Some time ago I wrote about dinner seminar invitations. It was one of the most searched articles I have ever written, at least according to my Google data. Since Covid is “over,” I figured I would revisit this topic. The reason is simple – I am seeing more and more invitations to dinner events held by “financial advisors.” The question is always the same – Should I attend a dinner seminar? Let me share some thoughts.
We should begin at the beginning, right. And that is the increase in invitations. Every so often we get invitations at our house for retirement-related events. They are always addressed to the previous occupants, who have not lived here for nearly 5 years. Also, I am seeing invitations on social media. Now, I am not too active on social media. Most of my time is spent on LinkedIn. I do have a Facebook account where I just follow some local concert venues. Even with this limited presence on social media, I keep getting ads popping up with invitations to retirement dinners and online events. I’m sure the algorithms are recommending these because my Google searches are related to financial stuff. Go figure since that is my profession.
Regardless, there are no qualifiers for me to attend these events. I can just click that I want to attend a dinner at the local seafood place and I am good to go. The invitations that come in the mail are more specific. Apparently if a financial advisor, CPA or attorney attends they will be assessed a $2,000 “educational fee.” No clue how they think they will enforce it, but it shows they do NOT want anyone there who might be able to question whatever it is they are selling. And these are sales events.
Now, what could be the reasons you might want to attend any of these events? Maybe you just want a free dinner. That is perfectly legit. Or you are curious to see what it is they do at these events. I know advisors who receive invitations and attend just for these reasons. They just sit there and listen, although I would bet there is a lot of head shaking. However, the advisors who are hosting these events are hoping you are there to take advantage of whatever it is they want to sell. So, maybe you are attending because you do have questions and concerns and are hoping to get some answers and professional guidance. This makes sense. But maybe there is a better way to find some answers, and I will cover my suggestions in a bit.
I’ve never held one of these events but know advisors who grow their business this route. And even retirement “educational” events at local colleges. They’ve told me the average dinner costs about $5,000 to host. Their expenses are for the dinner itself, but most of the expenses are in marketing the events. The educational events run about the same.
I would assume the goal for every event is to get at least one new client who will cover the expenses related to that event. Although the dinner may be free for the attendees, the advisor will be doing his best to get one client who will pay him at least $5,000 a year.
Maybe I should talk about some of the more common themes you should expect to hear at these dinner events and/or educational seminars.
- Risk of Social Security running out during your lifetime.
- How to reduce your taxes in retirement.
- Ways to ensure you do not run out of money in retirement.
- New ways to retire.
- Protecting your assets from the government and being able to qualify for government sponsored long-term care.
- Getting rid of volatility with your investments.
- How to protect everything and anything with the proper legal work.
- And be sure you will be offered free consultations/second opinions after the event. No obligation of course and maybe the advisor will even give you a book they “wrote” covering the same topics.
I’m sure I am missing a few, but these are the topics that are most common in the invitations I see. How about I share some stories I have experienced over the years from my side as a financial advisor.
- One set of Florida-based advisors I came across years ago had a goal to sell $50,000 worth of insurance products at every steak dinner they hosted. Their focus was on physicians.
- An advisor who runs the “educational-focused” seminars at a local college liked to show pictures of his new Maserati. I’ll give you one guess who paid for it. And it wasn’t done through the $49 attendees paid for these events.
- The advisors who take clients on cruises. It probably only makes sense since these clients most likely paid five-figure commissions as a result of their dinners.
- The advisor who had a table at the entrance to the event full of items to give away. For every referral you provided you would get an entry to win something. More referrals meant more changes to win.
- And I just heard this one from a friend on vacation in FL. There was a financial advisor standing in the lobby of his hotel wearing a suit with lights. I kid you not. He was there hosting another free event.
To be honest, there is no reason for you not to attend one of these events. Just go in with eyes open and know you will be sold, pitched, scared and more. I have heard stories from people who attend them on a regular basis just for the free meals. I totally get that. However, if you are really in need of financial advice from registered and licensed financial planners, there are better ways to find a good fit.
You can go to the website for Certified Financial Planners. Other solid resources are the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the Fee-Only Network. Another great resource is the XY Planning Network. Most of these sites allow you to search for advisors based on various criteria. Maybe you want someone local. Or that charges a flat fee. Another choice could be a specialty, such as working with widows/widowers. Regardless, there are lots of solid options out there besides attending free dinner events.
Two last comments here and I promise to wrap up.
First, many of these events are held by “advisors” who are not really financial advisors. In my world, anyone can call themselves a financial advisor. These events are usually funded through sales of insurance products. Therefore, the hosts are often insurance salespeople who prefer to title themselves as financial advisors. And just because they say they are a fiduciary and maybe even have the CFP credentials, it does not mean they won’t be shilling high-commission products.
Finally, there is nothing in the world that is more expensive than free!
I’m Dan Johnson, CFP®, founder of Forward Thinking Wealth Management. I run a flat-fee financial planning and investment management firm located in beautiful Akron, OH. Although I am in Akron, OH, I work with clients regardless of location. I cater to owners of equity compensation positions who are looking to organize their financial lives, keep more of what they make, and do the things they want in retirement and even now.