Seminars and "free lunch"

Several times a year my wife and I are invited to some hotel or meeting area for a complementary lunch or dinner, followed by a "seminar" on some kind of annuity product. I don't attend because I am not interested in the hard sell and I know there is no such thing as a free lunch, but these events seem popular. Have others had good experiences at these events? Poor experiences that they should warn others about? Isn't there any other way to get educated about annuity products?

Key Phrases:

I guess there is nothing wrong with a free lunch in and of itself.

That said, understand (and I think most people do) that there really is no "free lunch" and that the seminars are a marketing vehicle.

Again, marketing is a necessity. Financial companies and financial advisors have to use something to get the word out about their products and services. Might not be the most creative way to do it, but the practice would probably stop if it were not effective.

Anyway, put on your informed buyers cap if you choose to attend one of these seminars. You should be looking for and looking to avoid the following:

1) Obviously avoid the hard sell.
2) You want to find an advisor who is objective and patient.
3) Financial planning should be front and center rather than discussion of specific products.
4) You want to find an advisor who is independent and able to talk about many different products and companies.
5) Ideally avoid a situation where the seminar focuses only on one insurance company and set of products.
6) They already have some personal info about you otherwise you would not have received the invite, but be careful about sharing your personal information--financial or otherwise.
7) Look for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation--it is meaningful.
8) Avoid seminars that focus on one particular annuity type (for example a seminar focused exclusively on variable annuities or indexed annuities).
9) Ultimately you want the discussion to focus on your unique profile/needs and let that drive the process rather than the advisor's need to sell a particular type of product.

I go but I also invite my financial adviser to go with me. I get the lunch and then we talk about the subject if it is interesting. They tend to not put on the hard sell when he is with me.