CPA offering no-gimmick, completely free online answers to your questions relating to tax, accounting, business growth, and entrepreneurship. This is the KEY to growing your own business as well – so even if you don’t have a question, listen up anyway, folks!

Years ago (in the year 2000, I believe) I created a website that allowed people to ask CPA questions online. I charged (if I remember correctly) $9.95 for simple personal questions, $19.95 for basic business questions, and then each category or complexity increasing from there forward, increased the price accordingly. It wasn’t a bad idea and I had a GREAT domain for it ( – which I now wish I would have at least kept that domain ownership – ah, but we all love hindsight).

Back then, I had no idea how to get people to come to that website, so I went to bulletin boards and basically spammed or used PUSH-marketing to drive people to the site.  It worked ‘fairly’ well (THEN), but I couldn’t get enough exposure to actually make a living, so in the end, I dropped the idea.

If I knew then what I know now I would probably have made it a huge success, at least for a while.

 That idea wouldn’t work very well today. And my method of getting clients to my site would have really failed.

  • The entire marketing and branding demand has changed – and now consumers, clients, and the public are in control of what they see, what they want, and how they want it.
  • The traditional media and government are no longer in control of what consumers and citizens see and discover.
  • It is a NEW ERA – and companies that don’t realize this quickly, will continue to lose money on advertising the old way.

Push marketing, spamming, direct mail, radio, print advertising, yellow pages, television, etc. – IS OUT. Did you hear me? It is GONE.

There is only one way that companies that do not already have nationwide brand recognition will be ‘heard’ going forward, and there are three main things to remember in using it for it to actually work and be effective:

SOCIAL MEDIA is the only avenue where companies will be heard and followed to build their company brand and grow from this point forward.

That’s a bold statement, I know – but the facts show it to be true.

Studies show that by the year 2020, over 75% of businesses will be run by people who are TODAY between the ages of 18 and 30. Think about that. How do these ‘Gen Y’ individuals communicate now?

  • They rarely even use their mobile phones for voice. They use text messaging instead – for personal communication certainly, but now even for business.
  • They will Google something quickly on their laptop or mobile phone, without ever thinking of picking up a Yellow Pages book.
  • They fast-forward right through those television ads and they switch channels on the radio as soon a commercial comes on air. (In fact most have 10,000 songs on their iPod or listen to commercial free websites such as Pandora).
  • Newspapers are now online, and if there is a topic of interest, it can be found at the click of a button on their phone or computer.

The point is THINGS HAVE CHANGED and social media is just about the only avenue a company has to have their message ‘heard’ now and especially in the coming years.

But be careful, simply signing up for multiple social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Foursquare, Pinterest, etc.) is NOT going to work if you don’t have PASSION for what you are doing along with the following three things:

1)      GOOD CONTENT – If you simply blast on your social pages (or worse, others posts) what you do, and how you do it… you will FAIL in addition to making others annoyed or angry.  People can spot SPAM or push-advertising so quickly now, it’s meaningless to try that angle. Instead, people want good content that helps THEM. And they want it for FREE. If you can provide good, helpful content in your genre of business, you need NOT ever insert advertising information about your company, other than perhaps your signature line. If people need or want what you do, and you are providing good content that helps them, they will be attracted to you and/or your business anyway. This is not expensive… but it will be time-consuming.

2)      ADAPTING TO SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS AND APPLICATIONS – What is hip and popular today will certainly be different by this time next year. You must understand what these Social Media accounts actually do and you must use them effectively. Pinterest is not the same type of tool as LinkedIn or Twitter.  You must study each tool, each application, and use them ALL. It’s not difficult individually, nor is it expensive, but again, it is time-consuming and it changes constantly.

3)      MAKE IT PERSONAL – This is the final key to building business using social media. Answer EVERY question or comment – and make it about helping them, not selling them on your product.  Social media is not personal, unless you make it personal. If you provide good content, and a client follows you because you’ve used the right tool or application to be ‘heard’… but then you don’t have that immediate response or interaction with them, they will probably click the mouse to the next article, blog, tweet, or photo. Again… this is not expensive, but absolutely necessary and time-consuming.


I no longer own the domain – but I do have a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, etc. (see all the lovely links below) – and I study each day learning these and other social media tools.

The purpose of all this is to simply to help businesses grow, which is my passion.

  • Gaining new tax or accounting clients has been the fortunate result (and can be for you too!) but it is an indirect result of effectively using social media to help others, without asking for their business.

This is the key to the future of business marketing. 

