New Book - Coming November 2010

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

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blog Talk Radio - Be Our Guest

I've been a bit busy this week, working on my upcoming book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" . This is an "everyman's" (and everywoman's) guide to getting more from your 401(k) plan. Most books I have seen on 401(k) plans really are geared more to advisors and financial people, which is what inspired me to write it.

For most of us, the 401(k) is a major source of our savings, and for some it may be the ONLY source of savings. We need to get more out of it if we want to retire someday and have our money last the rest of our lives. I'm very excited to contribute something unique - and hope others find it helpful.

Anyway, I plan on doing more with the blog and hope that my message finds the right people. Last week I wrote about Blog Talk Radio. My experience with Blog Talk Radio has been great. I began using it in July 2009 on the advice of a friend of mine, Brian Seim, a radio veteran.

Although I have made a TON of mistakes (and still do!), I must have done a few things right also. A few weeks ago I began an affiliation with WHME-FM in South Bend (103.1) . We agreed to replay my interviews from Blog Talk Radio as a 30 minute program on Saturday mornings - "Improving Your Financial Health" .

If I had to pick the one factor which has made the show appealing - its the GUESTS! My guests have mostly been financial experts and authors, although some have been very interesting people with great personalities with no financial background at all. Even so, they had something of value to share with listeners and wer a lot of fun to talk with. Some examples would be Ruben Gonzalez, a 4 time Olympian who has written 3 books on staying motivated, or Charlie Adams, who is also a professional speaker and helps High School athletes to get college scholarships. Kristen Harmel who has written 6 novels and has a passion for helping kids with reading, Kay Yasin who overcame personal tragedies to change her life and is now an expert trainer and bodybuilder, and Darin Pritchett who is well known in the South Bend area for his Weekday Sportsbeat show. These and many others are wonderful people and gave fun & interesting interviews. All would all be welcome guests in the future.

Once I committed myself to doing the program, I have always been on the lookout for people who would make great guests . When I find someone I like, I contact them and and tell them about the program and try to schedule a time for them to be on. Always let them know that you are doing this regularly (for me once a week) and tell them names of other guests I've interviewed.

Whatever you choose to do a program about - for business or for fun - I would certainly recommend having interesting guests that fit in with your message. Again, the guests make the show fun. (Who would want to listen to just me for 30 minutes?)

People have often asked me where I find my guests. You can find guests in several places. My main source would be searching the internet for financial blogs or articles I also subscribe to Money and Smart Money magazines and have found great articles there.

Referrals can be a great source also once you tell others what you are doing. My friend, Nikki Stauffer in Ada, MI deserves a special mention. She has referred 2 nationally recognized financial experts and authors to me who are guests. Eric Tyson (author of "Investing for Dummies" and "Personal Finance for Dummies") was one. There aren't many financial advisors out there who can say they have their own "jingle" written by Paul Shaffer of the David Letterman band.  Another is Robert Krakower, who has graciously agreed to be interviewed on March 23. His new book is titled "Redefining Retirement for a New Generation".

By the way, Nikki Stauffer has a great weekly show of her own, "Gather Round the Table" .  She has also done pretty well with guests, including Megyn Price (Rules of Engagement), Maria Canals-Barrera (Wizards of Waverly Place), and Mayim Bialik (Blossom), among others. This program promotes the importance of family values by eating meals together, and Nikki's guests normally share one of their favorite recipes. Check out her site and archived interviews at

I also need to thank Erica Sandberg one of my early guests, and author of "Expecting Money", for her referral of a colleague of hers, Sally Herigstad, CPA, and author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills!". Both ladies were wonderful guests and I look to have them on Blog Talk Radio again.

Pam Batcho of Express Pros, also has been a great referral source. She referred Ruben Gonzalez, whom I mentioned earlier and also her boss, Norm Robertson, owner of the local Express Pros branch.

Sometimes, it pays to be persistant. Anya Kamenetz was a young lady I had really admired from reading her first book, "Generation Debt" a few years ago. It highlights the challenges of being young today, especially with the high costs of college and student loans. Anya was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her efforts.
She is also a nationally recognized speaker, and has appeared on college campuses nationwide.

