A little over three years ago, I began receiving regular offers (about every other month) for a complimentary steak dinner at the local branch of a steak restaurant chain (Longhorn). Now I like steak and I like the idea of a free steak dinner even more. But I never accepted an offer during those three years.
Because while I’d not be paying any cash for the meal, there was a price: I’d have to listen to a presentation on retirement financial planning. It wasn’t a fortuitous coincidence that, with retirement just a few years away, folks interested in my financial future wanted to treat me to a steak dinner with no obligation. I knew this because…
The offers began arriving soon after I had entered a deferred retirement program. And these folks knew that I was in the program. Florida has a very broad “public records” law that covers any document held by any level of government unless that document is exempted by the law.
All a financial investment firm has to do is ask, on a quarterly or other periodic basis, for the names and addresses of folks like me who entered the program and the retirement agency must provide the information. All the information is easily retrieved from the database with a simple search query: all people who entered the program between (date) and (date).
Since the firms had identified me as a soon-to-be retiree, those invitations were not a shotgun approach to new business but a very targeted one. Which is why I declined the offers. I didn’t want to put up with a sales pitch.
But within the last year, I reconsidered. It might be interesting to hear what they’re pitching. If something in the presentation was a little too optimistic, I could ask a pointed question to alert others to be wary. I’d be performing something of a public service! (Even if my name was then put on some sort of “he’s a troublemaker – don’t invite again” list.)
I awaited the next opportunity for that free steak dinner. And waited. And waited… The offers stopped coming. Very weird…
I speculated that all these steak dinners had not paid off in enough new business for the firms and so they had stopped this marketing technique. That conclusion seemed to be validated when I finally did receive an offer.
I was invited to an “important presentation” by “a SEC registered investment advisor” to help me “understand your Social Security options” so I could “avoid potential mistakes.” But the presentation did not involve a steak dinner at a restaurant. The location was at a branch library and we would receive “desserts and refreshments.”
Desserts and refreshments…. That means cookies / cake and coffee / tea / soft drinks. And a sales pitch. No way was I going to step down from steak to “dessert and refreshments!”
That “desserts and refreshments” offer, which came as a postcard, was in late August. I must not have been the only one to decline the offer. And when fish aren’t taking the bait, you may need different bait…
This week, I received a new offer. Not a postcard, but an attractive invitation printed on parchment-type paper. And not “dessert and refreshments” but a steak dinner. And not at a chain restaurant but at a locally owned “high end” steak restaurant. And they want me to bring up to seven guests (translation: “we’re desperate!”).
But there is one problem…The sponsor is an insurance company.
When an insurance company wants to talk about retirement, the usual suspect is: annuity (fixed or variable). And sure enough, in the fine print in the back of the invitation was cautionary language about variable annuities.
What I find…interesting…is how almost every advertisement for an annuity emphasizes “guaranteed lifetime income.” My invitation included this question: “Does your retirement plan guarantee a lifetime income?”
I’m sure the phrase “guaranteed lifetime income” induces financial salivation in most folks. Folks who’ll sniff at e-mails from Nigeria proclaiming them the winner of a lottery.
When a “big name” insurance company whose advertising presents itself as “The Rock” proclaims “guaranteed lifetime income” then that claim is viewed differently than “you’ve won a lottery” e-mails. “The Rock” is going to get a lot of bites on that bait…
But in the fine print of all those advertisements is a statement similar to this one: “all guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. ” Uh-huh…
So the “guarantee” of lifetime income is not…guaranteed. Is that, as they say, clear as mud?
I think that undergoing a colonoscopy without anesthesia is preferable to a variable annuity. And the respected Forbes financial magazine seems to agree.
So despite the allure of a very fine steak dinner at one of the top steak restaurants, I’m going to have to decline. Because, to borrow from the Meatloaf song title, I’d do anything for a steak dinner but I won’t do that.