MySpace, YouTube are forums for
401(k) guidance

By Darla Mercado

Aug 6, 2007 @ 8:44 am (Updated 8:44 am) EST

NEW YORK — How do you get a twentysomething to learn about saving and investing?

One way is to package a crash course on 401(k)s into an animated clip on MySpace.com.

Jack, a 23-year-old sous chef who seeks investment guidance, is the star of three short videos from FeelSmartAbout, a Sewickley, Pa.-based financial-education startup company.

The clips, which can be found on MySpace and YouTube.com, show Jack on his journey to understanding his company’s retirement plan and managing his money.

“‘Get started’ is the key message,” said Christian Echavarria, founder of FeelSmartAbout and co-founder of Invesmart Inc., a Pittsburgh-based provider of retirement plans. “The main focus is to get young people started on saving for retirement and for purchasing a house or starting a business.”

Approaching people in their 20s through a familiar medium makes financial planning and retirement easier to understand, Mr. Echavarria said.

Jack, as well as his financial mentor, Doc, also stars in Mr. Echavarria’s 95-page guide, “Feel Smart About: Managing and Investing Your Money in Your 20s,” which breaks down the elements of a diversified portfolio and defines investment terms through an animated narrative.

Mr. Echavarria created the clips as a marketing tool to promote FeelSmartAbout, hitting the target audience at one of its favorite places to lurk online. So far, Jack has attracted 15 “friends,” or MySpace users who have linked to Jack’s content; the YouTube clips have been viewed thousands of times.

However, the education won’t stop there. In order to get to young plan participants, Mr. Echavarria is developing a module of 16 video lessons on retirement, which will be marketed toward investment advisers and 401(k) service providers.

“Advisers believe that the 401(k) industry’s enrollment process needs to change,” he said. “Participants get a three- to five-minute daily video lesson that comes in through their e-mail instead of having to attend an enrollment meeting.”

The new series of videos, slated for release by the end of the year, will also be featured on a separate website that uses high-quality footage.

FeelSmartAbout also may run a few more clips on YouTube to help push marketing efforts, but these clips will still have an educational message, Mr. Echavarria added.

“Our primary message is that we believe we can make a difference about the ways people manage and invest their money,” he said.