Beware “Bad Chicken Dinner” Seminars

04/05/2012 7:45 am EST

Focus: ANNUITIES

Stan The Annuity Man

Annuity Expert, Stan The Annuity Man

If you accept an invitation for one of these annuity seminars, be prepared for a lot of indigestion before you dig in. What’s worse, the products on offer rarely benefit the clients more than the agents, writes Stan Haithcock of Stantheannuityman.com.

People ask me all the time if I offer lunch or dinner seminars for my annuity strategies. My answer is the same every time: “No, because my mom would come and complain about the food.” I am proud to say that I have never done and never will do what I call a “Bad Chicken Dinner” annuity seminar.

For some unexplained reason, annuities and food have been paired together like some weird Pavlov (remember the drooling dogs!) financial experiment. If you have chosen to attend one of these “events,” I hope that you just ate the food and didn’t buy anything.

For those of you who are thinking about going, expect your experience to be like a bad timeshare pitch…with food. In the state of Florida, where I live and my mother lives close by, retirees can literally eat two meals a day every week for the rest of their lives if they chose to go to every “Bad Chicken Dinner” seminar offered.

Recently, I have seen these events being promoted at high-end steak houses as well. Hold on to your wallets!

So why does the majority of annuity product “slingers” (what I call most of them) use the “Bad Chicken Dinner” seminar approach? I’ve been trying to figure that out for years. Why would you want to see my mom at every event? (And yes, she will be there!)

Most agents and brokers are not genius marketers to say the least, and are about as creative as a box of hair. This “food for your financials” approach is just the easy way to attract people, I guess. I’m sure the agent’s rationale is that people need to eat, and I need people to “sling product” to.

If you choose to be what I call “a professional plate licker”, and start attending these events, please prepare for having to wait to eat the wonderful bounty. Agents, in true sadistic form, will make you listen to their “one size all greater than sliced bread” pitch before serving you the food!

The upside to all of this for me is that when I speak with my mom now, she thinks that she is an annuity expert due to the ongoing training she receives in exchange for food. I guess any conversation with your mother is a good one, but “talking annuities” with your mother (now an admitted trained expert) isn’t what I envisioned in her golden years.

In my opinion, here are the downsides to the “Bad Chicken Dinner” annuity seminars:

1. One Size Fits All Approach
Most agents choose one annuity, learn the vague details, and then try to sell it to everyone regardless of their situation. Annuity strategies are all customizable, so this “one size fits all” approach is not a suitable or appropriate way to match a client’s specific needs with a specific solution.

Also, a lot of agents choose an annuity to sell based on some tropical incentive trip that they can go on if they sell enough of it. We’ve all heard of YTM (yield to maturity). I call the “one size fits all approach” YTA or Yield To Agent.

2. The Products/Strategies Should Stand on Their Own Merit
If an annuity solution is right for your situation, you shouldn’t have to be bribed with a meal to “swallow” the strategy. I’m sure that your mouth didn’t start watering the last time you bought a very good mutual fund, ETF, or stock! Don’t be influenced by a well cooked piece of meat when planning for your financial future.

3. Agents Talk About “The Sizzle,” Not “The Steak”
This is the part of the “Bad Chicken Dinner” annuity seminar that bothers me the most. Agents use fear and greed to push their chosen product down your throat with the chicken (or steak).

Upfront bonuses are a favorite pitch. By the way, if you buy an annuity for the upfront bonus, that is like buying a car for the nice radio and speakers. It makes no sense!

Also, agents will push Income Riders (added benefit that is used for income only) as yield. Some Income Riders attached to annuities can grow at 7% or 8% annually during the deferral years.

This is fine if your goal is what I call Target Date income planning for the future, but most agents don’t fully explain how this works. Agents have a tendency to let “the eater” (you at the seminar) believe that the 7% or 8% number is yield, which it is not!

So here is my advice for the “financially hungry”:

  • If you go to a “Bad Chicken Dinner” annuity seminar, make sure to swallow the food only!
  • Become a “professional plate licker” to lower your food costs. With food prices continually rising, this is a good strategy, and my mom saves hundreds of dollars every month implementing this plan. I would like to personally thank those agents out there for supplementing this ongoing savings.
  • If you have a hearing aid, turn it off while the agent is speaking.
  • Write down an incorrect phone number, mailing address, and e-mail address when you fill out your contact information in order to prevent unyielding follow-up attempts by the agent.
  • Form friendships with other “professional plate lickers.”
  • If you receive a seminar invitation to a high-end steak house or other expensive restaurant…go and enjoy the food.

In conclusion, please be careful out there. There might be an unsuspecting annuity sale behind that free plate of food.

A news reporter recently called me the National “Annuity Consumer Advocate” in the same vein as Ralph Nader and Clark Howard are for other products and services. I hope to continually educate the public on the complex and sometimes ugly world of annuities.