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Coaching High Flyers

As people are losing their jobs, businesses are collapsing and the economic outlook is miserable, one company is experiencing a boom. Knowledge to Action, which provides training in foreign exchange, futures and stock market trading, has more customers willing to hand over upwards of £2,995 for a course, than ever. Its website promises to deliver “the success you deserve”.

Founder Greg Secker says his business grew four-fold between 2008 and 2010, “not because we’re brilliant, but because of the dire market”.
“The state of the economy has driven our business. People realise there are no returns on savings and they’d rather lose money themselves than pay someone else to do it. They want more control over their money.”

It is not just him, he says, who has done well out of the dire economy but the wealth coaching industry as a whole.

Also having a boost is Success Resources, which organises seminars for people wanting to learn how to be wealthy. It charges between £100 and £20,000 and boasts guest speakers such as Robert Kiyosaki, the American investor and motivational speaker best known for his Rich Dad, Poor Dad motivational books.

“The downturn has affected our clients,” says Dikkie Anderson, manager of Success Resources UK. “We’ve had more interest from people wanting to create wealth.”

Last year the company staged its biggest seminar: 15,000 people descended on Sydney to hear lectures from the likes of property mogul, Donald Trump, and motivational speaker, Tony Robbins.

The financial crisis, says David Bain, editorial director of Campden Wealth, the UK events, research and publishing company, has made people more suspicious of handing their money over to brokers dealing in complex financial instruments and they “want more control over their finances”.

Jonathan Alpert, a New York-based psychotherapist, and author of Be Fearless, says, “It’s not surprising that wealth creation seminars are doing well right now. During difficult times people rely on hope – and that is exactly what a lot of these seminars are selling. In a society of quick fixes where you can pop a pill and lose weight, gain better focus, or even achieve harder erections, wealth seminars aren’t much different.” He points out that many wealth seminars prey on the vulnerable and employ such tactics as “wealth conditioning”.

“This is the equivalent of wishful thinking. I’m all for positive thinking, however wishing for change will get you nowhere. Repeating phrases such as ‘I am good with money’ won’t make you rich. That’s akin to me standing in front of a mirror and saying, ‘I can get big biceps.’”

Oliver James, author of Affluenza, believes “the constant exposure to advertising, the lottery, reality TV make us believe that a tiny number of very ordinary people can become rich. It’s an illusion. Wealth seminars are just another way of robbing the poor to pay the rich, portrayed as democratising wealth. It encourages people that if you just work hard enough or follow a system you will get rich and if you don’t, you have failed. It’s a cruel system.”

The other draw to such seminars, says Alpert, is “simply that misery loves company. A cult-like atmosphere provides the comfort one needs during tough times. People should be good consumers of these seminars and separate fact from fantasy. They should also consider that a lot of these gurus got rich off the very things they’re buying: the seminar, DVDs, and books.”

Hope has its place, he says. “It certainly worked for [Barack] Obama’s election bid in 2008. However, wealth is different. It requires a smart and sound investment.”

Andrew Hallam, author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School, agrees. “Solid foundations of wealth are built over long periods of time. The only great riches that get made in those seminars are by the promoters promising quick riches over a short period. Wealth gurus are generally in it for themselves.”

Greg Secker is unfazed by such comments. He has heard them all before. He asserts that his seminars are not “get-rich-quick” schemes. “We teach people to have a trading strategy with only 1 per cent risk,” he says. “Our programme is very low risk.” Wealth seminars, he argues, are easy targets. “You’ll never have the shiniest reputation doing wealth seminars.” For Secker it is down to a cultural difference: “In the US we’re seen as superstars; in the UK we’re seen as too good to be true.”

The fault, he says, lies as much with the participants as with the coaches. “Lots of people go to seminars and if it doesn’t work for them, they blame the trainers and don’t take any responsibility for their own investment strategy.”

Anderson agrees: “It’s like going to a gym, not losing weight and blaming it on the gym. We give people a programme that they might stick to or life might get in the way and derail their goals.”

He also points out that the programmes work differently for different people. “Teenagers attending our seminars might get something very different from someone who has worked for many years. If we grow seeds, it takes time. Teenagers need to learn how to manage money. Other people come already making £100,000 and just want to know how to make £200,000. The outcomes vary,” he says.

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