This column lives up to its “Generations” tag only insofar as it addresses a frequent shortcoming in advisors of my age group.
I'm talking about putting the Web to good use in a financial advisory practice. For all the search engine technology out there, the Internet still is a bewilderingly huge and inscrutable resource to too many people, and, too often, its riches go untapped.
What follows is a smattering of sites I've found useful in my practice. I offer them to help others to build a small library of practical online tools.
Putting the “human” in human resources
Want to target employees at large companies in your area? Then get in touch with the gatekeepers: the HR personnel. The Society for Human Resource Management has over 185,000 members. To find a local chapter, visit shrm.org.
First, let's find all the lawyers
Martindale.com allows you to search a monstrous database of attorneys by specialty, geography or even law school. It lists almost 5,000 trust-and-estate-planning specialists who are ostensibly waiting to begin a mutually beneficial referral relationship with you.
The 411 on 401ks
Freeerisa.com is the granddaddy of all retirement plan sites. You can look up a company's recent Form 5500 filings or find plans that are about to terminate (thus spitting out a bunch of money that must be rolled over into IRAs).
Charity begins at this homepage
Guidestar.org is the premiere source of financial information about all charities large and small. Whether you're looking for pools of investable money or for deserving recipients of your clients' benevolence, you can find it here, searching by organization size, type or location.
The trees thank you
If you get a holiday ham from the inkjet salesperson, you're printing too much information from the Web. Furl.net is a wonderful creation that allows you to quickly and forever “capture” a Web page, share it with others or file it under a category heading for later use.
You've got mail…that you can't find
I've always thought the search functions in Microsoft Outlook left a little to be desired. Microsoft apparently agreed, so they went out and bought Lookoutsoft.com, a downloadable add-on that will find those oh-so-urgent messages regarding your fantasy football team.
“Alternative” doesn't mean “optional.”
Take comfort in the fact that although you don't quite understand the Alternative Minimum Tax, your clients have never even heard of it. But when they get that first big tax bill, (and they will — soon), you may bear the brunt of their anger. You can help your clients minimize the potential bite by visiting Quicken.com/taxes/taxslashing/amteval/.
The kid can always sell a kidney
Clients with college-bound children may be surprised (pleasantly or unpleasantly) at the amount of financial aid available to their particular family. Armed with the family's most recent tax return, you can bring them back to reality with the fine calculators available at Finaid.org.
Not since “Butt Paste” has there been such a useful product with a more unfortunate name, but the myriad calculators at Dinkytown.net should cover all of your clients' investment, finance, tax and debt questions.
From the floor
Ever wonder what big blocks of stock are competing with your buys and sells? Island.com purports to give you instant access to the sizes and prices of open orders for a particular security.
What the trading desk doesn't want you to know
The “bid and ask” of the municipal bond market is barely more transparent than the pricing process for airline tickets. Now you can see the daily wholesale prices of tax-free trades on a state-by-state basis at Municipalbond.com.
Getting to know Google
Okay, this last one you've probably heard about, but it's still a useful visit. Just don't waste too much time there, or on any other Web site, for that matter. Otherwise you'll be looking for a new job at Monster.com.
Writer's BIO: Kevin McKinley is a CFP and vice president of investments at a regional brokerage and author of Make Your Kid a Millionaire — 11 Easy Ways Anyone Can Secure a Child's Financial Future.