In today's mail there were not one, but two invitations to retirement dinner seminars. One was from a representative of a well-known insurance company the other from a registered representative with a local fee-and-commission financial advisor.
I have never attended one of these sessions as I don't want to stick the presenter with the cost of feeding me when I am clearly not going to engage his or her services (I'm an advisor). However both seminars are at local restaurants where I really like the food. In fact my wife saw one of the invitations and immediately wanted to go, for the free dinner at least.
How do these sessions work?
While never having attended one I can't say for sure how the evening would go, but in looking at the one put on by the insurance guy, his guest speaker is an experienced estate planning attorney. I suspect after a brief introduction by the insurance guy the attorney will speak for a while. While there will be nothing sold according to the invitation, clearly there will be a follow-up call encouraging you to schedule a meeting with one or both of these folks. And that makes sense; why else would they spend the money and their time on this session.
What's in it for them?
For the insurance agent and the registered representative this is fertile ground to sell annuities of various types including fixed, variable, and equity-indexed. Additionally both would be able to offer a variety of investment and insurance related products.
For the estate planning attorney there could be work from attendees needing various estate planning documents ranging from a will to a living trust. If the attorney is insurance or security licensed he could potentially get a piece of the action from the insurance salesperson as well.
Should you attend?
If you really like the restaurant or if you really think that you will learn something, perhaps. But is this really a good way to find a financial advisor or estate planning attorney who is right for your situation? Such seminars are often mass-produced; you have to wonder if the advice dispensed is same at all of them. Further, if you look somewhere at the bottom of any invitation that you receive you will likely notice that the person sponsoring the session is paid commission for selling financial products.
Finding the right financial advisor is not always easy, but taking the easy way out is not the right answer either. Check out National Association of Personal Financial Advisors for a list of fee-only financial advisors in your area (full disclosure: I'm one of these as well) and be sure to check out this guide to finding the right advisor for you.
Roger Wohlner, CFP®, is a fee-only financial adviser at Asset Strategy Consultants based in Arlington Heights, Ill., where he provides financial planning and investment advice to individual clients, 401(k) plan sponsors and participants, foundations, and endowments. Roger is active on both Twitter (@rwohlner) and LinkedIn. Check out Roger's popular blog The Chicago Financial Planner where he writes about issues concerning financial planning, investments, and retirement plans.