I knew Anya would make a great guest, and tried to e-mail her (4 times over 6 weeks) with no reply. Finally one day out of the blue, I got a very kind note from her. She apologized that she had been out of town and wasn't getting her e-mails. She also sent me her personal e-mail and agreed to an interview. The interview went great and it was quite an honor for me.  

Whoever the guest is, I really try to be respectful of their time. I really want to make sure the experience goes well for them - I may want to have them back sometime, or want their help with a project.

Before doing a program, I send the guest specific instructions confirming the date and time and Call-In phone number. Since some of my guests live in different parts of the country, I also make sure I note EST - and whatever time it may be for them. 1:00 pm here is 10:00 am in California. That may seem like a small thing, but trust me - its important!

Another habit of mine is to send the guest a list of questions personally tailored to them. Some guests have even suggested questions that the like to be asked. By reviewing their website or reading their books, it has helped me quite a bit to learn about them. It helps the interview to go more smoothly.

My objective is to build them up as an expert which (I hope) makes me look like a good guy as well. Speaking of building up, its also very important to use a proper introduction. A good introduction should be at least 3 sentences, highlighting their achievements. You are telling your listeners why you chose this person to be on your show and why their advice will be valuable to them.

One last point on guests - You can't say "Thank You" enough. I always thank them at the end of the program and give them a chance to give contact information and promote their book or services . After the show, I also send an e-mail thanking them for their time once more.

Blog Talk Radio has been a great venue for me. I plan on writing one more article about Blog Talk Radio, which includes tips and techniques. You can contact me through my website, and
through Linked In or Twitter.

There is a Free Report now available through my website, "The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k)s - And How To Fix Them". Please contact me to receive your free copy. This is a sample of my upcoming book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!"

Monday, February 15, 2010

So You Want to be a Radio Star?

Have you ever listened to people on the radio and thought "I can do that."? Perhaps it was during one of Rush Limbaugh's rants. Or hearing Dr. Phil's homespun Southern style advice. Maybe there are some hilarious morning personalities, like Bob & Tom that you enjoy. Sports call in shows are also quite popular.

Did you ever say to yourself "I could be a radio star too. I just need the chance!" and you never gave it another thought, because you had no idea how or where to start?

Well, if you ever thought these things, and you are reading this - TODAY is your lucky day!

What if I told you that you could host your very own radio program - ANYTIME - even TODAY if you want, and the cost is practically ZERO?

Great News! You CAN do this on Blog Talk Radio. You can talk sports, movies, celebrities, or be educational and informative. Say what you want - how you want. (Well, there may still be a few things you can't or shouldn't say.)

Blog Talk Radio was started in 2006 by Alan Levy, a former accountant and telecommunications executive, who wanted to provide a way for bloggers to communicate directly with their audiences in real time. He set up a blog for his family to provide updates on his ailing father which they could hear. In February of 2008, David Winer of the Scripting News called it "the simplest podcast ever". Blog Talk Radio has been referred to as a site that has become the dominant player in the latest media trend, one that allows anyone with a Web connection to host a talk show on any topic at any time of day. It is the newest form of new media; the audio version of the internet blog. All you need is a telephone and a computer!

Blog Talk Radio's website claims to have "tens of thousands of hosts and millions of listeners tuning in and joining the conversation each month".

It is becoming the newest force in Social Media, and its fun and easy to use. I should know. As a licensed advisor, I've hosted a financial advice program on Blog Talk Radio, "Improving Your Financial Health" since July 15, 2009. My listener base has gradually grown with each program. When I last checked, I had 1272 people who have listened to one or more of my programs and 2262 who have visited my page. My Blog Talk Radio program has just recently been picked up by WHME-FM 103.1 here in South Bend for re-broadcast Saturdays at 9:00 am.

When we normally hear about social media sites, it's normally the "Holy Trinity" of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter which get the attention. I've heard LinkedIn referred to as "business formal", Facebook as "casual" and Twitter as a "worldwide cocktail party. So where does Blog Talk Radio fit in?

Simply put, it's the newest form of blogging - an audio blog. It you believe your message is important and needs to be HEARD verbally, (and you can't seem to limit yourself to 140 characters or less), then Blog Talk Radio may be for you.

