The other day I received an invitation to attend a seminar about retirement income. The invitation said I could get a guaranteed six percent for life without risk. The invitation further stated that by attending the free dinner, I was under no obligation whatsoever, and the seminar was being conducted by a senior retirement income specialist (SRIS).
I receive these invitations all the time and typically, I just throw them out because they’re not worth the paper they’re written on. These seminars are not meant to educate people but rather, to sell you something. My advice has always been to avoid these types of seminars because why would you want to put yourself in the position of being subject to high pressure sales tactics. In addition, the products that are sold pursuant to these seminars almost always have high fees, high costs and are not investor friendly.
In the financial world where just about anyone can claim they are a financial advisor, there were over 200 so-called alphabet designations with regard to financial planning. Of those, more than 50 have the word retirement in it somewhere or the other. I have seen senior retirement income specialists, certified retirement specialists, certified retirement income advisor… and the list goes on. The problem with all these alphabet designations is that most of them are nothing more than marketing tools. I am an attorney and a certified public accountant. For both those designations I had to complete a set of requirements that took years and I had to pass certain exams. To become a lawyer I had to pass the bar exam, and to become a certified public account I had to pass the CPA exam. Not only did I have to pass these exams but I have rules and regulations that I must comply with to keep my licenses. Unfortunately, that is not the case when it comes to many of these so-called retirement specialists. All too often these alphabet designations are nothing more than a marketing tool where there are very few requirements to obtain the designation at all. For some, all you have to do is pay a fee while others require you to go to a seminar to get your designation. In addition, with many of these designations, there is no on-going requirement as to how you have to conduct your business. The bottom line with many of these designations is they’re nothing more than an attempt to deceive and fool people. As far as I’m concerned, when people use these bogus credentials it’s a good indicator that you don’t want to do business with them.
There’s a reason why people put credentials after their name; because they know it creates and air of respectability. The general public assumes that when someone has credentials after their name they‘ve had to earn it. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Many people with these bogus credentials know that seniors are more likely to rely on the advice of a professional who uses some sort of alphabet soup designation and that is why they add these designations. When it comes to the financial world, you should not be fooled by designations. Just because someone has initials after their name doesn’t necessarily mean anything. My recommendation is that prior to retaining someone to help you with your finances, you check their designations out. If you find that, like in many of the cases, the designation is nothing more than a marketing tool, then you know you should walk away. After all, handling your finances is a serious job and not something that you should treat lightly. Therefore, don’t be fooled by designations; make sure that you do an independent check to determine exactly what the designation means.
One last note and that is the next time you’re invited to a free financial seminar and they’re offering you a free dinner or lunch, the best thing you can do is ignore it.