7 tips on digesting free lunch investment seminars

Boca Raton retiree Earl Bronsteen went on a free lunch lark and he can now say: Beware of mixing filet mignon with investment buying.

You may get indigestion and a thinner wallet, the 85-year-old Yale alum warns in his self-published book, The Adventures of a Free Lunch Junkie.

Bronsteen, a CPA, said in a telephone interview that he thinks only one of the 50 free-meals seminars he attended from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach involved a scam.

But exaggerations and misrepresentations were served up with entrees as reps hawked Wall Street investments, annuities, reverses mortgages, funerals, cemetery plots, retirement homes and long-term health care insurance.

Bronsteen quotes in his book a warning about the free food seminars from the AARP and the North American Securities Administrators Association. Many of the seminars are geared toward the 55+ crowd. Like others, they should not give to strangers their Social Security numbers and other personal information.

Indeed, Bronsteen gives seven tips for people to partake of the free lunches without getting fleeced:

Before you go, check out the sponsor by calling the North American Securities Administrators Association at 202- 737-0900 or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority at 800-289-9999.

Take them at their word if luncheon speakers start off by saying, “It sounds as if it’s too good to be true.”

Beat a hasty retreat, if you ask the sponsor’s representative how much commission an investor is charged and the answer is none.

Ask the sponsor how long your investment will be tied up and what are the costs for withdrawing funds during an emergency.

Make sure you understand any written promotional material, such as a prospectus, before signing anything.

Don’t invite any seminar sales people into your home. Meet them in their office. It's easier to walk out of their office without buying anything.

Decline to sign anything the day of the seminar, even if you risk losing a discount and the sales people tell you that you can always get your money back.

Bronsteen's book is sold on amazon.com or earlbronsteen.com

donnagehrke@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4205. Follow me on Twitter.com @donnagehrke

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