Money Seminar for Women

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Every month, Mainichi Shinbun produces a free magazine with various information about Sapporo and Hokkaido events. I usually pick up these things because they provide good recommendations on shops and places to visit. For the past year, however, I noticed that there have been lots of these FREE seminars about financial matters appearing in the magazine.

After seeing these and being curious about them, I finally went to one yesterday. I’ve always been leery about these seminars because they always say that this is not a sales event but just an informal lecture for people who are curious about their finances. These events usually also offer some kind of “free” promotions. This particular one had a free packet of cookies they were offering to anyone who attended.

I didn’t go just for the cookies.

From the information provided on in the magazine, the seminar said they were going to cover information on how to save for retirement and how to invest. This particular seminar was geared specifically for women, but it was open to everyone. The speaker, a financial planner, was going to talk about iDeCo and NISA, which are retirement accounts offered to Japanese people. However, I was most interested in the insurance part because that’s what I need to learn about the most. There was also something about a free consultation with a financial planner.

Again, all this emphasis on “free” and no sales pressure made me suspicious, but I was curious and I really wanted to see what it was like.

The seminar was held at a very nice hotel. There were about twelve women there, which I thought was a really low number. I guess because it was in the middle of the week, not many people could attend. The also have these seminars on the weekend, but I work then so I couldn’t go to any of those.

The speaker, Chieko Kodama, was a financial planner and did a good job distilling the information. But before that, the host came up and really stressed that they had nothing to sell and were not pushing anything. However, there was a single pamphlet for Live Well, which was the company that Kodama-san works for.

Kodama-san said that for her, she became interested in financial matters when her friend got incapacitated and couldn’t work. The friend remained hopeful, however, because she believed that the country, friends, and family would be there to help her somehow. Kodama found this way of thinking–relying on others for one’s own financial security–really frightening. She decided to take matters into her own hands and said she didn’t want to live like that. That’s when she entered the financial world.

I liked her for that. It resonates with me because I feel like that’s what I’m all about. Based on the stories she shared, I got the vibes that she’s a fiduciary and will do things for her customers’ best interests.

For the first hour of the seminar, she talked about the basics: why investing in the stock market was necessary for saving in the long-term. She then talked about inflation and how the rule of 72 works in doubling your money and how interest rates affect that. She then talked about saving small amounts over long periods of time by dollar cost averaging. She then talked about the differences between risky investing through speculation and saving wisely and avoiding stress by not timing the market.

Kodama-san then talked about the difference between iDeco and NISA. Here’s where I got a little murky with the details. I think I caught the basics of it because I’ve read some information about it online–all in English. Unfortunately, though, because I’m a US citizen, I’m prevented from investing in these foreign-owned entities, else I will be heavily penalized for it by the IRS.

Then we had a ten minute break. To my surprise, they brought out coffee and cake for all of us. Huh. I didn’t read that on the flyer. I was just expecting my cookies, which I got at the end of the seminar. Again, my spidey-senses were on full alert. The cake was good, though. I was also grateful for the coffee. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? Or coffee and cake in this instance.

The second hour began while we were still eating and drinking. Again, this part is where I needed to pay attention. Kodama-san talked about life insurance and medical insurance. Even now, I still am not sure what it’s all about. She talked about different types of life insurance. I think, and I’m not sure about this, but it’s probably the equivalent of term-life, universal, and whole life insurance. Then she mentioned something about money that you will get back once the policy expires. I think she mentioned something about investments.

In my basic understanding, I really want to keep insurance and investments as separate issues in my life. To me, these are two different things. When she started talking about both in the same breath, I felt really confused. Part of it is because my Japanese vocabulary for this is lacking. Also, I am still unsure about what all this means even in English.

She then talked about medical insurance, which I am not sure if we have this system in the US. She talked about cancer insurance and what types of things could be covered under these policies, such as surgery, hospital stays, and cancer treatments. She then added more information about how to choose your insurance policy, what she thinks is necessary, and what you should pay for on your own by simply saving for it. She gave examples of what was unnecessary as far as insurance should cover. I really appreciated that. It means she wasn’t trying to sell any type of insurance to all of us.

Again, some of this went over my head. I realized then that I would probably need to deal with this stuff in a separate, private consultation.

She ended her talk by saying that the free consultation was free as long as we turned in the application sheet we got on that day. Anything else, if we make an appointment for meeting over the phone or online, it would about ¥6,000 for a financial planner’s time. These would be for a 1.5 to two-hour consultation.

I thought that was fair.

I deliberated and checked my schedule because I wanted to take advantage of the “free” consultation they were offering. In the end, I decided not to do it right then and there because I felt like I needed to step out of the situation and think more carefully about it.

I left without turning in my sheet, even though I really wanted to. On my way out, I got my cookies–which looks completely different from what they said in the magazine! The box was much smaller.

However, I walked away from the seminar feeling good. I liked that the financial planner was a woman and she was very reassuring. I liked that Kodama-san’s message was don’t be afraid about these financial matters. It’s a lot easier and not as scary as you think it is.

I am glad I went because I now have a resource I can turn to when I need to deal with insurance–Kodama-san’s financial office seems reliable. And I think this is why these seminars are so popular: they are effective marketing events to get prospective clients.

I think the reason I hesitated on doing this immediately was because I need to deal with my American taxes before I should look for insurance or investing through a Japanese program. In short, there were other things I had to take care of first.

I’m just procrastinating like hell because I don’t enjoy dealing with my taxes.

But, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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