Have you received the mailings or seen the notices in your local newspaper or periodical? Free Lunch Seminar on the Critical Elements of Estate Planning. Free Dinner (at a fancy restaurant) on what you need to know to maximize your government benefits. These and similar offers usually focus on the great dinner you will get or the intriguing topics, but only in the smallest of print at the bottom of the page give you any hint as to who might be giving you this information.
The one I recently saw caught my attention because it included a statement that “Financial Professionals, Insurance Agents and Attorneys will be charged a $2500.00 educational fee.” Let me tell you, each of those professions put on hundreds of educational programs for their members every year and even the more expensive of them are frequently priced at a tenth or less of that figure. The real translation of that statement is “We don’t want educated people who might be able to poke holes in our presentation to attend.”
That should concern you. Groups like this want to get you one-on-one to pressure you into spending much more money than you need to spend for something you will likely be left not understanding, but feel like you got all your needs covered. Or they are primarily interested in getting you to move your investments to their company so they can charge you ongoing fees.
I am not saying all of these seminars are bad. I have seen some good informational presentations, but you need to understand that most likely there is going to be some sort of sale presentation included – immediately or as a follow up. And you should investigate the qualifications of the presenters. Is a financial person advising you on estate planning laws? Is a lawyer talking about how to manage your money? Are the presenters experienced in the field in which they speak?
Bottom line, there is no truly free dinner. Be cautious. Investigate who you are dealing with before you accept what they say or pay them any money. And take your time before moving forward with any decision.