Should I Attend the Bad Chicken Dinner Seminar

How many times has this played out and will it ever end? It never fails. It's Wednesday and the senior seminar invitation just arrived in the mailbox. Let's see, they can reduce or eliminate my taxes, new IRA laws, stop losing money in the stock market and maybe an investment that gets stock market like returns without the risk.

If you are a boomer or a little older you have all seen countless invitations like this one and perhaps even received emails like it too. If you haven't, you will soon, I promise. It seems that any of us over age 55 can eat a free dinner somewhere close by every night of the week. There is no shortage of financial advisors who want to begin a relationship with you and these seminars are a very popular technique for drumming up new business.

The challenge with the “bad chicken dinner” seminar is that there are some really good ones out there. However, you will have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that prince. You can find them every where now days, from the public library to the fancy, high-priced, steak restaurant. Typically the better the fare the the more the agent sells. They need a good draw and a decent sized crowd in order to get the number of people in attendance that makes the whole process work.

Many critics have referred to these seminars as gimmicks or just a way to sell annuities to seniors. The reality is that most of them are just that. Some states have even gone so far as to put "spies" in the room to critique the presenter in order to discover if there is anything that is said or inferred as inappropriate. I will try to focus on the positive and not the negative in this article.

Here are a few pieces of advice when attending one of these events.

First, make up a list of questions that are pointed and you want answered. If the seminar is to be informative as advertised, the agent or financial advisor should have no problems answering them in front of others. Remember, the invitation said join us for a free educational workshop, right?? The informed advisor will answer your questions right there. Others in the room may have the same questions but may be too shy or embarrassed to ask. If they will not answer your questions, you will typically hear “come to the office” or “we are on a time limit”. We understand the time limit, so he can answer the questions while you are having dinner.

Secondly- feel obligated. You asked questions, you ate dinner but don't feel pressured to make an appointment. If you feel uncomfortable its ok to do your research and homework prior to any meeting with anyone. You and your spouse need to be on the same page with this. Remember you built it together you must plan together.

Third- when you do set an appointment, make certain you have your agenda set. Get out the things that you want to talk about and what are tops on your list. Some advisors will focus on managed money or stocks. If your need is safety, security and guarantees, then maybe a fixed annuity is right for you. A proper due diligence should be conducted by the advisor before any recommendations should ever be made. If they are making suggestions prior to proper fact finding, close up your stuff and just leave. It is your meeting an you are in control.

Fourth- make sure your wants and needs are clearly defined. Planners do not have a crystal ball. So you must inform them of your needs and discuss in detail what you desire. If your advisor wants a job based off his smooth saying ability, run and don’t look back. No one knows what will happen in the markets including them. As the wisest among us always say, begin with the end in mind.

Fifth- make sure you fully understand what is being implemented. If you were to purchase an annuity, understand the guarantees, how it works and what is does. There is nothing worse than not knowing what account holding your life savings does or does not do. Non-communicated expectations are just as harmful as exaggerated expectations, and these are the number one and number two reasons for complaints and legal issues. Remember, it's ok to ask, to go over it again, and any advisor with your interest at heart will do just that! We always say “base your plan on what it will do, not what it can do”. Plans are the focus, not the maybes here.

These are just a few recommendations when attending a seminar and working with an advisor. Whether it's the stock market or the safety and security of an annuity, do your homework and know your stuff.