Whiteboard video: If you want to add some visual interest

A video that only shows you speaking about a financial topic can get boring. This is why I suggest you add some visual elements.

One way to boost your visual appeal to use a whiteboard, as Paddy Hirsch does. I discovered his video through a tweet by Cathy Curtis of Curtis Financial. Hirsch is senior editor for the Marketplace radio show.

Here’s the link: Fiscal and Monetary Policy.

If you try a whiteboard video, remember to

  1. Use a microphone that will record you even when you’re facing away from the camera
  2. Face the camera as often as possible
  3. Add diagrams or drawings to enliven your whiteboard notes–Love that drawing of Ben Bernanke!

If you’ve ever tried a whiteboard video, I’d like to learn about your experience.

May 1, 2014: I updated this post to change information that was no longer accurate.

YOU pick the winner: Most reassuring title for investors

Different folks find different titles reassuring amid the stock market’s ups and downs. This is what I’ve gathered from my call for “Article titles that reassure investors.”

My readers, including connections on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and I have submitted the titles you’ll find below. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Please vote for your favorite in the poll that appears in the right-hand column of this blog. If you have a better title, you can add it to the poll.

  • 5 triggers that will ignite the next bull market
  • A lost decade, really?
  • Bernanke Replaced by Harry Potter
  • The blessing of balance: A view from Down Under
  • Comfort is rarely rewarded: Maverick Risk and False Benchmarks
  • Downgrade should mean little to long-term investors
  • Has the Downgrade Created a Buying Opportunity?
  • How can I retire after 12 years of range-bound markets?
  • How to invest in a market with a ceiling
  • How to make money whether the market goes up or down
  • I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
  • Intelligent Trading: A Competitive Advantage During Market Plunges
  • It’s Only Money
  • Pray the Course
  • Run, Ride or Buy? What Should Investors Do?
  • Stocks Survive Slumps Time To Buy Soon
  • Stronger Backdrop for Stocks This Time Around
  • These are the times!
  • Volatility does not imply direction – it’s the price we pay for a higher return in the long run.
  • We’re not Greece!
  • _You can also add your own candidate for most reassuring title.

It’ll be interesting to see which title wins. I wonder what it will say about what we find reassuring.

I will announce the winning title in my October e-newsletter.

The CFA Institute made me do it: A social media tale

I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to develop a business presence on Facebook. LinkedIn, Twitter, and my blog kept me busy enough.

But then I heard that the CFA Institute had way more followers on Facebook than LinkedIn. How many? I forget the numbers I heard at the institute’s 2010 annual conference, but more recent statistics include

  • Facebook – more than 40,000 fans
  • LinkedIn member group – almost 14,000 (and 27,000 in candidate group)
  • Twitter – more than 8,000
  • LinkedIn company page – almost 3,800

I found these stats in “The CFA Network” in CFA Magazine. The big gap between Facebook and other social media made me think seriously about Facebook.

I’m not saying that 40,000 fans on Facebook are worth more than 14,000 group members on LinkedIn. It seems as if the CFA Institute’s LinkedIn members are more engaged than its Facebook members. I enjoy my conversations on the group very much.

However, the Facebook numbers made me think about delivering content the way my readers want. I’ve blogged about this in “Great blog posts don’t matter…” Eventually I started an Investment Writing Facebook page. The Facebook page has become another way for me to share my blog posts and to experiment with starting conversations.

My Facebook page is still evolving. I haven’t found the right formula yet. But I’ve had fun experimenting. Thank you, CFA Institute!

Guest Post: “Math and the Gender Gap: Does it affect financial planning?”

My friend Laura Laing has written a book that demystifies math. She also writes an entertaining blog about math. I’m delighted to share her guest post about women, math, and financial planning.

If you’ve ever encountered math anxiety among your clients, Laura and I would like to hear about how you tackled it.

Math and the Gender Gap: Does it affect financial planning?

By Laura Laing

So let’s get one thing straight right away: men are not inherently better at math than women. And as our mothers and grandmothers and daughters have shown, women are not inherently bad at managing their finances.

But there are some ways that men and women experience and perhaps think about math differently. And those differences may affect how they approach financial decisions.

