My Third Experience at a Direct Mail Retirement Seminar

I know, I know. I’m starting to get hooked on these things! Ha!

In case you haven’t been following along, I’ve written about the first and second direct mail retirement seminars my wife and I have attended.

After the second one, I didn’t know if we’d go to another one, but turns out we did!

I’m glad we did since this was a good one for a few different reasons.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning…

Why We Decided to Attend This Seminar

The invitation was just like any other — a flyer sent to us in the mail. It was from Accelerated Wealth

But there were several reasons this one caught our eye and why we decided to sign up for it:

  • Free date night! Need I say more? LOL!
  • It was convenient. This is a must. I hate meetings on my schedule and anything that’s inconvenient gets an immediate no. This one was near our house and at a decent time (though bordering on late — we are usually winding down around 7 pm and this started at 6:30 pm).
  • It was at a restaurant we wanted to try. Tucanos is a Brazilian steakhouse I would describe as a family version of the more upscale Fogo De Chao. Basically the servers come around to your table and offer different types of very succulent meats. You can get a good feel for what Fogo (one of my favorite restaurants) is like by watching this video. I didn’t even know Colorado Springs had a restaurant like this so I was excited to try it.
  • I needed another seminar to help me determine what I really think of these. We’ve had one good experience (the first one) and one that was “ok” at best and more of what my perception of these was (the second one), so I needed a third one I could use to break the tie.
  • It always makes for a great post. Haha! If nothing else, I would get an article out of it, so why not?

In the end, all of these factors contributed to us saying we would attend.

The Event and Setting

Here are the highlights of the event itself:

  • It was held on Tuesday, January 14.
  • The event was to begin at 6:30 pm. They asked us to be there by 6:15 pm and we were earlier than that. We’re always one of the first ones at any event since I hate to be late to anything (I feel it’s disrespectful.)
  • As we walked in the front door, they had a big sign about the seminar in the foyer. My wife recognized the guy on it (one of our presenters). More on that to come.
  • We had an enclosed room that was at the far side of the restaurant. They had about 10 to 12 tables packed in there (it was tight) with four chairs at each table.
  • Since we were among the first there, we got to pick our spot. We selected one mid-way up but that still had access to the door (for a quick getaway if needed — haha! That must be the Italian in me!) and had a good view of the presentation.
  • They gave us a simple folder with a question and answer section (more on that later), a sheet for notes (I brought a notebook anyway), and a page that suggested topics we might want to discuss with them at some point.

As we got seated, one presenter came over and talked to my wife. Turns out his oldest daughter is a volunteer in my wife’s Sunday school class. They chatted for a bit and I met him as well. This made the event a bit more personal for us.

And it was about to get even more personal!

As we started eating our salads, I looked up at the door and coming in were our neighbors from four doors down! We chat with them quite often as we are walking (we go by their house every day) and they are great people. I waved them over and they joined us. This made the evening extra special for us and made it feel more like a night out than simply attending a retirement seminar.

The other presenter came over (both presenters were good at working the room) and we chatted a bit. He asked what I did and I said I was retired. We then talked briefly about what my career had been (I just say “I was a marketing executive.”). He commented, “Most of the younger retirees we meet are from the military.” Ha! I bet.

We finished our salads and had a great time chatting. After about 20 minutes or so, the presentation began.

The Presentation

Before we get into the heart of the presentation, let me say that the following is based on my notes of what happened. Like the second seminar, they did not hand out copies of their presentation (which was unfortunate — why don’t they do this — it would make it so much easier to follow along!). While I was writing as fast as I could, I’m sure I missed some things and/or got them wrong.

In addition, much of the information below is exactly what they said (the best I could record it) but some is my commentary (to make what they said more clear for readers).

Finally, I’m writing this post the day after the event, so my memory of last night is as clear as it’s ever going to be.

Ok, with all that said, let’s get to it…

Our presenters were Dustin West (who my wife knew) and Gregg Indovina.

Both of these guys were very professional. They were polished presenters with a combination of knowledge and personality.

