th Olympics in Vancouver (luge). He is also a top-notch author and motivational speaker.

Interestingly, February 6 is only 1 Day after my first anniversary of opening my own office. Who know what social media may do for my business over the next year?

My next article will cover specific ideas I have used with Linked In.

You can contact me through my website,
You can also follow me on Twitter at

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Farmville Gift Request

If you have been on Facebook for any period of time at all, you've seen this.
"John (or Jane) Doe sent a request using Farmville." John or Jane sends you a cow or a tree, and courtesy suggests that you send them one back.
I confess that I am not the best 'Farmville neighbor', and really don't play.
Who knew it was such big business?
The latest issue of Smart Money magazine includes an article by Dyan Machan - "Virtual Goods, Real Profits".
Ms. Machan tells us that "this nascent industry is sucking in staggering amounts of capital. In one 30-day span, Playfish, creator of Pet Society, sold for $400 Million. Playdom, with its game Sorority Life, raised $43 Million in financing; and sector leader Zynga raised $180 Million."
(I kind of feel like Dr. Evil with his pinky finger - "$180 Miiiilllllllion Dollars".)
These virtual games don't have to fight for shelf space. They are passed along through Facebook from friend to friend and market themselves. "If the game is a hit, revenue expands exponentially, but not costs." she says.
Ironically, the bulk of social-gaming revenue comes from selling stuff that doesn't really exist - virtual goods.
Playfish claims in the article that it sells 60 million items per day. These items are for players to reach new levels and get more from their games. The game itself is free, but to do well, you need to buy things. Aaaahhhh!!
I guess I'm not really a "social gamer". Numbers like these do make you wonder though.
In case you are curious, Playfish was aquired by Electronic Arts on Nov 9, 2009 for $275 Million. "EA" as it is known, produces a smorgasboard of games for Playstation and X-Box.
Their stock symbol is ERTS and trades on NASDAQ.
Zynga, the "leader" in social media games with Farmville, Cafe World, and Mafia Wars, is not yet publicly traded. Digital Sky Corporation, based in Moscow, Russia purchased its stake in Zynga in December, 2009 for $180 Million.
Keep trading virtual "cows" and "apple trees". It may be keeping the economy going!
You can contact me through my website, You can also follow me on Twitter at I host a weekly internet radio program also, "Improving Your Financial Health" at

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tired of Taxes?

Are you tired of taxes? Tired of hearing about them? Tired of giving your hard-earned dollars to Uncle Sam? Tired of politicians who say they will lower your taxes - then do the opposite?
How would you like a stream of income later in life that you WON'T pay taxes on at all?
That's what the Roth IRA is all about!
The Roth IRA was created as a future Tax Reduction Account in 1997. It's a great way to save for your future retirement. The name "Roth" is in honor of the bill's main creator - late Sen. William Roth of Delaware.
The beauty of the Roth is that there are NO TAXES on either the growth, or withdrawals you take after age 59 1/2. So your income will be TAX FREE!
You can contribute to a Roth IRA for either 2009 or 2010 right now - up to $5000/year. If you are 50 or older, you can put in an extra $1000.
Here are 2 new things in 2010 about the Roth IRA you should know.
* There are no income restrictions for making Roth IRA contributions this year. This allows
more people than ever before to use a Roth.
* You can convert your traditional pre-tax IRA to a Roth by simply paying taxes on the amount
you convert. That isn't new, but what IS new is that you can SPLIT the tax burden over
2 Years - 2011 & 2012.
If you really want less taxes later, set up your Roth IRA (Tax Reduction Account) today. You have until April 15 to contribute for 2009.
You can contact me in South Bend, IN through my website at You can also follow my on Twitter at I also host a weekly internet radio program, "Improving Your Financial Health" on Blog Talk Radio

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Years Resolutions

"Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." Mark Twain

Here we are - a New Year. Some also say a New Decade.

What 'Financial' Resolutions have you made? Can't think of any? Here are a few tips.

1. Review and Rebalance your Investments and 401(k)
If you have been putting it off for a while to "wait & see", your account is probably seriously out of balance. Sit down with an advisor to review your goals and make your your fund mix matches what your needs are.

2. Increase Contributions to Your 401(k)
Are you putting between 10% and 15% into your 401(k) at work? If not, then at least raise the amount you are putting in. Gradually work yourself up to that level. You will need the nest egg for income later.

3. Pay Off Credit Cards and Other Debt
If you are having trouble with #2, get these paid off and free up some money for yourself.

4. Set Up a Budget and Stick To It
There are a number of places you can find good basic worksheets for setting up a budget. It should be simple. Just make sure all of your money has a place to go - either savings or expenses. Here is a site with some downloadable sheets.

5. Contribute to a Roth IRA and Convert Pre-Tax Retirement Savings
You can put up to $5000 into a Roth ($6000 if you are 50 and older). You can still make 2009 contributions up until April 15. The Roth IRA of course grows tax free and allows you to make withdrawals at retirement which are also tax free.

There are no income restrictions for the Roth this year and if you choose to convert any money from your Traditional Pre-Tax IRA to the Roth, you may spread the taxes out over the next 2 years.

You can contact me through my website, You may also follow me on Twitter at I also host a weekly internet radio program at