I stumbled across Blog Talk Radio last summer. A friend of mine had e-mailed me the link, after I told him about hearing the usual rejections from local stations about doing a financial advice show. What a surprise I found there! There were shows on all types of topics 24 hours a day! A few of them even had celebrity hosts or guests. Bill Cosby has hosted a program there, and Pres. Barack Obama had also joined a broadcast last August during the healthcare debate.

Setting up a profile was very easy - about the same as doing it on any other website. Once you've set up a profile page, go ahead and browse through other programs. Get a feel for what you like (or don't like) You can have a free membership, or a premium one at $39.00/month. I find that the free membership works just fine. Paid memberships allow you to take more calls and schedule programs longer than 1 hour. (You really should be able to say what you want in less than 1 hour!)

Scheduling a program is simple also. Everything about Blog Talk Radio is very user friendly. Just 'name' your show, describe what it's about, and pick a date and time. You can even do a show the same day if you want. Before you know it, you'll be ranting like Rush! You can even select music or sound effects to enhance your show, or have guests. You can even select Revenue Sharing. Just don't expect Super Bowl style bucks to come rolling in.

Customer Service at Blog Talk Radio is exactly that. Even with my free account, I've only needed to contact them a few times. When I do, they are easy to reach, and have always been friendly and helpful at getting issues resolved. You can probably tell by now that I am a huge fan of Blog Talk Radio. There is plenty of potential here.

My next article will include some techniques for using Blog Talk Radio effectively and making it part of your social media package. Please contact me for more information on 401(k) plans or IRAs. You may also contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter. "Improving Your Financial Health" is a weekly financial advice program which often includes intriguing guests - both financial and non-financial.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tax Credit For Small Businesses

Are you a small business owner? If not, do you know any?

These days its hard enough to make ends meet and keep your business going. Small businesses like yours are the key to reviving our economy.

Would you like an idea that will help you and your employees to save money and reduce your taxes?

Did you know that when you establish a 401(k) or other kind of qualified retirement plan, you may be eligible for a tax credit equal to 50% of the cost of starting up and administering the plan? The maximum allowable credit is $500 per year for each of the first 3 years of the retirement program. This is according to EGTRRA (Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001) .

Other types of retirement plans for small businesses which qualify for the tax credit are the SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension Plan) and the SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) .

To qualify for the tax credit:

* The plan sponsor must incur qualified startup costs. These would be expenses for setting up or maintaining the plan, or for retirement-related employee education.

* The plan must be a new plan established AFTER December 31, 2001.

* The plan must have at least one non-highly compensated employee. Usually this would be someone who is not an owner and has earned less than $105,000 in the prior year.

* The plan sponsor must have employed 100 people or less who received at least $5000 or more in compensation during the prior year.

Does this sound like your business so far? If I can help you & your employees to save money for your future needs and lower your taxes, please contact me today. This will be part of my upcoming book as well – “Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen and Can’t Get Up!”

I should also mention that unless the current law changes, EGTRRA is set to expire at the end of 2010.

Please contact me for more information on 401(k) plans or IRAs at

You may also contact me on Linked In at or Twitter at  I also host a weekly financial advice program, Improving Your Financial Health at

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tax Free Interest In Indiana - Shhh, Your Bank Doesn't Want You To Know

Do you live in "The Middle"? Besides unpredictable weather and being referred to as "Hoosiers", there are actually a few perks to living in Indiana.

Indiana offers some tax benefits to investors that are unique to our state. Municipal Bonds are very popular here. These bonds are a great (and Safe) way to earn more interest on your savings. The interest you earn on a bond from ANY STATE is FREE from Federal Tax, State Tax, and Local Taxes!

Municipal Bonds, or Munis have been used for over 200 years as a way to raise money to build or improve schools, hospitals, libraries, and roads. These days, stadiums have also been funded by having bonds issued. Once the bond is issued, you can loan money to the project and be repaid with interest which is free from Federal taxes. When the bond matures, you get the amount back which you loaned to the project.

If the bond is issued by your home state, your interest may also be free from State and Local taxes.

