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Investor Alerts "Free Lunch" Investment Seminars—Avoiding the Heartburn of a Hard Sell Investors frequently get invited to free seminars that promise to educate them about investing strategies or Homework helpline number money in retirement—often with an expensive meal provided at no cost.
But just because someone buys you breakfast, lunch or dinner doesn't mean you have to buy what they are saying—or selling. We are issuing this Alert because, in many cases, free-meal investment seminars are not solely about education.
Their ultimate goals are to recruit new clients and sell products—and while some pitches can be easy to swallow, the consequences can be hard to bear.
They're Popular Free investment seminars are widespread. According to a survey by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, 64 percent of respondents age 40 and older had been invited to a meeting that offered a free meal and "educational" information for some sort of investment.
Not all of these invitations are being tossed out: Nearly one-third of respondents said that they attended a "free lunch" seminar. On the other hand, the good news is that only 4 percent of respondents actually lost any money at one of these seminars. If you haven't been invited to a free-meal investment seminar yet, you likely will be.
And if you decide to go, you need Homework helpline number be prepared. What's Wrong with a Free Meal? But problems can sometimes arise when the sponsor of the event or one of the lead speakers has something to sell, even though the invitation might state otherwise.
Other times, problems can arise after the seminar—during follow-up contacts from the speaker or sponsor. Securities and Exchange Commission, and state regulators, conducted more than examinations involving free-meal seminars.
In half the cases, the sales materials—including the invitations and advertisements for the events—contained claims that appeared to be exaggerated, misleading or otherwise unwarranted. And 13 percent of the seminars appeared to involve fraud, ranging from unfounded projections of returns to sales of fictitious products.
So, before you attend a free-meal investment seminar—whether for fun, good food, or to learn more—be aware that you may well be presented with a hard sell effort.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind: Seminars are designed to sell. Even when advertised as educational, many investment seminars are intended to sell something—financial products or the speaker's books or services.
Keep in mind that, at times, sales pitches might include confusing comparisons of dissimilar products or misleading information about the safety, performance and returns of the products touted.
Good shows aren't always good deals. It's human nature to be impressed with a well-dressed speaker in a high-end venue and to take their advice more seriously. That's why it's no mistake that many investment seminars are held in upscale restaurants or hotels and may offer even more than a free meal—such as door prizes, free books and vacation deals—to get you to attend and listen to the pitch.
But you'll want to take time to thoroughly assess whether the opportunity is right for you. The lead speaker might not be the actual sponsor. Even if you recognize the names of the individuals who invite you to a seminar or speak at the event, they might not be the actual sponsors. At times, insurance companies or mutual funds finance the events, expecting that the speaker will use the event to drive sales of their products.
Education Is a Great Idea—So Be Sure to Learn About Persuasion Before you consider attending an investment seminar, take the time to learn about the persuasion tactics and influence techniques that sellers, both legitimate and not-so-legitimate, use.
Phantom Riches—dangling the prospect of wealth, enticing you with something you want but can't have. Do your homework before the seminar—A legitimate securities salesperson must be properly licensed, and his or her firm must be registered with FINRA, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a state securities regulator—depending on the type of business the firm conducts.
And an insurance agent must be licensed by the state insurance commissioner where he or she does business. Here's how to check out seminar speakers and sponsors: For an insurance agent, check with your state insurance department.
For all sellers, be sure to call your state securities regulator. You can find that number in the government section of your local phone book or by contacting the North American Securities Administrators Association or Ask questions while you're there—Turn the tables on the speaker, and ask questions.
Ask as many as you want until you are satisfied you know what you are buying and understand the risks and costs: What are the risks of this investment?
How much does it cost initially to purchase the investment? What, if any, additional or ongoing costs will I have to pay? How liquid is this investment? If I need to sell or cash in the investment, how readily can I do so?Want To Know if your class, school, or district is Using Hotline?
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