You see, I’m addicted to financial seminars.
You know, the kind where you get an invitation to a swanky restaurant to hear someone talk about a financial topic so important that all your wealth may depend on what they say?
At least that’s how they make it seem. In reality it’s a bit of information and mostly a sales pitch/offer to check out their financial planning services.
In case you missed it, here are several of these I’ve already detailed. All of these were when we lived in Colorado:
- My Experience at a Direct Mail Retirement Seminar
- My Second Experience at a Direct Mail Retirement Seminar
- My Third Experience at a Direct Mail Retirement Seminar. This one led to Our Meeting with Two Financial Planners.
- Our Trip to a Retirement Workshop
- A Social Security Seminar and Our Current Plans
- My Fourth Experience at a Direct Mail Retirement Seminar
Of course, once we moved to The Villages, the offers from new planners started flooding in. After all, who has more money (and thus needs help “managing” it) than rich retirees, right? LOL.
While we were getting settled in our new home we didn’t accept any of these offers (we were too busy driving the state to look for furniture), but after that we started considering offers that met the following criteria:
- Were held at a restaurant we wanted to try out. Why not experience a new place on someone else’s dime?
- Featured companies/presenters we had heard about and wanted to see what we thought of them. If their ads are all over the place, we wanted to know what they were like. Call it professional curiosity.
Once we started getting offers that met one or both of these, we started saying “yes” to some invitations (they also had to be at convenient times, places, etc. of course.)
BTW, in addition to the above, there are a few other side benefits to these events such as:
- I get a blog post out of them. It’s free content!
- The interest factor. I like the topic of personal finance and I want to keep learning. I go in with the mindset of “let’s see if they can tell me something I don’t know.” (Spoiler alert: they usually can’t.)
- Comedy. Sometimes these are so bad you just have to laugh. Fortunately I’ve only had one of these so far down here.
- People watch. Seeing people in these environments is interesting. Everyone acts like they know everything about money management, have made great money decisions all their lives, etc. But you can tell from what they say/ask and do that this isn’t true most of the time.
- My wife likes to go. She said she always “learns something” at these. I hope it’s from me explaining the counter-points to what the presenters say and not from them! lol.
Over the course of three posts (yes, there’s that much content), I’m going to summarize several new events (I call them events, seminars, dinners, workshops, etc. but they all mean the same – some sort of get-together where financial information is presented to potential clients) that we attended (so far) in The Villages in 2023.
BTW, I don’t foresee going to any more this year, but you never know.
So sit back and come with me to the world of financial planning events…
Villages Financial Planning Event #1
- Date: March 1, 2023
- Location: Wolfgang Puck
- Company: Fross and Fross
- Presenter: Patrick Fross
- Type: Lunch
The mailer we received said that after the presentation we would know:
- How to be a smart investor
- Where to go from here
Let me just say this upfront so I don’t have to repeat myself: the purpose of the mailers is to get you to call them and sign up for the event. As such, they make the topics and information on the mailers as exciting/compelling/concerning (i.e. if you don’t attend you may miss something vital) to achieve that result.
But that doesn’t mean that’s what will actually is covered by the presentation. In fact, most times it’s not what’s covered.
This meeting was a good start to our events adventures as it was pretty decent. The seminar didn’t offer anything new for me, but it was much lighter on the whole life insurance and annuities pitch than all the previous lunches/dinners that we’ve been to.
The bottom line guidance from the speaker (on investing) was:
Put your money in the stock market and let it sit there for a long time.
I know. Pretty basic but also pretty in line with what I preach. So I liked that and felt this company could likely be trusted for those who needed financial guidance.
Here’s a quick review of the highlights:
- The speaker spent much of the first half of the presentation talking about what a disaster 2022 was. Lots of data and charts. He also pointed out how many “experts” at the end of 2021/beginning of 2022 had predicted a fairly decent 2022 to come. These included Bank of America, Black Rock, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Vanguard, and others. The summary: these guys were WAY off (collectively they predicted a 7% market gain while the market actual was down 20%). Hahaha. So much for the “experts”. You already know what I think of them!
- Obviously the thing that blew up the predictions was the aggressive interest rate increases from the Fed. At the beginning of 2022, the 400 PHD economists that work for the Fed had predicted three 25 basis point increases for 2022. Turns out we had the equivalent of seventeen 25 basis point increases. Again, so much for “experts in the know.”
- He then looked at historical data to show 1) it’s very unusual for the market to be down more than one year in a row, 2) many of the worst market declines were followed by large increases the next year, and 3) with market valuations the way they are now (at the time of the presentation: PE ratio around 16-17), history would predict an up year for this year. All this said, no one knows the future.
- He then shared a chart we’ve all probably seen that shows the market has delivered a 9.5% return over the past 20 years but the average individual investor has gotten a 3.6% return. This is because they tend to move in and out of the market (usually at the exact wrong times) and kill their returns. He actually said that one of the most valuable things they do as advisors is to “talk people off the ledge and keep them in the market even during times of trouble.” A Vanguard study said the same thing (see this post for specifics: Is the Cost of a Financial Advisor Worth It?).
- He then talked about what a person’s returns would be if they missed the best X days in the market (with several examples) and how it declines the more you miss. We’re all familiar with this. Then he said their firm’s philosophy (in part) is, “Time in the market beats timing the market.” Not much to disagree with here.