Again, the benefit for us "Hoosiers" living in Indiana is this. It doesn't matter which state the bond came from. We enjoy interest income on any muni bond which is free from Federal, State, and Local Taxes!  
That may be worth an additional 1.5% - 2% or more on your savings, depending on your tax bracket. 
(Check with your advisor when buying bonds to see if you may be subject to Alternative Minimum Tax, depending on your total income.)

Currently, (as of Feb. 4, 2010), shows us what the highest rates are for a 1 Year CD
(1.7%) and a 5 Year CD (3.55%).  Dave Ramsey refers to these as "Certificates of Depression". You can see why!

Did you also know that CDs are RISKY? Why is that, you ask?
Easy - You LOSE Future Buying Power!

Let's do the math, and see which option may be better for long term savings.

5 Year Municipal (Investment Quality) Bond at 5%

$10,000 x .05 = $500/year. 
$500 x 5 years = $2500 (TAX FREE) 
Most Bonds pay interest twice per year, directly to you the investor, so you will get 2 checks each year for
$250 for 5 years. When the bond is due, you get the $10,000 back. That may also happen if the bond is called early, but that's another lesson.

5 Year CD at 3.55%
Remember that was the BEST rate in the US today on

$10,000 x .0355 = $355/year.
$355 x 5 years = $1775, and you WILL PAY TAXES on this.

Hmmmm......let's see.....I can get $2500 in interest that is tax free OR $1775 in interest that is taxable. I wonder which one I should pick......

Did you ever wonder how banks make money? They use your money and either loan it or invest it.
Now you can see why your bank may not share the muni bond idea with you.

If you would like to learn more about Municipal Bonds, please contact me
You may also contact me for more information on 401(k) plans or IRAs at
You may also contact me on Linked In at or Twitter at I also host a weekly financial advice program, Improving Your Financial Health at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Taking Stock

I'm not a big individual stock fan. For most people, mutual funds are a much better way to invest. Its easier to be diverisfied and its also easier to add money systematically.

However, I did see something recently which I thought my readers may enjoy. If you were going to invest in stocks, which companies would be good ones to own long-term? At least one sign of a great company is one which is able to consistently increase their dividend payment.

If you aren't sure what a dividend is, think of it this way. When you own stock, you own a tiny piece of that company. Your investment rises and falls with the performance of the company. Over time, you would like to think the company will grow, and your money will grow with it. Companies which have established themselves and become profitable will share part of their profits with you as a part owner. Those profit sharing payments are known as dividends and are usually paid once every 3 months.

Again, the sign of a great company is one which has raised its dividend payment consistently, even in tough times. Raising the dividend for shareholders is like giving them a pay raise. (CDs don't do THAT!!) Those companies would be great to own long term.

What if a company were able to raise its dividend 25 years in a row or more?

Here are the ones which have:
Abbott Labs                     (ABT)
Bemis                               (BMS)
Century Tel                     (CTL)
Chubb                               (CB)
Coca-Cola                        (KO)
Exxon-Mobil                    (XOM)
Johnson & Johnson         (JNJ)
Mc Donalds                     (MCD)
3M                                   (MMM)

Pitney Bowes                  (PBI)
PPG                                 (PPG)
Proctor & Gamble          (PG)
Walmart                          (WMT)    

S&P reports that since 1926, dividends have contributed to about 1/3 of the total return on your investment.

Another thing I like about dividends is that when the stock price goes down, the dividend yield goes up. Its a great time to buy more of great companies. That is what Warren Buffett does!

For example, lets look at Proctor & Gamble. Shares of PG are currently (2/3/10) at $62.90. Dividends are paid at $1.76/share, which is divided into 4 quarterly payments. You will get a dividend return of 2.8% on any shares purchased at that price.

What if you had been fortunate enough to buy in March of 2009, when it was selling for around $44/share? Well, you still would have gotten $1.76 per share, but that works out to about a 4% dividend return. (Better than a CD, and with potential to grow!)

Warren Buffett has become extremely wealthy because he buys great companies and holds them, collecting dividends which increase year after year after year.

Again, I am not encouraging people to buy individual stocks. There are plenty of financial stocks such as Citigroup and Bank of America which also had wonderful histories of increased dividends, until 2008.
Dividends are certainly something to consider though for any investment - including mutual funds and annuities.

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!