Dustin was introduced by their marketing director Sloane Herman. When she was telling us about Dustin, Sloane mentioned he had some Social Security education (I missed the exact name of the certification) that only two people in Colorado Springs had. Good to know as this was a topic I was interested in.

Dustin began and opened with the following:

  • Most people don’t have a process, checklist, or even know what questions to ask about retirement. That’s where people like him can help. He and Gregg have 30 years (or whatever — it could have been 25) of experience with this stuff, see it all the time, work with tons of clients, etc. I was thinking “tell me something I don’t know and we’ll see.” Ha! I know, I’m jaded.
  • He said there were three critical things future retirees needed to know: 1. How to align a plan for their specific season of life, 2. How to do a risk exposure assessment for their finances, and 3. how taxes effect their wealth.

He then moved to a graph showing what they called the “seasons of life”. They had it broken out into three stages as follows:

  • Accumulation phase. This is from ages 25 to 53. The focus is on growth. Key success factors for this time period are time (the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be) and tax deferral.
  • Retirement hazard phase. This is from ages 53 to 65. It’s the 10 to 12 years before you retire and it’s a time when “your money needs to act differently” (i.e. change from a growth focus to a balanced focus). Your top goal here is protection (of your assets).
  • Income phase. This is for ages 65+. Your top goal is ROI — reliability of income. It’s the time you distribute/decumulate your assets to provide for retirement needs.

These are the three seasons that most people don’t know how to work within.

He then moved on to what he said were the three most important retirement questions:

  • Do we have enough?
  • How long will my money last?
  • What will happen to my spouse when I am gone?

He then had us fill out some true/false statements on a form from our folder.

The Presentation Moves On

Dustin then turned it over to Gregg who shared his background and then got into his presentation.

He shared four questions that people should ask themselves:

  • What are the proper return assumptions for my investments?
  • Am I ok if my assumption is correct?
  • Does diversification always lower risk?
  • How does sequence risk impact my retirement?

He went on to make the following points:

  • The market has historically returned 8-10% (his words, not mine) since 1929. Of all the years since then and now, there have only been three years where the annual returns were in this range. His point was that the market AVERAGES 8-10% but that there are swings up and down most years that add up to this 8-10% in the end. So if you’re plan is built on a steady 8-10% return assumption, you won’t get that each year.
  • Based on where the stock market has been in the past (in relation to PE ratios) today’s high PE ratios would suggest a return of 0-3% over the next couple decades. I’m not a big fan of this sort of forecasting. Who really knows what’s going to happen? If these guys did, there are ways to make massive amounts of money — if they can truly forecast future market valuations. I get the fact that the market is high, but who knows where it will really go?
  • He showed a chart of two families who retired for 30-year periods similar to the one found here. They both had the same amount of assets to start and both took out 5% distributions (yes, 5% — he didn’t elaborate on this but I noticed it). 30 years later one ended up extremely wealthy and one ended up broke. Why? The sequence of returns favored one of them and was against the other.
  • He then moved on to bonds and told the audience the ground-breaking discovery that when interest rates go up the value of older bonds with lower rates goes down. This seemed to be a revelation to many in the audience. Ha! Anyway, with today’s low rates he talked about how bonds are very risky and can’t be counted on.

Put all this together and he led us to the following conclusions:

  • Your return assumptions may be incorrect.
  • Even if your return rate assumptions are correct, sequence of returns risk can kill your portfolio.
  • Bonds likely don’t provide the safety they once did (and diversifying into them doesn’t necessarily lower risk).

He ended with the following (which is a paraphrase that has the meaning of what he said — I couldn’t write fast enough to get the exact words):

“While you may know a bit about retirement, I know a lot. I’ve got a long history with the topic and work with people dealing with these issues every day.”

The point was — they know retirement and we don’t.

He didn’t say it in an arrogant way and I don’t think most people took it that way. But as you know, I’m a bit skeptical of this approach and did have a bit of a bah-humbug response. 😉

My wife says I’m a tough audience in this respect because I’ve been reading and writing about finances so long. That’s probably a fair assessment.