- He said he often gets asked about annuities and what he thinks of them. He said that’s like asking a carpenter what he thinks of a hammer. Answer: It works in some situations but not in others (not in MOST others).
- He said the majority of what they do is manage money. They manage $800 million, have a $500k minimum per investor, and charge “about 1%” at $500k (less at higher levels).
- They manage money based on people’s unique goals and use a bucket system (with each bucket managed according to what that money is supposed to do.)
- He also told people not to watch CNBC as “90% of it is nonsense.”
In addition to this, he shared this video:
And referred to this study.
As well as a few other things.
Overall, it was similar to what an ESI 101 teaching on investing would be. It had nothing bad but also nothing revolutionary either. That said, it was fairly revolutionary (on average) for the group in attendance (judging from their reactions) and for those who need a lot of guidance, I think this would probably be a decent firm. It’s the best I had seen so far in all the events we’ve attended through the years.
It’s funny that he spent all the time on 2022, the predictions, what may happen in 2023, etc. when the final message was, “Get into the market and stay there for a long time” but I guess it would have been a short speech if that’s all he said. Hahahahaha.
He went around to tables and talked to people after the presentation (as we ate.) We had a sheet to fill out to say whether or not we were interested in working with his firm and I’d say 3-4 people indicated interest. If so, that’s a pretty good return on his investment. If he spent $1,000 on lunches and got even one couple to let him manage their money for just one year (and they had the minimum $500k), that would be $5,000 alone. Imagine what he’d get if he had four couples with $1 million each and he managed their money for a decade. That’s a pretty profitable lunch!
Villages Financial Planning Event #2
- Date: March 14, 2023
- Location: Prima Italian Steakhouse
- Company: Fross and Fross
- Presenter: Renee Springstead
- Type: Lunch
FYI, I called their office and asked if it was ok for us to attend this event since we were planning on going to the other one (described above – same firm) when we booked this one. I was told that different information would be covered and it was ok to attend. And since we wanted to go to this restaurant, we signed up.
Overall, this presentation was actually pretty similar to the first one with many of the same charts, videos, and discussion points. There was a different presenter, so it was “new” in that way.
A couple things that were new:
- My wife and I got to eat at Prima Italian Steakhouse. It was our second visit there (the first time was a year ago when we rented a place down here). Last time we got steak and it was so-so at best. This time we got pasta and it was better, though probably not good enough to justify the pricey prices there. The event was in a back room that could hold 30 people or so.
- At the last seminar the presenter said that their fee for managing assets was “around 1%.” Well this time, we got more precise numbers. A member at our table asked the presenter what their management fees were and she said, “1.25% at $1 million.” The person asked, “What about for lower levels of assets” and the presenter said they don’t got below $500k and that that lower fee is 1.5%. That’s a bit different IMO from “around 1%” (what we were told last time) but I guess you could say it’s close enough to be true.
Overall, this didn’t change my thoughts about this firm, which are:
- Not for me – too pricey and don’t add anything I couldn’t do myself.
- Good for others who 1) don’t mind paying the fee, 2) are unsure of how to manage their own money, 3) will panic in a market decline and make the worst money moves possible, and/or 4) need someone to be aware of their finances in case one spouse (the one who manages the money) passes away (a reason cited my many in the millionaire forums for why they have a planner).
Villages Financial Planning Event #3
- Date: June 27, 2023
- Location: Angler’s Club
- Company: ASB Financial
- Presenter: Names withheld
- Type: Lunch
As with all of these so far, my main reason for attending was to go to the restaurant. The owners bill it as a high end club and their website reinforces that, so I was interested in visiting!
I was excited to eat there as 1) it’s a private club and you can’t get in on your own (exclusive! ohhhhh!) and 2) it was in a place I had never even seen (above one of the popular restaurants in one of the squares – yet totally hidden – you get in via a set of back stairs).
Anyway, we sat with another attendee and had a great conversation with him, so that was enjoyable as well. The food was decent, but portions were small and I’m sure the cost was way too much for what we got.
FYI, there were probably 40 people seated at tables of all sizes.
The presentation was probably the weakest we’ve ever seen in any of the events we’ve gone to. It started with an attorney who talked about trusts (which I was actually interested in) but he was a guest and it seemed like they said something to him like “you have 10 minutes, don’t go a second over that.” But of course he was covering a deep topic that can’t be detailed in 10 minutes – so he talked faster than an auctioneer.
Thankfully he had a decent handout so we could follow along.
After that, we had a “presentation” (in quotes because that’s way more credit than what the speech deserves) from an executive at ASB Financial:
- He spent 30 minutes or so verbally vomiting a ton of financial jargon that I can only assume was meant to bewilder the audience so they thought they were in trouble and he was their only salvation. He used a lot of buzz words and terminology with very little context, explanation, or detail. It was a trainwreck from a communications standpoint (and a missed opportunity from a marketing standpoint.)
- Anyway, we survived it, ate dinner afterwards, and told them we were not interested in a “free consultation” when they came around to ask. We were out of there soon thereafter!
BTW, the private club was nothing extraordinary. It looked like a regular restaurant (in decor) at best and the food was “ok.” It didn’t do well at representing itself.
That’s it for this post…two decent seminars and a flop…not bad.
To read the next part in this series (including an event with 750 people in attendance), see Financial Seminars in The Villages, Part 2.