Consider this column a dessert with additional thoughts on free-lunch "investment seminars."
I use the term in quotes for presentations that include a free meal to entice potential investors, usually senior citizens, to sit through thinly disguised sales pitches.
Among products often promoted are indexed annuities, linked to the Standard & Poor's 500 or another index, that promise stock market-like gains without risk of loss.
Half-truths, distortions and high-pressure tactics are common enough that investment seminars this year made the annual list of Top 10 traps compiled by state securities regulators.
They also were a subject for discussion at a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing and at a fraud-prevention Seniors Summit held recently by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
After attending half a dozen such seminars this year, I wrote a column in July that unleashed a barrage of spirited e-mail.
"I feel you did the same thing you are accusing the seminar presenters of doing," a financial adviser wrote.
"You didn't disclose facts that do not support your bias, namely that there are advisers who provide free-lunch seminars and do not use scare tactics or push products."
From another adviser: "I, too, am appalled at some of things said at some of my competitors' seminars. However, you are making a blanket statement. When I do a seminar, I do not try to scare, I try to inform."
Yes, I should have made this point. Some seminars are educational, and you can learn about investment ideas and managing risk, tax laws and health care planning.
Be leery, though, when the presenter repeatedly proclaims that "nothing will be sold at this educational seminar," technically true, since they are just prepping you for the sale in the follow-up appointment.
Another warning sign: Whenever you ask about any potential negatives of the investment or strategy being promoted, you never get a straight answer but are told the topic will be covered in your appointment.
Another point: I am not, as some promoters of the product wrote, out to bash indexed annuities that give investors who hold them to maturity a portion of the gains of a market index while eliminating the risk of market losses.
Such annuities can be suitable for part of the portfolio of a risk-averse investor who understands how they work.
My problem is with seminar presenters who gloss over, if not ignore, drawbacks, including limits on gains and in some cases lengthy surrender charges, and who pressure investors to switch their entire life savings to them (I've seen it happen).
"I could tell you horror stories of clients putting 100 percent of their money in indexed annuities with 15-year surrender charges," wrote a certified financial planner in Florida. "I feel this is the No. 1 'trap' out there today."
My suggestion: Listen to the presentation and do further independent research on any topic that interests you. But resist signing up for an immediate follow-up appointment where you may be pressured into a hasty decision.
"My husband and I quickly realized they were not serving a steak dinner for nothing," another seminar attendee wrote.
"And they really were agitated we didn't sign up for an appointment."
Better they be agitated than you sorry.
A reader's solution: "Some people go and listen to the presentation, eat the meal and leave. Maybe if more of us did that, this game would end."
Humberto Cruz writes for Tribune Media Services.