Math anxiety

Some research has shown that women are more likely to experience math anxiety than men.  And that math anxiety can translate to insecurity with financial decisions.  If a client feels helpless when faced with a math problem, the same can happen in situations involving money and planning.

Gender stereotypes

Even if women don’t feel anxious about math, they may buy into the myth that women are naturally bad at math.  This idea is often planted at a very young age, and the notion is reinforced by the fact that, relatively speaking, there are few women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Educational experiences

And then there’s the backlash.  If girls are more anxious and somehow believe that they’re not good at math, it stands to reason that they aren’t always able to take full advantage of their math education.  This is a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy, and we end up with women who not only think they’re not good at math but haven’t done enough math to know for sure.

What’s the point?

None of this is to say that all women lack confidence in their math skills or that all men are terrific mathematicians.  And certainly the next generation will be better off.  But when working with clients on setting financial plans, it can pay to recognize signs of math anxiety and insecurity.  The good news is that women are generally very forthcoming with their fears. But in case she’s not—or you have a male client who’s spooked by math—here are some signs:

  1. Becoming suddenly talkative or suddenly quiet
  2. Avoiding a particular topic.
  3. Not making eye contact.
  4. Skipping appointments or refusing to make decisions.
  5. Letting the partner or spouse do all of the talking.

What can you do about it?

If you think that your client might be experiencing some anxiety, it helps to slow down. Look for easy ways to connect the math to your client’s situation.  Instead of writing

out formulas or using graphs, try explaining the concepts in terms of the client’s goals.  But don’t be afraid to do a little teaching, as well.  If a graph is the best tool, take time to define the axes and the units being measured.

Whether you’re working with men or women, your clients may stumble with the math involved in financial planning.  Recognizing this, you can help cut through their anxiety and assist them in making solid and profitable financial plans.

Laura Laing is the author of Math for Grownups, a funny, easy-to-understand and practical guide to how adults use math in everyday life.  She also blogs at www.mathforgrownups.com.

Article titles that reassure investors–Submit YOUR candidate

Investors crave reassurance during volatile times. But it’s not easy to choose words that steady their nerves. With that in mind, I’m putting out a call for article titles that reassure investors.

Please comment with your candidate for the most reassuring title

If I get enough good candidates in the comments on this blog post, I’ll run a poll, so you can vote for a winner, as discussed in the following Facebook post:

Tom Brakke of the research puzzle blog, one of the early supporters of this contest,
clearly enjoys playing with titles. You can see this in his tweet suggesting “Pray the Course” as a reassuring title.

What makes a title reassuring?

The suggestions by John and Tom show a sense of humor, so I’m going to throw out some serious candidates for reassuring titles. I hope the following titles spark some conversation.

What makes a title reassuring? Based on the titles above, I seem to find comfort in titles suggesting I can benefit from–or ignore–market volatility. Right or wrong, this is what works for me.

How about you? What wording do YOU find reassuring?

Aug. 30, 2011 update: I am no longer accepting comments on this post as new candidates for this competition.

BNY Mellon says “no” to “staying the course”

“Staying the course” is classic advice from investment and wealth managers, so I was surprised to see BNY Mellon Wealth Management challenge this adage as part of its “truth” advertising campaign.

Staying the course is like navigating a new world with an old map,” says the headline of the BNY Wealth Management ad, which I spotted on the inside front cover of The New York Times Magazine dated July 24, 2011. I love the combination of plain English with a powerful analogy.

BNY Mellon Wealth Management ad

This ad is part of a series, which I’ve blogged about in “Financial ad in plain English: Another one from BNY Mellon” and “BNY Mellon: I liked your ‘truth ad’ until you used that word.” I hope BNY Mellon keeps up the good work.

Still, I was surprised to see the firm say, “Investors must maintain the discipline to stick with their plans,” on p. 18 of its 2020 Vision. Isn’t this what “stay the course” means? Because “stay the course” isn’t defined in the ad, I don’t know. Despite this quibble, I admire this eye-catching ad.

