If It Sounds Too Good To Be True...

You've probably gotten one of these in the mail like my wife did recently. 

It's an invitation from a complete stranger to join them for dinner at a high end restaurant. In this case we can even pick between Jack's Steakhouse, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse or Mitchell's Fish Market. We can even bring friends with us. Free food at a fancy restaurant, sign me up! 

Wouldn't it be great if I could take my wife to one of these dinners for her birthday or our anniversary? 

When you get an invitation like this, I want you to look at the very bottom. See the small print. Any time you see disclosure language like this just know that you'll be getting some kind of sales pitch for investments, annuities or insurance. 

FINRA, the SEC and state regulators recently conducted more than 100 examinations involving free-meal seminars. Here's what they found. 50% of the time the sales materials contained claims that appeared to be exaggerated or misleading. 13% of the seminars appeared to involve fraud. 

So before you attend any investment or financial education seminar, especially with an expensive free meal, remember these 3 tips:

1. Investment "dinners" - or lunches - are intended to sell you something. They are not doing this to inform or educate you. 

2. Don't be impressed by a high end restaurant, an expensive meal and a well rehearsed presenter. This is nothing more than a sales pitch in disguise. 

3. Did you know that certain insurance companies and mutual funds pay for these dinners. In return they expect the "presenter" or advisor, who could even be someone you know or recognize, to sell - I mean recommend - their products.  

Just like grandma always said, if it sounds too good to be true...

Oh, even if an insurance company or mutual fund is paying for the dinner - in the end it's really the customer who pays for all those dinners. Just remember this, the buyer always pays!  

Bon Apetit!