How Taxes Effect Your Wealth

Gregg turned it back over to Dustin who made the following points:

  • Tax brackets are at a 75-80 year low.
  • Given government spending is so high that it’s very likely that tax rates will increase.
  • Most wealth is tied up in tax deferred accounts which will owe taxes at higher rates when those monies are distributed.
  • So we should pay taxes now while taxes are at a discount.
  • You need a “systematic plan for how to take advantage of taxes being on sale.”

My guess is that he was pitching a Roth conversion, but he never stated it outright. I guess the punchline is saved for a personal meeting.

At this point one guy asked about paying taxes now. His point was that if you pay now, all you know for sure is that you’re out that tax money now. In theory you may save by paying less in the future, but no one knows that for sure. Congress is so whacked that who knows what they will do. It could turn out you pay taxes now AND pay more later.

Basically his point was the only known is a bad one — that you’re creating a big expense for yourself now. All the rest is speculation.

Dustin recognized his question but didn’t have a really great response to it. There really isn’t any response to it — it’s a valid thought IMO.

Dustin wrapped up the presentation by encouraging the audience to set up a personal, free, one-hour meeting. He said his promise was “we will not waste your time.”

We signed up for a personal meeting for several reasons:

  • They were giving away a free dinner at Tucanos to one couple drawn from those who filled out a request form. (more on this below)
  • They were giving a free book for setting up a meeting (more on this too in a minute)
  • I liked them well enough to give them an hour.
  • Their offices are close.
  • I had some specific questions I wanted to ask them.

So we’re meeting with them in a week! Of course I’m going to write about it, so stay tuned for that post.

With that the meat was served and we spent the next 30 minutes eating and talking to our friends.

A Marketing Evaluation

As an ex-marketing executive, I can’t help myself but to evaluate these sorts of events from a consumer perspective.

A few thoughts:

  • They were very professional and presented themselves well, something people want in planners.
  • They offered a free gift card for the restaurant to one person selected from the people who filled out information forms. I like this — it gives people an incentive to fill out their forms.
  • They offer a free book titled “Retirement Confidence” if you set up a free, one-hour meeting with them. Another great marketing idea.
  • The one thing I didn’t really like is the true/false questions they asked us to fill out. They were designed to get a specific response that made the person feel like they were missing something. For instance, here’s one: “We/I do not have a written Investment Plan, Income Plan and Tax Plan.” First of all, who has these? Answer: no one! Second, who needs these? Answer: no one! But it makes it seem like you’re missing something if you don’t have them. The key word is “written.” For instance, I have plans for all aspects of my finances, but they are not written. Do they need to be? No…

Anyway, I would give them a B+. I think they were mostly good and the content was decent (not superior — I would have preferred something like “The Top 10 Factors to Consider Before Retiring“). They did get a ding for the questions. Also I took a bit off for them mentioning their radio show which they do NOT turn into a podcast. That’s so 10 years ago marketing IMO but perhaps they have a good reason for it.

BTW, my wife thought this was the second-best seminar we went to. She liked the first one best (which, interestingly enough, was about the non-financial issues surrounding retirement).

I would say it’s tied with the first. The content was better at the first one (more relevant and interesting), but the low-key approach by the first planner wasn’t as compelling as the performance by Dustin and Gregg.

Thoughts on Retirement Seminars

After this event, I’m beginning to think my perception of these seminars was way off.

I envisioned them as hard-sell events led by sleazy “financial planners” (i.e. guys who were retail clerks last week) focused on annuities and whole life insurance.

None of these have been that way.

Two of the events (the first and last) were actually pretty good and worth the time we spent to go to them. The second was not great, but at least it wasn’t as bad as I had thought these would be.

That said, I have received comments from readers who have had terrible experiences (or at least hinted at them), so if you have a nightmare story to tell, please let us hear it in the comments below.

I’ll be sharing details of our meeting in an upcoming post, so prepare yourself. I’m expecting it to be verrrrrry interesting. 😉


Originally posted at

→ Save time. Save paperwork. Save dollars. Esurance ←