Last month, my company i30 Media released a two-volume guide to Social Security retirement and disability benefits: Social Security In 30 Minutes. This was a big project, but I was fortunate to work with a true pro, author Emily Pogue, who worked in human services for years and knew the ins and outs of various Social Security programs, including SSDI, SSI, and the gigantic retirement insurance system used by tens of millions of Americans.
Early reviews have been great. Here’s what Kirkus had to say about Volume 1 of the guide:
In this debut personal finance book, Pogue covers a wide range of topics, from who’s eligible to collect Social Security benefits to what useful information can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website—all in fewer than 100 pages, including a glossary.
The author walks readers through how Social Security benefits are calculated, the circumstances that can reduce them, and their long-term impact on total income. However, because many of these aspects are influenced by individual earnings and state regulations, the book offers explanations in general terms and encourages readers to consult experts regarding some of the more specific requirements.
Although the book’s primary target audience is readers planning for retirement, Pogue also explains how spouses and dependents may also qualify for benefits. Charts and examples make it relatively easy to understand how, for instance, one’s outside earnings affect benefit levels and tax rates, and readers will be able to easily use the provided calculation formulas.
The book also uses examples to encourage readers to make financially sound decisions, showing, for example, how collecting benefits as soon as one is eligible can substantially reduce one’s overall earnings.
The book is informative and easy to understand, which is no small achievement, given the many variables involved. There are several references to other books in the publisher’s series, such as the companion volume, which covers the disability portion of Social Security; there’s also an excerpt from a book by another author, Personal Finance for Beginners in 30 Minutes, Vol. 2. Despite these advertisements, however, the book is a solid account of how a complicated benefits system works, and it will be useful to readers looking for a concise introduction.
A Social Security explainer that packs a lot of information into a brief text.
NetGalley reviews were also very strong. I was particularly pleased to see this review of Vol. 1, which was also published on Goodreads:
I could not believe how much I learned. I have been reading the Social Security website and searching the web for info for almost a year straight and learned the answers to everything I was looking for and more in this short read. Thank you for making this book.
Another NetGalley review for Vol. 2:
In my work as co-director of an employability program for people with disabilities, one of the biggest concerns of those we support are questions around how working will impact their Social Security benefits. This short guide is informative, well written, and chock full of easy-to-understand details about the labyrinthine benefits world. I’ll be sharing much of this information with the families we support. A must-read for anyone who desires to know more about the process.
But some of the most interesting reaction to the guide has been on YouTube. When the books were launched, I created a few simple screencasts outlining some of the main points and posted them on the IN 30 MINUTES YouTube channel. Compare the number of views for the Social Security videos compared to the videos on other topics (i30 Media also publishes a book about Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel cheat sheets, a Twitter guide, etc.):
More than 5,000 views in six days for Social Security: SSI and SSDI, side by side? It’s a seven-minute video outlining some of the points made in one of Emily’s charts in the Volume 2. It currently has 14 “likes” and 2 “dislikes.” By comparison, a new video about Twitter animated GIFs received just 12 views in the same time period, and no likes or dislikes.
The activity on the ongoing series of Social Security videos is not just helping to stroke my ego or fulfill my latent dream to become a YouTube influencer (with only 2,760 subscribers, the In 30 Minutes YouTube channel still has a long way to go). It has three direct benefits to my business:
- Book awareness. About 10,000 people have become aware of the titles and the author via the short introduction at the beginning of each video.
- Brand awareness. I mention that I am the publisher of the guides, which include more than 20 titles.
- Sales. I have a very primitive tracking system which shows when visitors from YouTube go to the official book website for Social Security In 30 Minutes, and from there I can follow sales via my own website or Amazon.
Upon seeing the success of the first two or three videos, I set out to record some more videos on the topic. But I have to be careful that the channel doesn’t become all Social Security all the time. Many subscribers are there for other topics (mostly technology related) so it’s important to serve that audience, too.