Everything in life goes in cycles. CDs used to be the way we bought music. Leisure suits used to be in style. Mullets were an accepted haircut. There’s a new addition to this ever-growing list of things that used to be cool, but need to be put in the “distant memory” category. That new member to this old-hat club is the annuity “bad chicken dinner seminar.”
This is a sad day when I have to deliver this “seminar eulogy,” because this means that my parents will now have to start buying their breakfast, lunch and dinner outings with their own money. My parents live just south of me in the oldest city in America, St. Augustine, Fla. Seems appropriate that they live in the oldest city in the country, and that area has become a haven and magnet for baby boomers and retirees from across the country.
In this retiree Mecca with the town of Palm Coast just south of St. Augustine and the city of Jacksonville to the north, an enterprising and organized retiree can literally eat 10 to 15 meals a week for free for as long as their appointment book has pages. My mom and dad have literally feasted at hundreds of these annuity food-promo events, and I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the local agents for providing this ongoing nutrition and “PowerPoint education” to my parents over the past few years. Sadly, this private-sector food subsidy has run its course and should be permanently shelved and placed in the annuity history museum.
I know that I’m going to get some random emails and calls from a handful of agents across the country that still swear by the “bad chicken dinner” strategy, but it’s important to point out that there are still people that sport Elvis muttonchops instead of normal sideburns. Time warps do exist! To those few agents still running annuity food kitchens, I wish you Godspeed and happy feeding until the food supply runs dry.
Let’s bury this dated strategy
For the annuity industry as a whole, it’s time to officially bury this dated strategy once and for all. As you have probably guessed by now, I have never held a “food seminar.” The primary reason is that my mom would definitely show up (she would find out about it somehow), and probably complain about the food that was served. I always enjoy when she calls and gives me the rundown on the annuity seminars she has recently attended, and can only remember what kind of food was served and what tasted good or bad. In Florida, the two main topics of conversation with retirees are recent doctor visits and the previous week’s annuity food seminar menus. I’m not joking! Not one time has she been able to explain what annuity strategy was presented, except for a few sizzle bullet points the agent kept repeating yet she has no clue about the actual facts behind them.
I have come to call my mom and her cadre of food connoisseur friends “professional plate lickers.” There’s an actual subculture of these people that see each other at every one of these food-subsidy annuity events and continually are disappointed by the deserts that were served. Ironically, they consistently and aggressively voice their concerns over the food quality…even though it is free!
The state of Florida (and many other states) now monitor these “bad chicken dinner” seminars and send in spies to make sure that nothing fraudulent is being said or promoted. This recent act by the state insurance departments is one of the main reasons that these annuity seminars are not as prevalent as in previous years. No agent wants to walk into that verbal trap, and I don’t blame them. I also think that this strategy has run its course from an effectiveness standpoint as well. At the end of the day, it’s all about ROI (return on investment), and the sales conversions must not be happening because my mom and dad get 10 percent of the seminar mailers they used to receive.
The death of the bad chicken dinner seminar is a good thing for the annuity industry. There is nothing professional, or high end, about having to bribe people with food just so they will listen to what you have to say. Believe me, if you served the food at the beginning of these typical annuity seminars, my mom would eat the food and get up and leave before your PowerPoint hit the screen. There’s a reason that agents serve the food at the end of the meeting, and that reason isn’t a good one.
Before the mail comes in with examples of the local securities broker doing the same thing at the high-end steakhouses, I need to reiterate once again that we should not care what the securities industry is doing. In fact, we (the fixed annuity industry) need to do the exact opposite to totally differentiate ourselves from our risk-laden brethren. We are not like them and don’t want to be like them. We sell guarantees and certainties, not risk.
It’s important to remember that the contractual guarantees that fixed annuity strategies can provide to a tidal wave of baby boomers yearning for benefits and guarantees should be reason enough to hold a meeting. There should be no need to bribe them with food. My condolences to the annuity “bad chicken dinner” seminar. Rest in peace and good riddance.
For more from Stan Haithcock, see: