A curious thing happened to me during March. In the span of three weeks I received four direct mail solicitations pitching a “free” steak dinner. I started to think March might be national cattlemen’s month. Alas, each of the mailers was from a “financial advisor” who offered a free meal in exchange for “valuable information.”
I’ve been in the financial advisory business long enough to know someone is paying for those steaks. Like taking a seat at the poker table, if you don’t know who the sucker is, it’s probably you. I did a little research on the firms offering the free dinners and discovered a common theme - annuities. Annuities are typically one of the more lucrative products for commission financial advisors. And the disclosure documents that accompany most annuity sales are usually 70+ pages long, making it extremely difficult for consumers to easily understand the fee structure and expenses. I guess these brokers like their sales materials the same way the like their steaks – THICK!
Don’t just take my word for it. New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber attended a free steak dinner pitch last year with his 80-year-old aunt and wrote about the misleading marketing pitch of the broker hosting the event.
We would encourage consumers to tread cautiously when considering free dinners pitched via financial advisors. Rather than attending, perhaps a better approach would be to paraphrase Marie Antoinette - “Let them eat steak.”