My experience with Financial Education Services — Part 3

Here is the final article by Ariel, who was embroiled in the MLM Financial Education Services (FES).  Read Part 1 and Part 2 to get a background about this group, and hear about Ariel’s experience with them.

Looking at the Big Picture

Sometimes in life it can feel like you’re tangled in a web of lies and deception, because in business and in selling (even selling yourself at a job interview), you have to embellish some things, and those embellishments can snowball into outright deceit. It becomes very hard to untangle yourself from these webs, yet some people who have the will can do it, and sometimes it means being vulnerable and opening yourself up.  The unfortunate thing is that FES is right — this information about finances and dealing with money isn’t taught in school, but coaxing people into an MLM is not the appropriate response for it. I’m sure that my upline had some good intentions when he recruited me — he really wanted to help me out with my life. Yet he didn’t see the fatal flaws of an MLM where the chain can’t last forever, and the market will eventually be saturated no matter what, and you’ll just end up with people who owe money.

I like being authentic and expressing myself, and it just seemed like with this MLM, I was doing the opposite of that and it was making me sick. When I was in my upline Stanley’s car, I had a conversation with him about how university doesn’t really give you any guidance in life, and he also talked about how he ended up broke because he didn’t really have that much help in his life either. We spoke about how the education system is messed up and needs reform. I don’t think that anyone wakes up in the morning as a psychopath thinking how they can make a person’s life miserable — they just don’t see flaws in predatory viral systems like MLMs.

Whose fault is this? Well, there is plenty of blame to go around. I wanted to join because I really thought that this was going to help people. I honestly thought that after I joined, I would be changing people’s lives for the better. The people who were customers and agents would have no problem having a better credit score, and making some money.

Another thing that you can’t do is blame some of the people in these MLMs, thinking that they are just terrible people, because things aren’t black and white. I have an Associate of Arts (AA) degree, I have a Bachelor of Arts (BA), and I have six months’ vocational experience in 3D printing. I was giving it my all to find a job that I was going to be passionate about. In these hard economic times, it felt impossible, even with all my experience and education, to find people who were going to give me a chance to do something. I was very frustrated that someone can go through so much and gain skills and try so hard, and just be left out of a career because they are looking for experience, and no-one is willing to provide any. The solution can come by actually being a community and caring about what people are going through. Not shutting people off and leaving them on the sidelines — because that’s when a predatory MLM can come and pick them up, making them think they found salvation, but all that is happening is they are slowly losing their money and sanity.

Speaking of losing money and sanity, I’d like to say that the MLM is like a leech — while sucking your life blood, it also numbs you. First they do love bombing (numbness), then they co-opt your time and your money (leeching). It’s like a black hole. It sucks you in and then you want to suck other people in. The thing is that money makes people emotional — think about how hard people work for money, and when they lose it in gambling, they want to gamble more and more until they get it back. That’s the way I kept feeling. When you’re in a black hole there is something called an event horizon and usually something that goes past the event horizon can’t come out. It takes tons of energy to get past that event horizon. So now I hope you understand when you look at the big picture, there are reasons why people join these things and they may be righteous reasons but, in the end, there is too much lying, bullying, and manipulation.

The Good the Bad and The Ugly

The good news is there are communities like this to fight back against this MLM cancer that has been growing in our society. Even better than that is that you can personally fight back. I felt like I was duped, so I put a complaint on the BBB website. At first it didn’t go through, since it was seen as an employee and employer dispute. Then I went another route, and complained about how I thought I was duped, because I was told that my credit karma score wasn’t my real score, and I really didn’t need the FES services.

That complaint went through, and I was refunded all my money, so that really brightened up my day to know that something can be done.


It’s also great that we can fight back against the MLM narrative that “people just didn’t work hard enough”, because that hard work is really just duping people into gambling their hard-earned money away for a chance at getting rich. Also, it’s a blessing in disguise that everyone I pitched to ended up rejecting me, because I would only further entangle them into a web of these dark emotions.