Pat Allen, a great resource for tracking asset managers’ social media

Pat Allen of Rock the Boat Marketing works for me. Well, not literally. No money changes hands. But Pat’s tracking and analysis of investment management companies spares me from the need to perform these tasks myself.

Three things stand out for me about Pat’s online presence:

  1. News coverage
  2. Analysis
  3. Twitter lists

1. News coverage

As @RocktheBoatMKTG on Twitter, Pat tweets and retweets news, blog posts, and other information relevant to investment management marketers. Here’s an example.

As @AdvisorTweets, Pat highlights the social media activity of registered investment advisors, brokers, financial planners, and other financial professionals. Asset managers need to track these financial intermediaries who are an important source of financial product sales. NOTE: Pat has put AdvisorTweets up for sale.

2. Analysis

There’s a 140-character limit to how much analysis pat can squeeze into her tweets. So, for analysis I turn to her Rock the Boat Marketing and Advisor Tweets blogs.

3. Twitter lists

To figure out which investment managers have a Twitter presence, simply mosey over to Pat’s investmentmanagers list, which she updates frequently.

Check out these highlights of Pat’s online presence. You’ll probably find more that you enjoy.

Disclosure: Pat wrote a lovely testimonial for my latest e-book. However, this blog post was brewing long before that.

Reader challenge: Propose a new title for this commentary

Titles count. Especially in these days of search engine optimization, better known as SEO. But even without SEO, the quality of your blog post or article title can make a difference in your readership.

Today’s Reader Challenge is coming up with a better title for a piece of published investment commentary: “The ‘Great Recalibration.’

First reactions to “The ‘Great Recalibration’ ” as a title

When I skimmed the title “The ‘Great Recalibration,’ ” I couldn’t tell what it was about. Then I read “Volatility in third-party credit ratings heightens the value of proprietary credit research.” Aha. This told me I was reading about bonds and that there might be some useful information in the article. This prompted the Facebook poll you see below.

However, reader comments (see below) on the poll made me think this title provides good fodder for conversation.

Please give your title suggestions below. You’ll probably want to visit the article–at least briefly. I look forward to hearing from you.

Usage tips for portfolio performance commentary writers

It’s almost time for quarter-end investment performance reporting. I have some tips for you.

1. Use the past tense.

Why? Because portfolio performance commentary discusses historical performance.

2. Describe benchmarks’ key characteristics, when appropriate.

The general public doesn’t know the difference between the S&P 500 and the S&P 400. They may think one is a subset of the other, like the Fortune 50 and the Fortune 1000. So specify “the mid-cap S&P 400.”

3. Be consistent in how you spell and punctuate terms.

For example, choose between “indexes” and “indices.” Decide whether you’ll use “small cap” exclusively without a hyphen or hyphenate it as “small-cap” when you use it as an adjective.

4. Limit your references to the time period.

Once you establish that you’re writing about the second quarter, don’t repeat that information frequently. However, if you shift between discussing the second quarter and the month of June, name the periods often enough that your reader follows your transitions.

5. Don’t go crazy replacing “returned,” as in “the fund returned 3%.”

There are plenty of other ways to convey the information in the sentence. However, I believe too much variety is counterproductive in a paragraph that consists mainly of returns. Instead, the variety distracts from the reader’s ability to compare returns. If you’re citing many index returns, perhaps you should insert a table.

Do you have grammar, punctuation, or other usage tips for people writing about investment performance? Please leave them as comments below.

Bullets can streamline your writing

Investment RFP writers–the folks who fill out those tiresome questionnaires called requests for proposals–sometimes get sloppy.

Photo by Paul Watson

Tight deadlines allow little time for copyediting. This before-and-after example shows how adding bullet points can streamline an RFP answer. The “after” example is also easier to skim.

BEFORE editing

Each month, you can expect a summary report via email that includes your portfolio’s performance results, attribution analysis, and portfolio characteristics. We send the summary reports no later than six business days following month end.

AFTER editing

Within six business days of month end, you will receive by email a summary of your portfolio’s

  • Performance
  • Attribution analysis
  • Key characteristics

How you can crack this editing challenge

Could you achieve the “after” version on your own?

It’s a result that mind mapping, which I discuss in “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read,” could help you to achieve.