A new marketing idea we've been hearing at recent conferences for the mutual fund industry is the notion of embracing new technologies, including blogging, instant messaging, chat rooms, webcasts, podcasts, websites tailored for each individual investor and even creating communities along the lines of facebook.com and YouTube.com.

There is no doubt that marketing and communications are moving into a new, personalized direction that will allow the mutual fund and other industries to communicate more creatively with individual customers as well as to create specialized, like-minded communities.

One way mutual fund companies could use these new technologies effectively is to take a holistic approach to investors' preparation for and life in retirement. They could engage clients not only on financial issues, but on all of the matters related to retirement well-being and happiness, inclusive of advice on a second career, healthcare, long-term care insurance and estate planning. This could go a long way to solidify firms' relationships with investors and earn their loyalty.

A new book by the original author of "What Color is Your Parachute?" could provide some inspiring tips. Written by John Nelson and the author of the original book, Richard Bolles, it's called "What Color is Your Parachute? for Retirement: Planning Now for the Life You Want?" (Ten Speed Press).

Nelson recently told SourceMedia sister publication Employee Benefit News that the reason he wrote the book, which he described as one about "life planning," was because of significant advances in psychology, sociology and medicine that can vastly improve the lives of senior citizens.

Helping people figure out their retirement strengths, adopt healthier habits and figure out new ways of developing friends during their retirement years are a few key points in the book.

AARP's model could also serve as a point of inspiration. Through its website and magazine, the organization addresses money, work, family, home, health, legal and political issues.

Yes, the main job of the mutual fund industry is to help people prepare for retirement. It is a sober job but one that could become more meaningful to investors if it had more of a personal touch.

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