The bad news is that the experience takes more than just your money. It takes away your peace of mind, and tries to mould you into a new identity. Even my upline Stanley was talking to me about how he curses at his upline (the pushy sales director Brian who eventually got me to quit) and has these arguments with him. Stanley even told me that the events were too expensive to go to, and I should focus my energies elsewhere — so you get mixed signals and messages, and then you start getting frustrated and think you are a bad businessman. I also think that Stanley is a decent person who truly had my best interests at heart, but he didn’t know that eventually a lot of people are going to get hurt in this faulty business model, no matter how good your intentions are. So your peace of mind is messed with when you have these good intentions, and see things are constantly getting worse around you, and you have to hide it under a façade. The identity part is a bit ironic, because FES have a service where they protect your financial identity, but they want to give you another identity, that of a pushy salesman who uses deceptive and shady tactics to lure people into something.

Now the ugly part comes in because bullying and manipulation can sometimes be a part of everyday life, and you can cope with that — but what is very hard to cope is our relationships based solely on money. These people try to pull you so deep into a rabbit hole that you can’t get out. In fact, once you’ve invested, and if they’ve managed to convince you to quit a job and take days off from work, that’s when an “us vs. them”mentality will form.

When they’ve made their personal brand of MLM into a religion for you then that’s whenever somebody insults it or questions, it they’ve basically insulted and questioned your entire existence and purpose in life, so you start full on attacking that other person. What is also ugly is the veil of legality that they like to hide behind. It’s perfectly legal to go online or offline, use your freedom of speech, and tell someone that they are the dumbest, ugliest, and most ignorant idiot on the face of the planet, and that would put someone who is struggling over some edge, but that legality doesn’t make it ethical.

Even things that are legal like using your freedom of speech to say whatever you want whenever you want to has consequences social and ethical consequences,as we see when media personalities get fired for what they say — they are not arrested,though.

What is also dangerous is when people who are truly desperate, like the struggling unemployed, really want an opportunity and want to do something satisfying and get paid and an “opportunity” like this comes along where they are putting their money into a “legal” gambling machine. Our society turns a blind eye to so many injustices in my opinion because, if people in the legal, financial, and educational sectors are involved in stuff like this, then that basically gives these MLMs some kind of seal of approval. Even though you’re not aware of the tangled web of frustration, lies, and manipulation that you’re weaving for your friends, family, and acquaintances once you get involved with one of these things, because your intentions are the opposite.

Anyway it’s been a pleasure to share my ideas and experiences on MLMs. I hope it helps you. You can find me online at my blog, and on YouTube.

Cover photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash


My experience with Financial Education Services — Part 2

[Red Corvette]: Here is the second in a short series of articles by Ariel, who was embroiled in the MLM Financial Education Services (FES).  Read Part 1 to get a background about this group, and hear how Ariel got involved with them.

[Ariel]: Thank you Red.

So, my sales director Brian (second upline) was trying to set up this Private Business Reception (PBR) event at his home.

I managed to get people, but they just flaked and didn’t show up. Anyway, it wasn’t going to go through, because Brian didn’t really give me a specific time for when it would happen, just a date. Then my $89 monthly fee was due, and I hadn’t even had a single person buy into anything. The sales director told me it was because I wasn’t attending the trainings that were all the way up in Glendale (23 miles / 37 km away), and I wasn’t “being serious enough with it”.

Then, to add insult to injury, he wanted me to attend an event called Millionaire Mindset, for about $200, which was coming up in November. When I told him no, he didn’t like that answer. I told him to sign someone up under me first before I attended. I didn’t want to put any more money into a gambling machine. Then I called my upline Stanley, and he wasn’t even attending, and he told me not to let Brian strong-arm me into attending it.

