The Financial Newsletter Scare

Check out some of the recent headlines from self-proclaimed leaders in the financial newsletter publishing business…

‘Are You Slowly Killing Yourself?’

‘White? Middle Class? You could Be a Sociopath!’

‘Don’t Take This Shortcut!’

‘Scary $275,000 Retirement Bombshell!’

‘Don’t be a Victim!’

‘Will You Run Out of Money in Retirement?’

‘How to Survive the Coming Market Crash’

The Hook

The financial writers who try to scare prospective clients into paying for the writer’s financial advice do so for one reason – it works! The tactic is also shameful. Fear tactics play on the unknown, the uncertain, and the doubts that people experience. Playing on people’s fear and, in particular, the fear of seniors is unfortunately a frequently-utilized tactic.

When people are presented with something that incites fear, they are likely to take action only if an option to correct the problem is provided. Commercials or messages that use fear are always going to provide an outlet for action. In the case of financial newsletters, the action they recommend is clear: buy the newsletter.

The more immediate and the stronger a person reacts based on a message grounded in fear, the more likely the person is to minimize other factors that in light of the impending danger seem less important and irrelevant. For an example let’s look at one of the headlines above– ‘Scary $275,000 Retirement Bombshell!’ If you fear an unpleasant $275,000 surprise in your retirement distribution, paying $500 for the information required to avoid the danger seems like a wise economic decision.

Indeed, it is a smart decision…

…until you find out the threat either is not real, does not pertain to you, involves some unrealistic numerical extrapolation or the proposed solution is inadequate, irrelevant, or not an option for you.

You feel duped, and you were.

So what can you do?

Give yourself some credit.

You are likely a smart, educated consumer, and you haven’t been living under a rock. Give yourself the power to choose not to cave in to fear tactics by acknowledging that you are not ignoring a threat; you are simply choosing to ignore an unscrupulous attempt to take your hard-earned money.

Know the signs.

The way many purveyors of newsletters work is as follows: The publisher hooks you with a headline and an offer to get more information if you “click here” or simply provide your e-mail address. Once you click through and get what you think is going to be access to the full story, you are given about half the story – the part that seems most frightening. To get the information needed to avoid the supposed problem for which they will tell you they have “painstakingly worked many months to identify and spent thousands of dollars to find a solution”, you have to pay to become a subscriber. If you find yourself being played in this manner, just resolve not to play. Recognize the game, and don’t play. There is an old saying: “If you don’t know who in the room is the sucker, then it’s you”.

Save yourself some emotional grief.

One might think that after you have signed up for a financial newsletter because of an article based in fear that the publisher’s tactics will change.


Once you sign up you are going to receive more articles that start out with a headline designed to strike fear. Why?  Because after a year’s worth of repeating the cycle of terrorizing you and then calming you, the publisher figures it will be easy to get you to renew. If you think about it though, you will likely realize that the newsletter hasn’t actually provided you with anything actionable in the past year. They did, however, manage to raise your blood pressure on more than one occasion. Spare yourself the grief. Don’t sign up.

Do you really even want or need a financial newsletter?

Ask yourself if a financial newsletter was something you had actually even been looking for, or if your consideration of a newsletter only came about because you read something from a publisher that frightened you. If you want a financial newsletter, there are good newsletters in the market that don’t rely on using fear tactics, but instead offer sound commentary on real issues.

Put the power of Google to work for you and do a little research. Decide for yourself who you are going to do business with. You can quickly and easily find a newsletter that will meet your needs. Avoid publishers who use fear to sell you something. The fact that some newsletters will boast a huge subscriber base does not necessarily mean their content is any good; it just means that they are good marketers. Don’t let someone using fear tactics shake you. You have the power, and you have the purse.


Gregory H. Wolf
Gregory H. Wolf
Greg is an accomplished Speaker, Writer, Trainer, Consultant, Coach, Investor and Chief Executive. HIs executive experience includes service as the CEO of Humana, Inc.; President of Cigna Group Insurance; and Chairman and CEO of Medical Card System. Greg’s most recent corporate consulting experiences have been with product and service companies seeking to understand and fulfill the needs of mature (Age 50+) consumers. His counseling with individuals includes those who are undergoing significant life and career transitions such as an executive appointment, termination, substantial inheritance or retirement. He is the Founder of Wolf Media Group (WMG) which owns the popular Through Wolf's Eyes “Site for Seniors”, featuring video and articles written by Greg, WMG staff – all experts on issues of interest to a more mature market, and the content of I-Generation (people born after 1995) writers. A special feature of the site is an effort to connect the I-Generation with older generations.

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