Identity Theft Continues to Plague

  • $5.2 billion: How much the federal government lost by paying refunds on fraudulent tax returns in the 2013 filing season. Earlier this year, TurboTax temporarily suspended filing of state returns after it became aware of a number of fraudulent filings.

    “America is addicted to fast refunds, and that addiction is sucking good money out of the [government] budgets,” Verenda Smith, an official at the Federation of Tax Administrators, an association of state and local tax agencies, told the Wall Street Journal. “What we need from politicians is permission to process a return for a month or two before sending out a refund.”
  • 80 million: Number of Anthem health insurance customers whose personal information, including Social Security numbers, may have been stolen in the latest massive data breach.

    “The ability of healthcare companies to compile data has grown far faster than their ability to protect it,” according to Alan Sager, a health-policy professor at Boston University quoted in the Los Angeles Times.

Recent Market Strength Has Been “Top Heavy”

  • As Jim Bianco writes, the tepid 4.1% year-over-year earnings growth for the S&P 500 in the fourth quarter projected by Bloomberg is overblown. According to FactSet data, half of that gain came just from Apple. “The ‘S&P 499’ (S&P 500 less Apple) has a growth rate of less than 2%.” —Randall Forsyth, Barron’s
  • “While new highs were present on numerous market- cap indices and in the equal-weighted S&P 500, a bottoms-up measure of 52-week highs did not experience a meaningful expansion. The average stock in the Russell 2000 and Nasdaq Composite is still more than 20% under its 52-week high. Index level breakouts will be hard to sustain without a broader based participation of stocks.” — JC O’Hara, FBN Securities, Technical Market Tactics, 2/18/2015

The Weight of Money

  • 72%: The percentage of Americans saying they have felt stressed about money at some time in the past month, according to an American Psychological Association survey.

    “Regardless of the economic climate, money and finances have remained the top stressor since our survey began in 2007.” — APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD

Rethinking Social Security

  • 62: The most popular age to begin claiming Social Security benefits.

    “For a start, we need to be aggressively increasing the retirement age for Social Security. When Social Security was introduced during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, the age at which you could claim benefits was 65. But the average lifespan for a male at the time was around 57. If lifespans and eligibility for Social Security had moved in lockstep, today eligibility for Social Security would be somewhere in the upper 80s. And while no one would suggest that should be the case, it does help frame the question of what the eligibility age for Social Security should be.” – John Mauldin, author and publisher of the Mauldin Economics newsletter

A Retirement Prep Wake-Up Call

  • 50%: Percentage of American workers age 55+ with less than $50,000 saved for retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

    “Many retirees – about two out of five – said ‘they did not realize that their preparation had fallen short until it was far too late.’” – HSBC Future of Retirement report