Well, lo and behold, that was exactly what Brian tries to do. At night I get a call from him with my upline Stanley also on the phone, and he goes gung ho into convincing me to go to the event. Brian leaves nothing off the table—he bullies, he manipulates, and lies. I try to tell him that I don’t want to because all those webinars we did bore no fruit. He gives me the spiel on how I have to have more faith yada yada.

Then I tell Brian two very logical things that he counters with bullshit. I tell him that since he’s going to be there, why doesn’t he just take really good notes or even record the event if that’s possible, so I get all the information on the strategy. He says that actually being there in person will “create the belief” — ie more cult brainwashing, and more putting my money into the MLM gambling machine. Then I ask him if he’s so eager to have me there with him at the event why doesn’t he pay for it? He gets extremely offended and threatens to cut me off (mind you I need his help for the webinars to get customers and close deals).

royal-anwar-366898-unsplashAfter a full hour of bullying and manipulating me into trying to get in my wallet to pay for the event, he gets tired. Then Stanley talks about how I have to be more professional by dressing more professionally, and how this is my business and my responsibility and nobody else’s. After that exchange I am more drained and depressed than I ever was before. I didn’t join this so called “financial education services” to be scolded, bullied, manipulated and become part of a dysfunctional family. I joined to help people who are struggling, and ironically they were making me struggle.

Before this episode, I knew a friend from a digital learning program, and he was always talking to me about ways we could find something to do to make money. We were in the program to get jobs, but after the program finished we were struggling to find work. I thought he was the perfect candidate for FES. So in the presentation I found out he had a disability and was on Social Security. Brian wanted to sign up the whole family — three people —this man, his sister, and his mom, all at the same time for $288 each ($864 in total for a family that’s struggling with bills). I thought to myself how I haven’t even achieved getting one customer, and he’s trying to coax these people into all signing up one under another. I justified it because I thought they’d easily know people in a bad financial situation who would want their credit scores fixed.

While Brian was at the event, there was a Facebook Live I could do with the regional vice president of FES, Fiona*. So I went to her Facebook Page at the particular date and time. She was talking about the Bible and I wasn’t even a Christian—I’m Jewish (these people assume a lot of things about a lot of people). None of it was actually a sales strategy, it was all hype. She was reading some verse about how a mentor will appear to the one that is most in need.

Then out of nowhere, like a cheerleader on ecstasy, Fiona told everyone to comment “Pink millionaire” in the comments below. She jumped around saying “Pink millionaire” 30 times in a row.T his isn’t training on sales — this is just insanity, and it’s not helpful at all. Not to mention how narcissistic it is but, that’s the thing with MLMs. It’s all this hype and insane behavior, and you feel that hit of dopamine and the events and trainings (even though I saw through that) then it’s back to the real world where you are shunned by most people.

In fact, before the event at the regular hotel meeting, I met Brian’s upline Dean*, who is a millionaire, and talked about how important it was to attend the event. That was the only thing on his mind because he was selling the tickets to it. He kept hammering away at the whole team about how they needed to go the event. I was thinking “If this man is a millionaire, couldn’t he pay for other people’s tickets? These people were struggling — give them some help. If the company was really about helping people out, then wouldn’t they start with people who couldn’t afford things?”

Dean also talked about how he attended the event when he hardly had any money to his name and he had to sleep on the hotel floor. In fact he said that people who didn’t attend quit within a month or so. I’m sure if I did go to the event, it would just be a hype fest with no strategies on what to do, which is what I’ve come to expect from all of this.

After Brian came back from the event, he started showing passive aggressive behavior towards me, as I hadn’t attended. I asked him what he learned at the event as an actual business strategy and not the usual warm market “friends and family pity sale” garbage I was so used to in Herbalife, and what MLMs are famous for. He gave me such a pathetic strategy (in my opinion): put a post on Facebook and tag ALL your friends in it.

I got one person who was into science interested, but he quickly put a wall up when it came to buying the program. I tried to convince him saying that there is a mayor, a bank fraud investigator, and this company goes into schools, but he still didn’t buy it. This last person was the final straw for me. On the phone, Brian thought it was a sure fire sale, and even told me after we sign him up we could sign my mom up, because she was thinking of joining to help me after I got my first sign up.

Lo and behold Mr. Millionaire Mindset was WRONG! This guy said he had some customers to attend to and left the webinar then Brian messages me, saying that guy was a joke and tells me to move on to the next person. At this point I can’t stand it anymore. I am so conflicted on what to do next. If I quit I throw about $400 of my hard earned money in the garbage, and that’s what makes it so difficult. Not to mention having to tell my upline that I’m quitting. I think to myself, “OK, they’re going to have a webinar on how to deal with real estate agents soon, so I’m going to go on that webinar to get some business strategies”. But the webinar is cancelled, and this is about the third or fourth one that’s cancelled.

That’s when I say enough is enough.

I muster up the courage. I block Brian on Facebook and on my phone. I don’t block my upline Stanley, because I think I can trust him with my feelings, but not Brian the manipulative sales director. The minute I did that, I could breathe a sigh of relief. No more manipulative sales director to worry about, no more putting myself through emotional hell, and no more having to strong-arm people. I felt so free after that.I complained to the BBB, but the problem was they said it was an employee-employer dispute, and wouldn’t handle it. That’s how these MLMs muddy the waters, by saying their customers are their employees. Well, I’m writing this to un-muddy the waters.

[Red]: Thank you Ariel. Stay tuned for Part 3, for Ariel’s thoughts on his experience.

Ariel can be found online at his blog, and on YouTube.

Photo credits: Wallet photo by rawpixel on Unsplash; Man in suit photo by Royal Anwar on Unsplash

*Names have been changed

My experience with Financial Education Services — Part 1

[Red Corvette]: Today we’re starting a series of articles by Ariel, who was embroiled in the MLM Financial Education Services (FES). Here’s a little background about this group.

FES is a privately held company, started by Parimal Nail and Mike Toloff. It launched at first as VR-Tech in 2004. They sell insurance and wealth programs. Their headquarters is in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

While they offer many financial services, from life insurance and financial literacy training to wills and living trusts, their main offering is credit repair. FES charges a one time fee of $188 and then $89 per month for the Protection plan. Since April 2018, this has increased to $499. The MLM is often touted as a cross between Primerica, Motor Club of America, and World Financial Group.

Their consultants are called ‘independent agents’, and there are nine different ranks to aspire to, starting with Field Trainer, and moving up to Sales Director, Senior Field Trainer, Regional Sales Director with Senior Executive Vice President at the very top.

Over to you, Ariel!

[Ariel]: Thank you Red.

Hi, all you anti-MLMers. I’ve recently came out of a cult called Financial Education Services, and wanted to share my experience with you.

How I came to find out about them is innocent enough, since I wanted to learn about finances. I stumbled upon a Meetup group that talked about financial education, and I put my name in the RSVP.

So then I get a call from some guy who is from Haiti, let’s call him Stanley*. He seems like a really nice guy and he talks about how in the United States there is no education about money, how it works etc. I tend to agree with him, and he says asks if it’s OK if I could attend a webinar with him. I say fine, and then he gets on the webinar with his upline, Brian*. Brian is a man from New York who lives in Los Angeles, like I do. He goes through what it means to have good credit and everything that a credit score affects. He talks about things like identity protection etc.

I’m impressed with Brian’s knowledge. The company sells financial protection plans to people with a $99 activation fee and a monthly payment of $89 (total $188 to get started). I really don’t need the services as my credit score is already in the excellent category, yet he told me that credit karma is not an accurate representation of my credit score.

