If you’re reading this, you’ve already decided to learn more about personal finance — congratulations! Now, of the many decisions that lie ahead, one is whether you will pay someone to teach you about personal finance or learn about it on your own.
Many celebrity gurus and well-known personal finance authors offer paid seminars teaching you their methods. They’ll typically advertise online or on local TV or newspapers before coming to a community and holding a few sessions at a ballroom or meeting facility.
Prices can be as low as $49 for a one-day or half-day seminar. On the high end, they may charge thousands of dollars for multiple sessions stretching over a period of months.
Attendees can learn about many areas of personal finance, including creating budgets, saving, managing debt, investing wisely and preparing for retirement. Seminars generally come with the endorsement of someone well known in the field, which, of course, is an important part of their appeal.
Is the chance to be taught by a well-known expert, or someone using the materials of a well-known expert, worth the price? The answer depends largely on your preferences and needs.
Let’s be clear: Paid personal finance seminars can offer many benefits. Before examining those, however, it’s important to understand that those benefits probably will not include secrets you couldn’t get from another source.
DIY Personal Finance
Online sites like MintLife provide free access to thousands of informative articles on topics from money-saving recipes to investing tips. Many personal finance books can be checked out from public libraries without paying a penny. Similarly, webinars, podcasts and videos on personal financial topics are also available without charge online.
Also, many community organizations and financial advisors put on free personal finance talks, presentations and full-fledged courses. Chances are, few paid seminars can provide information that is not available for free or at lower cost elsewhere.
The Pros and Cons of Paying for a Personal Finance Seminar
Having said that, paid seminars can offer legitimate value. For instance, it’s easy to get confused by the large amount of financial information available. It you don’t know where to start, paying a knowledgeable speaker to introduce the basics can help.
Likewise, a hands-on instructor can provide motivation and encouragement to give you a boost when you encounter a puzzling concept. Another important benefit of attending a paid seminar is that you can ask questions and get instant feedback.
Some people simply prefer learning in a group environment with a lecturer running the show. And personal finance concepts are easier for many of us to grasp when displayed on a projector with live narrative provided by a seasoned instructor.
The obvious negative of paying for a seminar is the cost, but this doesn’t have to be high. Many of the fees are comparable to the price of purchasing a few hardcover personal finance books. But some seminars may include hard-sell techniques in which high-pressure sales people try to get attendees to sign up and pay for additional training that could cost thousands.
Seminars also aren’t as flexible as self-education through reading, watching videos and listening to podcasts. For example, if you aren’t available the weekend the seminar comes through your town you can’t attend. And once the seminar is over, the instructor may be hard to reach with follow-up questions.
The Bottom Line
All things considered, the best way to learn about personal finance is probably the least expensive. Visiting Mint.com, checking books out at the library and using other free resources are more flexible and free from high-pressure up selling.
Consider a paid personal finance seminar if you’re stuck, need motivation, have the time and money, are prepared to resist sales pressure, and know what you want and what you’re getting into. Otherwise, you can likely get everything you need right here.
“Should You Pay to Attend a Personal Finance Seminar?” was written by Mark Henricks.