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Free Seminars Could Cost You a Bundle

Bogus financial "experts" are lining up to take baby-boomers' money.

Editor's note: This article is adapted from Kiplinger's Retirement Planning 2007 guide. Order your copy today.

There's a baby-boomer turning 60 every seven seconds for the next two decades, and bogus financial "experts" are lining up to take their money as they grow old. So-called senior specialists are hosting seminars, lunches and dinners to lure seniors, boasting expertise in issues important to the elderly. But their training is mostly in marketing and sales techniques, says Patricia Struck, of the North American Securities Administrators Association. Consider this material from the group that credentials "Certified Retirement Financial Advisors": "Why chase baby boomers when their parents have all the money?...You can be their expert financial advisor and run a marketing machine to fill your waiting room."

State regulators have opened dozens of cases in the past few years involving such illegal securities promotions. Massachusetts securities cops charged one firm with misleading investors after a "certified senior adviser" -- a designation conferred by the Society of Certified Senior Advisers after a three-day home course -- steered seminar attendees into equity-indexed annuities, which are complex insurance products with high commissions, long holding periods and stiff penalties for early withdrawals. The Society of Certified Senior Advisers has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

One relatively new designation holds promise: the Registered Financial Gerontologist, issued by the American Institute of Financial Gerontology. The American Society on Aging, a nonprofit association of professionals who work with older people, is a partner in the institute. Although taking the two-hour, multiple-choice RFG exam is hardly rocket science, instructors' credentials are impressive. Coursework ranges from long-term-care insurance and Medicaid eligibility to age-related physical, emotional and social issues. Find an RFG at or by calling 888-367-8470.