There’s no such thing as a free dinner.

I’m not even close to retirement, but my parents are and they are constantly inundated with invitations to financial seminars that promise to help them ensure they have enough money to retire. My mom simply likes free lunches and treats them like folks trying to convince her to buy a time share (read: she leaves her checkbook and credit cards at home). However, I decided to accompany my dad on one of these little dinners, one, for some father-son bonding time and two, well, this dinner was going to be at Rick’s Boatyard, one of my favorite restaurants.

I’d heard of these sort of things before, how they often have great sounding names (Survival Seminars or Mistakes Retirees Make ) and how they promise free investment information for seniors, expert advice on securing retirement, and, most importantly, that nothing will be sold. Most of the time, such evenings became a sales seminar to open new accounts and to buy firms investment products with plenty of high-pressure sales and tactics for dessert. There always seem to be these opportunities for great returns. Other savvy investors have already taken advantage of these opportunities. And, somehow, there is only a limited time to get in.

The salesmen, my bad, seminar leaders have great sounding titles (like retirement specialist) and have and alphabet soup of designations on their business cards. However, their titles mean nothing. Their designations mean nothing (there are a hundred plus designations or certifications, gained largely through self-study programs but not regulated by any agency in particular, you know, kind of like boxing).

So, well-armed, we went to dinner, sat through an hour of information about mutual funds and 401Ks and then had dinner (which passed my last test: if something claims to be educational in nature, you have to at some point actually learn something vs. being coerced to buy something).

Frankly, I dread my mailbox because one day these invitations are going to start coming to me. Not anytime soon, but one day.

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