And so, because I am a CPA and a motivated entrepreneur, I would love to hear from you if you have a question or comment or topic relating to helping businesses grow and/or accounting & tax. There is no charge, no catch, no follow-up spam, or gimmick. I only want to provide good, free content relating to accounting, tax, or business growth – which is my passion.

If you don’t have social media account, feel free to email me directly at If your comment or question will help others, I will share it (removing any confidential information) so others can benefit. If it isn’t something that will benefit others, that is perfectly fine also!  I will still respond, and help in any way that I can. Some of my social accounts are below, if you have a preference for your question or comment or topic.

Michele Robbins, CPA




Twitter: (@cparobbins)

LinkedIn Profile:

Pinterest Profile:

Tumblr Account:



How Earned Income Affects Social Security Benefit Payments


I recently received a question on my Facebook page regarding how earned income affects social security income. This is a great topic I felt worthy of sharing for those facing or considering retirement.

  • (I always encourage and welcome these kinds of questions. It provides free, helpful advice and really good content for others – WITHOUT advertising and push marketing of some agenda, product, service, etc. Likewise, if you have any kind of helpful comment or question that would truly help small businesses or individuals that relates to business growth, marketing, taxes, accounting, etc., please FEEL free to post or ask it on my Facebook wall ( My ONLY REQUEST is that your post is only to help or provide useful content. Please do NOT try to promote yourself or you company. No push marketing, please. Thanks!)

Linsey asks, “My brother in law is hoping to retire in August. If he collects social security income, will his income Jan- Aug result in a subtraction dollar for dollar to his social security income? He will be 62”

(Linsey, for your specific-only answer, see last paragraph. However, this entire post may relate to your brother-in law’s situation)


Generally, there are limits to how much a Social Security beneficiary can earn while still working and being younger than the full retirement age. Full retirement age was 65 for many years. However, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, then that age gradually increases until it reaches 67 for people born in 1960 or later. For example, the full retirement age for people born in 1943 through 1954 is 66. Benefits are reduced if earnings exceed certain limits.

  • If you are younger than your full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $2 you earn above the earnings limit. In 2012, the limit is $14,640.  (But there are a few helpful exemptions also  – see below)
  • In the year you reach your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced $1 for every $3 you earn above the earnings limit. In 2012, the limit is $38,880.
  • Starting with the month that you reach full retirement age, you can get your full benefits no matter how much you earn.



  • Some payments are considered EXEMPT towards the earning limit. For example, if your brother-in-law receives a check for leftover vacation pay EVEN AFTER he begins receiving social security benefits, that income does NOT count toward the income limit, because he actually earned it BEFORE he retired. This is considered a ‘special payment’.
  • Other examples of ‘special payments’ include, sick pay, severance pay, back pay, commissions, retirement payments, or deferred compensation reported on a W-2, but earned in a previous year.
  • NOTE: If you receive a special payment, I recommend that you contact the SSA in writing and simply notify them this is a special payment. This is only necessary if the amount is over the limit. (My personal advice, here)



Sometimes people who retire in mid-year already have earned more than the yearly earnings limit. That is why there is a special rule that applies to earnings for one year, usually the first year of retirement. Under this rule, you can get a full Social Security check for any whole month you are retired, regardless of your yearly earnings.

  • On the day he retires, he will receive his social security benefits from that point forward as he normally would at age 62. He will certainly not receive a full year of social security benefits as he wasn’t retired for the full year. His social security benefits will simply begin and he will receive his monthly social security income from that month forward.
  • Again, be sure to let him know that it is completely fine if he receives back-pay or unused vacation pay at any time after retiring.

In 2012, a person under full retirement age for the entire year is considered retired if monthly earnings are $1,220 or less.

For example, John Smith retires at age 62 on October 30, 2012. He will make $45,000 through October. After this he takes a part-time job beginning in November earning $500 per month. Although his earnings for the year substantially exceed the 2012 annual limit ($14,640), he will receive a Social Security payment for November and December. This is because his earnings in those months are $1,220 or less, the monthly limit for people younger than full retirement age. If however, Mr. Smith earns more than $1,220 in either of those months (November or December), he will not receive a benefit for that month. Beginning in 2013, only the yearly limits will apply to him.

I hope you pass this on. Tell him to feel free to call or better-yet, post it on my Facebook page (  if he has additional questions to his specific situation. There are many others that have similar issues, and may appreciate the information online there as well.

(References: and

Thanks again for the great topic question, Linsey.