Cheat Sheet Q & A:

The question: Is an ID protection service really needed?

I spent some time online researching ID Protection companies trying to figure out what it is exactly that they do/provide. I then ran across a Consumer Report (I know you are big on them) from last January and after reading it have serious questions about the value of the “insurance” being provided by these companies. It seems the “service” they provide can be done yourself with not a lot of effort but would certainly require diligence. Your thoughts?

Bottom Line: You’re right – I’m a big fan of Consumer Reports. They are the best review service on a wide range of products and services available. That doesn’t mean that I agree 100% of the time with them. Ironically I challenged this article last year (I think in February if memory serves me correctly) after it was published. Simply put I disagree with most of the premise of their assertion. To be sure there are many things you can do on your own that will help but if bad things happen you’ll be glad you had good ID protection service.

I’ll tackle the key points of the article:

  • Deceptive marketing: Some ID protection services are potentially a rip off. I’m happy to recommend two: Identity Guard and Lifelock – they both offer outstanding service
  • Exaggerated threats: As they point out 80% of fraudulent activity is on existing accounts of yours and you can flag much of that activity yourself… True but what about the other 20%?
  • New account fraud is rare: They point out that only about 1% of fraud is the most dangerous type – accounts actually being opened in your name without your knowledge. This is where their premise really falls apart. To begin with their entire piece is based on research from 2010. The differences between then and now are incredible. To begin with fraudulent activity was up 500% between 2012 to 2013 alone! And now about 2.5% of Americans per year have this type of fraud occur. So you do the math. If you have a 2.5% chance of being a victim per year and there are two of you in a home… You have about a 50% change of one of you being hit every ten years (and keep in mind this trend is only growing)
  • Credit monitoring: As they point out there are ways you can do some of this for free. You can a free credit report once per year. There are good sites like Credit Karma (the only I’d actually recommend) that can aid in providing you with free information. Here’s the problem. What about the rest of the time. Yes you can catch the problems yourself with those free services but only once a quarter or year. By then enormous damage could have already occurred. A good service is monitoring your info for you daily and can aid you in cutting off any improper activity at the pass.
  • $1 million insurance isn’t needed: Ok it may in part be a marketing ploy but what the service provides isn’t. If you are victimized you get the benefit of the legal services and reimbursement of up to $1 million. This can be a huge benefit. While you could contact each of the credit rating agencies to try to get your credit corrected and companies that were financially damaged by the fraud to get your money back… How much time will you spend doing that? How much will it cost you to make take corrective action. My sister went through this in 2006. She works for one of the top law firms in the state and still… It took her well over a year to resolve her problems. It ended up costing her thousands of dollars and dozens of hours of research, phone calls, paper work, claims, etc. How much better off would you be if they handled those headaches for you.

I’m all about saving money and being self sufficient where it makes sense to do so. Good ID protection will only run you about $100 per year and about $200 per family per year. That’s money well spent. Additionally and ironically our ID protection service stopped credit card theft in it’s tracks Saturday night when Ashley had one of her accounts compromise and attempts that were being made on her account.

If you have a topic or question you’d like me address email me:

Audio Report:


Best college values for 2014...  Two Florida schools score big:

Bottom Line: If you’re kids want to go to UF and you’re concerned that it may be more about being fans of the athletics than the education… Take heart. They’ll be served well when they do show up to class. According to their research (which weighs academic performance with costs):

  • The University of Florida is #7 in the country among public colleges this year
  • New College of Florida is #2 in the country (bested only by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

It’s worth noting that on the private side you have to pay a lot to get a lot. Value isn’t always cheap. With that in mind the top five private colleges for 2014 are:

  • Princeton
  • Yale
  • Swarthmore
  • Harvard
  • WilliamsCollege at #1

They are all pricey schools but represent the best value. Food for thought. For the full report click here:

Audio Report:


How the rich became rich and what you can learn from them:

Bottom Line: A couple of times per year I publish my research demonstrating how the average American, making the average income, investing at the average rate of return can become a millionaire within 25 with a little diligence. That goes hand in hand with the premise of this story.

PNC Financial surveyed millionaires to figure out how they become millionaires. The findings:

  • The majority – 56% said it was saving early and on a regular basis from an early age
  • Next up those who said that controlling spending and making good investments
  • The third largest group did say that it can from a high salary over time (26%)
  • Only 3% said they married or inherited their millionaire status

So in other words… The American millionaire is self made – 97% of the time

They don’t get there because they won life’s lottery or have 1% type of incomes (74% of the time) – it’s because they’re diligent and smart with saving, spending and investing. That’s the real secret to building wealth and most people can do it if they choose to…

Audio Report:

Business friends...  Local businesses...  It's illegal to use the Super Bowl for marketing purposes:

Bottom Line: This is a quicker hitter reminder for my local business folks. You can’t use the Super Bowl for your marketing purposes. I’ve come across two violations since Saturday. One restaurant was advertising “Super Bowl” sized drinks and the other sent out an email marketing piece talking up their Super Bowl party this weekend. Both are big violations. The NFL has taken on local businesses in the past when they found out their likeness and trademarks were being illegally used. While you likely won’t be found out by the NFL… If you are you might as well hand over the keys to your business to the league. The reason why you hear so much about “the Big Game” is because companies can’t use the term Super Bowl for marketing purposes without expressed consent from the NFL (which only happens when you spends millions to get it).


Unemployment by states...  Florida's impressive story:

Bottom Line: We now have the final 2013 scorecard for Florida’s employment picture and unemployment rate and we have a lot to feel good about here at home. By the numbers:

  • Florida’s unemployment rate is 6.2% (vs. 6.7% national average)
  • Florida created the third most jobs in the country in 2013 (192,900)
  • Florida’s year over year decrease in unemployment rate was 1.7% (from 7.9% to 6.2%)

It’s also worth noting that we’ve nearly cut our unemployment rate in half since the worst of the Great Recession in 2009 when our unemployment rate reached 12.1%. It’s also worth nothing that the top overall states (Utah, The Dakotas & Nebraska) all have conservative business friendly leadership in the state historically, while the worst states (California, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada & Rhode Island) have much higher taxation and regulation.

Audio Report: