What You Can Learn from JFK About Public Speaking

I don’t know of anyone who was born a great public speaker. In fact, most people can’t put two words together when they’re born. President John F. Kennedy was no different. He learned how to be a memorable public speaker. Read this article by copywriter and author John Forde and you’ll improve your public speaking as well.

What JFK Knew: Six Secrets You Should Know Too — by John Forde

A little after 12:30 in the afternoon, a young woman fed her seven-day-old son. They were, in fact, just two days home from the hospital.

Like a lot of young mothers, she was just then coming to grips with how much her life had already changed — when it changed again.

That was my mother and brother, on the day Kennedy was shot. Where was I? Not even an idea yet.

But growing up Irish Catholic… in definitively Democratic Philadelphia… there was no debate: Kennedy, we were all taught, had been a hero.

These days, you might not have to look too hard to find people who question that assessment. I’m pretty sure, in fact, a few would love to tear down that version of history.

But even they might have to agree, if there was one thing about Kennedy — other than his family money and his weakness for Hollywood starlets — it’s that the guy sure could deliver a great speech.

And what is a speech, dear reader, but a format-test on a kind of persuasive sales piece?

Think about it…

Kennedy knocked the cover off the ball with his “Ask not…” inaugural address. It’s been called the best inaugural speech ever given.

Kennedy did it again with “Ich bin ein Berliner,” delivered to thundering applause in West Berlin.

He also famously used words to undo the Cuban missile crisis. Not a shot was fired.

And then there’s that time he challenged America to walk on the moon, “because it’s there,” delivered in a speech he gave to the graduating class of Rice University.

The examples could go on.

But, as we close in on tomorrow, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, I’ll bet there are a few things you didn’t know. For instance, according to historian Robert Caro, Kennedy wasn’t always so great at the pulpit.

Says Caro…

“[Kennedy’s] early speeches… were read from a prepared text with all the insecurity of a novice, in a voice ‘tensely high-pitched’ and “with a quality of grave seriousness that masked his discomfiture . . . He seemed to be just a trifle embarrassed on stage.”

Once, goes the story, Kennedy was so nervous about forgetting a speech while he was running for Congress, his sister Eunice stood in front of the stage, mouthing the words to help him remember.

That changed with practice on the campaign trail. It also changed when Kennedy started working with his great speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, who became Kennedy’s wingman (and possibly more, though Sorensen always insisted otherwise) on all those Kennedy “moments” we still talk about now.

What also made a big difference, according to Sorensen and many others, was that Kennedy and his writing team mastered six powerful secrets rhetorical persuasion — all six of which seem worthy of using in your sales copy writing, too.

Which six? Per the BBC, Kennedy’s secret sauce drew largely from the following list…

1.) The Power of Contrasts, as in Kennedy’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”

2) The Power of Threes, especially in lists, like in the Kennedy line, “Where the strong are just, and the weak secure and the peace preserved.”

3) The double-punch you get by combining lists and contrasts together, as in the line, “Not because the communists are doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.”

4) The Apt Application of Alliteration, as you see (and hear) in a line like Kennedy’s, “Let us go forth to lead the land we love.”

5) The Pull of Powerful Imagery, like he gave us in the simple phrase, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

6) The Simple, Sensible Secret of Knowing Your Audience. Kennedy’s was the first inaugural speech delivered to a global audience, in real time. And he (and Sorensen) made sure everybody knew it, with no fewer than six lines that directly addressed allies and enemies overseas.

Again, this isn’t just for speechwriters… or Presidents. These are tricks you can lean on too. Just something to think about, as the airways echo Kennedy’s words on the big day tomorrow. . . .

I’ve read John Forde’s articles for years to learn more about the art and science of copywriting. You can learn more about effective writing effective ads by signing up for his free e-newsletter. You’ll get $78 worth of free gifts as John’s way of saying thanks. http://copywritersroundtable.com

Picture credit: © Arthur Rickerby—Black Star/PNI

Rethinking College: The Rise of College Graduate Underemployment

Anyone considering going to college needs to understand that a college degree is no guarantee of a better financial future. College costs way more than ever before and the job prospects have never been worse. Here is some sobering news from BusinessInsider.com that’s worth considering:

After all the nearly 19 million 4-year college graduates expected over from 2010 to 2020, according to the NCES, will be disappointed to find only 8.5 million job openings requiring a bachelors degree over the same period, according to the BLS.

