Free financial seminars may not be a bargain

Contact: Jennifer Bowen
(334) 269-3550


Hundreds of financial seminars are presented each year, often boosting attendance by offering a free meal at an upscale restaurant. However, the costs of these seminars can far exceed the price of a steak dinner for attendees, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

A recent survey sponsored by the NAIC and conducted by the research firm Caravan found that one in five Americans has attended such an event. A surprising 41 percent of those report actually purchasing some product or service. That number jumps to 58 percent among the youngest age group surveyed: 18 to 34.

"We believe that insurance and other financial products are an essential part of an overall plan for a strong financial future," said NAIC President Eric Cioppa. "But consumers need to be cautious of one size-fits-all marketing programs and make sure that they understand the products being offered and that they are designed to meet their individual needs."

When it comes to free meal financial seminars, the NAIC offers these reminders:
  • Personal information is valuable. The information you provide to register for a seminar may be sold to other people intent on selling you other products or investments. Make sure you understand what the sponsors of the event intend to do with your information.
  • Prepare for a high-pressure pitch. The NAIC survey reports that 57 percent of those who attended such a seminar felt pressured to purchase something or to provide personal information. The meal does not commit you to anything. If you don’t understand the product, the presenter comes on too strong or you want to shop around, don’t commit to purchasing a product.
  • The product offered may not be right for you. It’s impossible to assess the nuanced financial needs of any individual or family during a two-hour seminar. Such sessions often take a generic approach to boost sales, which means some people may wind up paying for services that aren’t a good match to their situation.
  • Ask if the presenter is licensed. There is no required professional credential for merely hosting a seminar. Research the sponsoring company and the representative by calling the Alabama Department of Insurance. Are they licensed? Have they been the subject of any formal complaints, lawsuits or enforcement actions?
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. All investments carry some degree of risk, and many investments can’t guarantee a particular return. If you feel you have been wronged by the presenter of a financial seminar, or by any financial professional, your state insurance commissioner’s office can help.
The Caravan survey was conducted online by Engine among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,003 adults comprising OF 501 men and 502 women 18 years of age and older. This survey was live on July 25-28, 2019. Raw data are weighted by age, sex, geographic region, race and education to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population 18 and older.