Beware Investment Opportunities That Prey on Fear

By Roger Wohlner

NEW YORK (AdviceIQ) -- Sure, you save your money because you're scared of poverty in your retirement. Financial pitchmen know this and target your fear, which us why you need to learn how to protect yourself.

Many TV and radio ads use fear to pitch various annuities, insurance or other commissioned financial and investment products. Recently I heard a commercial for a variation of the insurance product called Be Your Own Banker Its pitch: the inevitability of a 50% loss in the stock market.

Come on.

Far too often these fear mongers seem to target seniors scared of losing their nest eggs. Ameriprise, for instance, runs a commercial in which no less than movie star Tommy Lee Jones asks folks if they fear outliving their money in retirement. The question is valid but at least partially a scare tactic.

Many folks in their 50s or 60s and looking for planning help ask themselves this question (and often the answer is obvious). Whether based on fear or stemming from a desire for preparedness, the question makes a good lead-in to financial planning. Nonetheless, scaring people, especially seniors, into buying a financial product that may or may not be right for them is suspect.

In a prior post I listed making financial decisions based on emotions as one step on the road to a lousy retirement. This holds especially true when you're sold annuities or insurance products, because many come with onerous surrender charges -- meaning it costs you dearly to move your money elsewhere over the first five to 10 years you own the product.