Many of those college students would have done better to go to a technical school for better job prospects at lower cost. Those who did go to college had better have put some thought into picking their major.

Get out your calculator and do the math: 19 million college graduates going after 8.5 million job openings requiring a college degree means 10.5 million college graduates will take jobs which don’t require a college degree.

The pool of college graduates is growing more than twice as fast as the pool of jobs requiring a college degree.

The Center for College Affordability shows this as a graph:

College Grads and Job Openings

This is a picture of college graduate underemployment. Not “unemployment” of college graduates. These graduate will end up with jobs just not jobs which require a 4-year degree.

You might be thinking, “This is just a projection of future employment. No one can see the future perfectly.” True enough. What’s today’s job market look like? More and more jobs today are filled by people with college degrees than ever before.

Forty years ago very few taxi cab driver, carpenters and bank tellers had college degrees. Now more have degrees than ever before. Here’s another sobering graph from the Center for College Affordability:

Job Now Filled with More College Grads

I encourage you to click through and read the entire article in BusinessInsider.com. You’ll read about the millions of American college graduates holding jobs which don’t require a college degree. Or any college at all.  You’ll also learn that “26 of the 30 fastest growing occupations don’t require a bachelor’s degree.”

Don’t expect to hear that from your high school guidance counselor, college admission officers, or even your parents. You need to do your homework now and save the time, debt and heartache from completing your college degree and ending up in the same job you could have gotten when you graduated from high school.

 

Should Your iTunes Library Go In a Trust?

Ever wondered who will inherit your digital library? Unless the laws are changed, your MP3s and e-books may go to the grave with you.

Today MarketWatch reported on this growing problem and offered a couple of solutions.

Many of us will accumulate vast libraries of digital books and music over the course of our lifetimes. But when we die, our collections of words and music may expire with us.

Someone who owned 10,000 hardcover books and the same number of vinyl records could bequeath them to descendants, but legal experts say passing on iTunes and Kindle libraries would be much more complicated.

And one’s heirs stand to lose huge sums of money. “I find it hard to imagine a situation where a family would be OK with losing a collection of 10,000 books and songs,” says Evan Carroll, co-author of “Your Digital Afterlife.” “Legally dividing one account among several heirs would also be extremely difficult.”

Part of the problem is that with digital content, one doesn’t have the same rights as with print books and CDs. Customers own a license to use the digital files—but they don’t actually own them.

Imagine all those 99 cent Kindle novels being vaporized in the Cloud when you die. Let’s look at a possible solution:

There are still few legal and practical ways to inherit e-books and digital music, experts say. And at least one lawyer has a plan to capitalize on what may become be a burgeoning market. David Goldman, a lawyer in Jacksonville, says he will next month launch software, DapTrust, to help estate planners create a legal trust for their clients’ online accounts that hold music, e-books and movies. “With traditional estate planning and wills, there’s no way to give the right to someone to access this kind of information after you’re gone,” he says.

Here’s how it works: Goldman will sell his software for $150 directly to estate planners to store and manage digital accounts and passwords. And, while there are other online safe-deposit boxes like AssetLock and ExecutorSource that already do that, Goldman says his software contains instructions to create a legal trust for accounts. “Having access to digital content and having the legal right to use it are two totally different things,” he says.

The simpler approach is to pass down your devices to an heir when you die…and give them your userid and password at the same time.

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/who-inherits-your-itunes-library-2012-08-23

Are you a financial advisor interested in using Estate Planning Seminars to grow your practice? Take a look here: MyLivingTrustSeminar.com

 

Zsa Zsa Gabor Never Said, “Dahling Husband, Let’s Get a Living Trust”

The Los Angeles Times reported today that “Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband scored a legal victory on Wednesday when a Los Angeles judge approved an agreement naming him the ailing actress’ conservator for the next six months.”

Zsa Zsa’s daughter filed a lawsuit in March seeking to put her mother in a conservatorship. The daughter lost and so did her mother because the process was in the court system and in the public eye.

Attorneys announced the settlement between Gabor’s ninth husband, Frederic von Anhalt, and her only child, daughter Constance Francesca Hilton, who in March had asked to be named her 95-year-old mother’s conservator after saying she didn’t believe Gabor was being properly cared for medically or financially.

When she filed the suit seeking conservatorship, Hilton contended Von Anhalt was keeping her mother “increasingly isolated” and “heavily sedated.”

In addition to being public, conservatorships are also expensive and time consuming. Attorneys and accounts need to be hire and paid to provide oversight. The process is set up to protect Zsa Zsa and the court will not trust her husband of 25-years to look out for her best interest.

Von Anhalt, 68, will continue to make medical decisions for his wife of 25 years, but several attorneys will provide financial oversight and Hilton will be allowed weekly visits. Superior Court Judge Reva Goetz approved the conditions and set another hearing for January to evaluate how the agreement is working. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/07/zsa-zsa-gabor-husband-conservatorship-.html

A living trust would have avoided conservatorship and  kept this sad tale out of the public eye. Let’s hope Zsa Zsa gets a living trust set up so she can avoid a probate when she dies. This will keep her financial situation private and help her minimize estate taxes.

Financial advisors and estate planning attorneys can help couples like Frederic and Zsa Zsa set up living trusts and avoid this embarrassment and expense. For information on using estate planning seminars to build your practice, go to MyLivingTrustSeminar.com.

 

Don’t Let a Heart Attack Stop Your Seminar!

Audience interaction keeps your presentations interesting and lively. This is especially true for living trust seminars. You never want to be the only one doing ali the talking.

Yet this story pushes things to an extreme when a man had a heart attack during a lecture on heart disease. Thankfully the story has a happy ending.

LEWISTON — Dr. William Phillips figured he was being kidded when a lecture on coronary heart disease was interrupted by a man complaining of chest pain.

A moment later, the cardiologist and nearby nurses saved the man’s life.

“I can’t tell you how I was hoping that guy was going to open his eyes, because, I thought, nothing could be worse if he dies right here,” Phillips said Tuesday.

As Phillips and the nurses began CPR, more than 100 people, many with histories of heart problems, watched.

“What I’m hoping is that they got the lesson about calling 911,” he said. “They got to see firsthand the importance of immediate response.”

The lecture had begun in the usual way.

Folks gathered Monday evening in a conference room at 12 High St. beside Central Maine Medical Center. The topic was a comparison of bypass surgery versus stenting for heart patients.

“We were talking about angina and this man raised his hand and said, ‘I’m having it right now,'” Phillips said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding?’

“And he said, ‘No.'”

That’s when Phillips got serious.

“I said to one of the nurses, ‘Could you get a wheelchair and take him over to the emergency room?'” Phillips said.

There wasn’t time, though. The man collapsed and Phillips ran to his side.

“In the meantime, he had completely arrested,” the doctor said. “He had no pulse. He wasn’t breathing. We started CPR and everybody’s standing around.”

Three cardiac rehab nurses — Brenda Robitaille, Nicola Adams and Heidi Langois — were there, too.

“It wasn’t just me,” Phillips said. “If I had been alone, it would have been terrible.”

One of the nurses brought in an automated external defibrillator, a portable electronic device that diagnoses a sudden, life-threatening heart problem and shocks the heart back into rhythm.

“The AED saved his life,” Phillips said.

“Then, (paramedics) came in the door,” he said. “They started an IV. They gave him an EKG and took the patient over to the emergency room.”

Later, Phillips checked in on the man.

“I went over to the emergency room, and he was sitting up in the bed, talking with his wife and waiting for test results,” the doctor said. Central Maine Medical Center declined to identify the patient, citing confidentiality laws.

But before Phillips checked on the man, he had a lecture to finish.

“After we had taken a breather, everybody wanted to continue on with the talk,” he said. “It was a pretty impressive event. I think the people there will remember the lecture for that.”

Phillips hopes the attendees will remember the importance of rapid response to heart problems.

Source: http://www.sunjournal.com/city/story/1052780

You may not save someone’s life during one of your presentations. So you won’t make the national news like this story. Yet you can help save family’s financial lives with a timely and informative community seminar.

Should You Tell Jokes at Marketing Seminars?

financial advisor marketingShould you tell jokes during your marketing seminars? This can be a risky venture. You want to be LIKED and TRUSTED by your seminar attendees so they will take the leap and schedule a first meeting.

If your jokes aren’t funny you risk being liked. If your jokes are deemed offensive, you definitely won’t be liked. You might ask, “How hard can it be to come up with some funny jokes about retirement planning, living trusts, or wills and joint tenancy?”

“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.” — Steve Martin

I spoke today about telling jokes with a member of one of my local networking groups. Irv sells Aflac insurance policies and once took a stand-up comedy course in Southern California. He said that you need to write 100 jokes to get 10 worth trying out. Out of the 10 jokes you might get 1 which would be worth repeating. That’s one in a hundred.

Irv told me that comedians usually tell 3 jokes per minute.  So a 5-minute comedy routine would include 15 jokes from 1500 jokes written up! Now you know why comedians like Jay Leno and David Letterman have a team of joke writers to come up with enough funny jokes for each night’s monologue.

Irv told me in the old days, a vaudeville comedian could come up with 20 funny jokes. These jokes would work for decades as the vaudeville troupe traveled from town to town. Not any more in these days of YouTube and Facebook. Funny comedy routines go viral and are everywhere.

Thankfully, your seminars won’t be recorded and your audiences will be different every time. You won’t need fresh jokes for every seminar. Find ones which work and use them over and over again.

I know one estate planning attorney who has told the same jokes for more than 20 years! He tells every audience that he has “never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer” and he gets laughs every time. He tells it more like a story anyways so audience doesn’t really need to “get it” and laugh on cue. No one gets offended. No one gets embarrassed. And he gets attendees to like him and sign up for a first meeting.

My general recommendation is to tell stories not jokes. Don’t poke fun at anyone but yourself. And never tire of telling the same stories over and over. Your goal is to get new clients and not get a job as a stand-up comic. A funny joke which bores you is way better than a fresh one-liner which offends someone in your audience. And that’s no laughing matter!

2

Oval Office Carpet Copywriting Misquote: Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt Enjoying a Good Laugh

While on his latest vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama had the Oval Office redecorated to reflect both his aesthetic as well as philosophical taste. His new beige carpet has quotes from 5 major historical figures. One is attributed to Teddy Roosevelt:

“THE WELFARE OF EACH OF US IS DEPENDENT FUNDAMENTALLY ON THE WELFARE OF ALL OF US” – From a speech Teddy Roosevelt gave at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, N.Y., on Sept. 7, 1903.

Over a hundred years ago, John E. Kennedy observed that “copywriting is salesmanship in print.” Every ad is made up of copywriting (the words for the headline, body, and offer) and graphic design (font type and size, pictures, colors, etc.)

I’ll leave the aesthetic critiques of the makeover to others. Let’s ask one question: Did this quote really help sell President Obama’s product? The product can be ObamaCare, Banker Bailout, Automaker Bailout, Green Energy Subsidies, etc.

Or was the quote taken out of context which reversed its meaning?

Thankfully, author Susan Shelley took the time to read Teddy Roosevelt’s entire speech. Her conclusion was that a lot more of the speech should have been printed on the carpet. I suggest that would make the “advertisement” less effective. Perhaps he should have quoted a former president who did so much to expand socialized medicine for people over 65 years old: President George W. Bush. Perhaps not.

Let’s take a look at some of Susan Shelly’s article and see how the quote was taken out of context. I bolded a few choice quotes which might be used for future White House renovation projects.

A reasonable person might interpret this selection as an indication of President Obama’s core belief that the president’s job is to “spread the wealth around.” He is unafraid and undaunted, the quotations suggest, in his quest to bring moral justice to “the people.”

Unfortunately, a rug has only so much space, and President Obama had to cut somewhere. Therefore, as a service to you, the reader, America Wants To Know looked up Theodore Roosevelt’s speech at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York, on September 7, 1903, and we now present some of the quotations from that particular speech that are not on the rug:

“The failure in public and in private life thus to treat each man on his own merits, the recognition of this government as being either for the poor as such or for the rich as such, would prove fatal to our Republic, as such failure and such recognition have always proved fatal in the past to other republics. A healthy republican government must rest upon individuals, not upon classes or sections.”

“Class government, whether it be the government of a plutocracy or the government of a mob, is equally incompatible with the principles established in the days of Washington and perpetuated in the days of Lincoln.”

“Again and again in the republics of ancient Greece, in those of mediaeval Italy and mediaeval Flanders, this tendency was shown, and wherever the tendency became a habit it invariably and inevitably proved fatal to the state. In the final result it mattered not one whit whether the movement was in favor of one class or of another. The outcome was equally fatal, whether the country fell into the hands of a wealthy oligarchy which exploited the poor or whether it fell under the domination of a turbulent mob which plundered the rich.

“The reason why our future is assured lies in the fact that our people are genuinely skilled in and fitted for self-government and therefore will spurn the leadership of those who seek to excite this ferocious and foolish class antagonism.”

“Fundamentally, the unscrupulous rich man who seeks to exploit and oppress those who are less well off is in spirit not opposed to, but identical with, the unscrupulous poor man who desires to plunder and oppress those who are better off.”

“There is no worse enemy of the wage-worker than the man who condones mob violence in any shape or who preaches class hatred; and surely the slightest acquaintance with our industrial history should teach even the most short-sighted that the times of most suffering for our people as a whole, the times when business is stagnant, and capital suffers from shrinkage and gets no return from its investments, are exactly the times of hardship, and want, and grim disaster among the poor.”

“Legislation to be permanently good for any class must also be good for the Nation as a whole, and legislation which does injustice to any class is certain to work harm to the Nation. Take our currency system for example. This Nation is on a gold basis. The treasury of the public is in excellent condition. Never before has the per capita of circulation been as large as it is this day; and this circulation, moreover, is of money every dollar of which is at par with gold. Now, our having this sound currency system is of benefit to banks, of course, but it is of infinitely more benefit to the people as a whole, because of the healthy effect on business conditions.”

Yes, Theodore Roosevelt was crediting the excellent condition of the public treasury to its adherence to the gold standard. Sound money is good for the American people because it’s good for business conditions. That’s what TR said.

That’s not on the rug.

When “business is stagnant and capital suffers from shrinkage and gets no return from its investments,” it means “grim disaster” for the poor.

That’s not on the rug, either.

Turns out TR had no use for the man who “preaches class hatred” and believed the nation would always “spurn the leadership” of those who stir up “foolish class antagonism.”

TR said the rich and poor must be judged as individuals and treated equally under the law. He warned that republics were just as much at risk from those who “plundered the rich” as from those who “exploited the poor.”

You can bet that’s not on the rug.

It turns out that Teddy Roosevelt’s state fair speech, on Labor Day, was not a call to “spread the wealth around,” but a warning that attacks on the rich would bring down the whole country.

In 1903, anarchy was a spreading and violent threat to governments around the world. It was the terrorism of its day. It wasn’t what it is now, just a bunch of black-clad college students clattering their spray-paint cans outside the G-7 meeting.

In Syracuse that day, TR was trying to explain to the working people at a Labor Day event that their fates were inextricably tied to the freedom and success of wealthy capitalists.

That’s what he meant when he said, “The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally on the welfare of all of us.”

Do you think it’s too late to return the rug?

Source: http://www.extremeink.com/awtk/2010/08/not-on-the-rug.html

I say Teddy Roosevelt is having a good laugh right now.

The moral to the story is to carefully check all the facts in any advertisement, flyer, brochure, website, or blog post. It could be worse: You have to live with a Yellow Page ad for entire year. President Obama can fix this mistake as soon as they can manufacture some new carpet.

Endless Deficit Spending and Advisor Marketing to Seniors

You might see the near record federal deficits as a good news-bad news story for financial advisors.

The good news is might skinny with this story. Maybe it will lead seniors to take a second look at their government pensions. Maybe they’ll choose to save more money for retirement. Perhaps they’ll decide to seek out an advisor with some sound ideas on how to live off their retirement accounts.

The bad news is that government spending is totally out of control. The Federal Reserve Bank can’t raise interest rates without causing the interest expense on the debt to balloon even higher than it is today. So seniors get very little on their short term money. It takes a lot more money in the bank to get a livable income.

This article from today’s The Wall Street Journal lays it all out. The picture ain’t pretty.

Deficit in July Totals $165.04 Billion

The U.S. government spent itself deeper into the red last month, paying nearly $20 billion in interest on debt and an additional $9.8 billion to help unemployed Americans.

Federal spending eclipsed revenue for the 22nd straight time, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. The $165.04 billion deficit, while a bit smaller than the $169.5 billion shortfall expected by economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires, was the second highest for the month on record. The highest was $180.68 billion in July 2009.

The government usually runs a deficit during July, which is the 10th month of the fiscal year. So far in fiscal 2010, the government spent $1.169 trillion more than it made. That figure is about $98 billion lower than during the comparable period a year earlier.

For all of fiscal 2009, the U.S. ran a record $1.42 trillion deficit. Fiscal 2010 might run a little higher—the Obama administration sees $1.47 trillion.

Wednesday’s monthly Treasury statement said U.S. government revenues in July totaled $155.55 billion, compared with $151.48 billion in July 2009.

Spending was higher, totaling $320.59 billion. July 2009 spending amounted to $332.16 billion.

Year-to-date revenues were $1.75 trillion, compared with $1.74 trillion in the first 10 months of fiscal 2009. Spending so far in this fiscal year is $2.92 trillion, versus $3.01 trillion in the prior period.

Spending for benefits for the unemployed year to date totaled $121.4 billion; for July, the tab was $9.8 billion, the Treasury statement said.

Years of deficit spending by Washington have led to a mounting national debt. Interest payments so far in fiscal 2010 amount to $185.25 billion; by contrast, corporate taxes collected by the government during the same 10 months were $139.71 billion. Interest payments in July alone were $19.9 billion.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704901104575423601722830706.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read

With interest rates near zero for short-term money, interest expense is $19,900,000,000 for July. So retirees depending on bank CD’s shouldn’t get their hopes up. You need to tell them about better ways to provide for their day-to-day retirement income.

Why Multi-tasking Destroys Productivity

Dave Crenshaw wrote a book you need to read entitled, The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing It All’ Gets Nothing Done.

Here are some excerpts:

“There is an illusion. The illusion is that technology, cell phones, e-mail, faxes, text messaging, and whatever is latest-and-greatest all make us more productive.

“The reality, though, is that these things will only make us productive if we take control of them.

“They are the servants. We are the masters. If we do not protect our time, we will allow ourselves to be run over by the traffic of information.”

His book makes the point that our brains can really only do one thing at a time. What we really do is “switch-tasking” where we switch back and forth between two or more activities. He says this tires the brain thus lowering our overall productivity.

I fight this all the time when I’m at my computer. Constantly checking email, Skype beeps for chats, and incoming calls from my receptionist. This bestselling book, and it’s sequel, Invaluable: the Secret to Becoming Irreplaceable, should help.

I’m reading Invaluable chapter by chapter as I drive down the freeway. Just kidding, of course.

You will make points with your clients if follow one of my better habits. My cell phone is on manner mode 99% of the time and always during the business day. I guess 1% of the time I’m playing Ultimate Frisbee at the park and need to hear my phone ring.

You’d be surprised how appreciated clients feel when the manner mode goes off and I reach down to touch the button to put the caller into voice mail. Without even looking to see who’s calling me. Even after the client grants me permission, “Go ahead and take the call.” I tell them “I’m talking to you now” and they like that. And I let him know I’ll ignore their calls when I’m speaking with someone else.

This is the cell phone application of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Maybe that’s why they called it “manner mode” back in the early ’80’s when cell phones came out.

My wife and I have a signal that tells me it’s an emergency so take the call now. I’d tell you what it is but you might be tempted to interrupt me when I’m talking to another client!

Think about it. Let’s say I take the call from another client, prospect, vendor, or partner while I’m speaking to someone else. Either it’s a problem and I’ll be thinking of a solution. Or great news and I’ll be thinking happy thoughts. Or it’s simply a bother and I’ll be wondering why it couldn’t wait.

Radios can be tuned to two different frequencies if they overlap slightly. You can hear 2 different songs or a song and a commercial. Tough to listen to. But possible.

Your brain can really only be tuned into one conversation at a time. Either with the person you’re speaking with. Or the person calling you. Or texting you. Or instant messaging you.

Dave Crenshaw say “background tasking” won’t hurt our productivity. Some examples of background tasking include:

  • Eating dessert while watching a video
  • Reading a magazine while doing 3 miles on the treadmill
  • Listening to a how-to audio CD while driving
  • Whistle while you work (Remember Snow White?)

Task #1: Give 100% attention to the person you are with. This could be a client, a prospect, a friend, an employee, your spouse or a child. Get ready to shock them!

Task #2: Give each task 100% attention until you get it DONE. Then move on to the next task. Tell your receptionist when you cannot be interrupted. Have her schedule call backs with clients. You’ll get more accomplished each day. Now get to work!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Estate Tax Confusion Keeps Advisors Busy & Wealthy Gifting

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 29:  Internal Revenue Ser...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Summer approaches and Congress has yet to pass any estate tax legislation. Will they extend 2009 45% tax rate and $3.5 million exemption? Will they try to make it retroactive? Can they pass legislation after the Summer recess when the November election approaches? Or wait for the lame duck Congress to pass something after the election?

Does anyone know what Congress can or will do? Certainly not financial advisors and families with substantial assets. As this New York Times article points out, the resulting confusion has kept advisors busy this year. And wealthy families are taking advantage of the current law. I am not speaking of the Texas Billionaire who just escaped paying any estate tax!

June 11, 2010

Confusion Over the Dormant Estate Tax Keeps Advisers Busy

By PAUL SULLIVAN

THE disappearance of the federal estate tax this year has created confusion and frustration among the wealthy, even among those who stand to benefit from it. And this has sent them in droves to amend documents that they may have to change again next year.

Steven H. Goodman, an accountant and financial planner in Melville, N.Y., says he has not had a meeting recently without clients asking him what they need to do this year and for 2011, when the tax is set to return at a higher rate than when it expired. Yet for all the business this has brought his firm, the SHG Financial Group, Mr. Goodman says he is not happy. “It’s a pain in the neck,” he said. “Even though I do this for a living, no one likes to do this.”

This part of the story points one reason why the estate tax has been called the “optional tax” for a long time.

Those who work with the extremely rich say they, too, have been exceedingly busy, but for a different reason. The wealthiest are looking to take advantage of a short-term trust that allows people to pass money to heirs tax-free — what’s known as a grantor retained annuity trust — out of fear that the federal government could change the terms of these trusts. Cheryl E. Hader, a partner in the individual clients group at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, said she set up 30 of these trusts last month, up from six in a normal month. Daniel L. Kesten, a partner in the private client group at Davis & Gilbert, a law firm in New York, said he was working nights and weekends last month setting up the same type of trusts.

How this boon to tax advisers happened is yet another chapter in the partisan gridlock common to Washington these days. At the end of 2009, Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, tried to extend for three months the existing estate tax laws, put in place in 2001. But when that motion failed, the estate tax expired for the first time since 1916.

What this has meant is that the heirs of wealthy people who die this year will owe no taxes. An extreme case, as detailed in an article in The New York Times on Tuesday, is that of Dan L. Duncan, who died two months ago with an estimated wealth of $9 billion. His heirs will inherit his estate without paying the 45 percent tax that was in effect in 2009, billions that would have gone to the Treasury.

But it is possible that next year will bring cases of the other extreme, when the amount exempt from the federal estate tax falls to $1 million, its 2001 level, from $3.5 million in 2009, and the rate rises to 55 percent, from 45 percent.

“Dan Duncan dies and pays nothing, but the guy who dies with his house worth $2 million next year and his estate is going to pay $550,000,” said Lance S. Hall, president of FMV Opinions, a firm that values estates. “Is that fair?”

While there were rumblings at the beginning of the year that Congress might reinstate the estate tax and make it retroactive to Jan. 1, it has made no progress on the issue. And the death of someone as wealthy as Mr. Duncan makes a retroactive tax unlikely.

“Now we’re way beyond that consideration,” Mr. Kesten said. “This single family could outspend the I.R.S. in litigating this.”

If you have ultra wealthy clients you should schedule meetings to find out if this is the year to gift money to heirs.

So what will happen? If Congress does not reinstate the estate tax this year, 2010 could be a bonanza for the nation’s richest. The short-term grantor retained annuity trust, whose possible end is separate from the fate of the estate tax, is one option. But other families are simply taking advantage of the lowest gift tax rate since 1933, 35 percent, to pass millions to their heirs.

The real problem comes for the merely rich — individuals worth more than $1 million and less than $3.5 million and couples with net worths of $2 million to $7 million who previously did not have to worry about the estate tax. If Congress fails to act again this year, the estate tax laws next year will revert to their levels before 2001, and that could snare a host of people who set up the estate plans on the assumption that there would be no tax when they died.

What’s the likelihood of Congress doing nothing? Based on the past six months of inaction on the estate tax, January 1 arrive with an estate tax rate of 55% on the first million in assets. Imagine what that will do to the popularity of living trusts?

“If Congress does nothing, there would be a sevenfold increase in the number of estates subject to the tax than if the exemption stayed at $3.5 million,” said John Dadakis, partner at the Holland & Knight law firm.

As the law stands, the heirs of a single person who dies next year with more than $1 million would be subject to a 55 percent tax. (For couples, it is $2 million.) Heirs of that same person, with a $3.5 million estate, would have paid nothing in 2009 but could pay as much as $1.375 million in 2011, depending on the level of planning. And while this wealth may seem high in many parts of the country, it has professionals on the coasts grumbling.

“In the Northeast, where people own their own homes and have owned them for decades and have money in their retirements, there tend to be a lot of millionaires,” Mr. Kesten said. “It would sweep a whole chunk of the upper-middle class into what used to be a fairly elite group.”

The only upside to the return to the 2001 level is clarity. Having no estate tax this year is saving wealthier people a lot of money, but at the cost of an added layer of complexity for both them and for many people who would not have had to worry about the estate tax.

That’s because the assets of people who died under the old estate tax regime were valued at the date of their death for tax purposes. Any capital gains on, for example, stocks purchased decades earlier — which would have been subject to tax if sold — were erased. That is no longer the case, and figuring out what is owed requires determining the original purchase price — however long ago that was.

Without an estate tax this year, the Internal Revenue Code grants an artificial step-up in basis, as it is called, of $1.3 million to be used at the executor’s discretion and $3 million on assets passed to a spouse. The only glitch is the Internal Revenue Service has yet to issue documents to record how this exemption has been applied.

Looks like the IRS is playing catch up on the estate tax laws as well.

“The absurdity of it all is there is not even an I.R.S. form yet to do this,” Ms. Hader said. “My client who died on Jan. 2. Even if we wanted to comply with the law as it exists now, we can’t.”

“We are aware of the increasing need for direction from the I.R.S. on this issue,” the agency said in a statement. “We will be working closely with the Treasury Department to provide answers as quickly as possible, and, if necessary, to develop a new form.”

While the tax would not be due until April 15, 2011, the problem comes when heirs need to sell something. If they received a long-held position of stock, they might want to sell part of it to diversify their holdings or raise cash. But they would incur a 15 percent capital gains tax on the appreciated amount.It is trickier for property. John Nuckolls, national director of the private client tax services practice at the accounting firm BDO, said a friend in Iowa inherited a farm from his mother that he wanted to sell. With a basis near zero, it was worth more than the $1.3 million that the I.R.S. step-up in basis would exempt but less than the $3.5 million exemption in 2009. If he sells it this year, he will incur capital gains tax.

But that is little compared with what heirs to a moderately wealthy person may pay if Congress does not act.

Source:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/12/your-money/estate-planning/12wealth.html?src=me

Enhanced by Zemanta