Now here’s where the MLM part comes in. Brian tells me that if I get started as an agent I could give people these services and help them with their finances for just $100 (so $288 to become an agent). I tell him that I was had been involved in Herbalife a long time ago, like eight years ago, and it went very badly. He assures me that this isn’t about selling lotions and potions and such things, because people need good credit and everyone wants financial stability. He himself used to work for the Bank of America.

I still show skepticism, and Brian uses my insecurities against me, like how I spoke about my dad always doing the same thing and complaining about his job, and how I wanted out from my current situation. He tells me that I’m going to see everyone becoming a success except me, and I’m going to be depressed after that. He also tells me that so many things you spend money on like food, clothing and a car will always depreciate in value, yet this opportunity has the power to pay me back. So while he was talking to me I googled the company, and I found pretty good reviews, actually. It’s funny, one of the first videos that popped up said it was a scam, but most videos that said it was a scam actually then went into how it wasn’t a scam, but was a legitimate business opportunity.

I told Brian if I joined I’d probably be bothering them all the time and not stop until I made my money back and more, so this made him excited. Then he gave me the sign up sheet page to sign up under Stanley. I signed up to be an agent and I got the Protection Plan. Brian sent me an email, and I looked at the materials I was supposed to be using. In those materials it said don’t use words like uplinedownline, and opportunity, so right off the bat I felt like I was deceiving people. Then I said to myself it’s probably because MLMs are associated with health supplements and products, not with finances, so we don’t want to give people the wrong impression. I believed that helping people get ahead in life with control over their finances and a good credit score was the righteous thing to do.

rawpixel-761474-unsplashThe next day my field trainer Stanley took me to a hotel near the airport so I could see what they were talking about. At the hotel, I got your typical MLM cult spiel, yet this one had former Bank of America employees, an active mayor, and an actor. In the spiel they talked about how they had something called the YFL Mint that went into schools to teach kids about financial education. Mind you, just because you rob a bank and give a percentage of it to charity doesn’t mean you’re a saint.

So, after all the razzle dazzle,at the end of the “presentation” I went to the lady who said she made a ton of money doing it and told her “Wow you only have a GED [high school education] yet there are people with masters degrees, and they are stuck in debt and you have all this money” and she said “Ya I know, all thanks to FES.”

I wanted to know what she did to get people to sign up etc. She said “I’m sure you’ll have a few of these seats filled the next time you come in”. Well, that wasn’t exactly a strategy. The sales director Brian was there, and he said I’d succeed if I’m committed and coachable. I asked him for a strategy, but only got some vague unhelpful answer.

When I asked my direct upline Stanley for a strategy, he talked about an online funnel through an ebook which I had no idea how to go about getting. Back when I got home I thought about talking to my Facebook friends, and I went into Messenger asking people if they even know what their credit score is.

Some did, some didn’t, and some wanted to improve it. So I must’ve orchestrated about 15 or so people agreeing to attend a webinar with the same person who got me in, by doing a webinar with him. Some people were no shows, some had technical difficulties, some stayed till the end of the presentation, but none of them signed up either as a customer or an agent, so this really got me in low spirits.

I even got this guy who was a millionaire friend of mine to sign up, and he even said after he got all the details he would sign up but, then he found a better deal with other credit repair people who would give him half the profits, and they weren’t MLM — so in the end it didn’t go through.

I was feeling so down and so defeated,and it didn’t seem like this was the opportunity I signed up for. All the while I was still going to the hotel meetings hearing the same old business model story, and getting sick and tired of it because they gave me ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in terms of strategy. So once my warm leads were depleted, and I was feeling defeated, Brian calls me and tells me to get all the people I know, including friends and family, and line them up for a PBR (Private Business Reception) which he wants me to have at his house. I told him that I couldn’t just conjure people up out of the blue.

[Red]: Thank you Ariel! Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will find out what happens at Brian’s Private Business Reception, and whether Ariel was able to find anyone to attend!

Ariel can be found online at his blog, and on YouTube.

Photo credits: Dollar bills photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash; Coins photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash