Financial Privacy Worries
JEAN CHATZKY’S December Money Talk (“Battling Identity Theft”) brought up a subject that’s rarely talked about: the power of the Social Security number. It was used for the administration of social benefits and taxes, but now it seems to be used for lots of things, with little care from the requester for protecting it.
Recently I was denied an appointment with a doctor because I refused to give him my Social Security number. His office said it was needed for insurance and bookkeeping purposes. I was unable to get a safe-deposit box at my bank because they wanted to use the number for an internal form. Now my credit union has added it to my statement along with its account number. That means there are two ways to identify me on one form—talk about a double whammy!
After reading the Money Talk column in the December issue, I went to my wallet to remove my Social Security card. What I found may prompt you to revisit your thoughts on this subject. My Medicare card claim number is my Social Security number. My health insurance and company retirement ID also include my Social Security number. If I were not able to cite any of this information to medical-care personnel and the cards were not in my wallet, it could cost me not only my identity but possibly timely treatment as well!
Jeremy Siegel responds
I wish to correct several misrepresentations about me that were made in “How High Is Up?” in the December issue. First, I present identical projections of stock and bond returns to all my audiences: individual investors, professional money managers and academics. Given the tremendous rise in stock prices since the publication of my book, my future estimates of equity returns are significantly lower than those realized over the last decade. Therefore it is necessary in nonprofessional seminars to emphasize that, despite lower future stock returns, equities are still the asset of choice for all long-term investors.
Furthermore, Rittenhouse Financial Inc. and John Nuveen & Co., for whom I give the majority of my talks, have always granted me complete independence in expressing my views on stocks and the markets, even if these views are contrary to theirs. All my academic and professional research has been, and will always be, geared toward presenting an unbiased outlook on all aspects of financial markets to the educational and investment communities.
JEREMY J. SIEGEL
Russell E. Palmer Professor of Finance The Wharton School
November’s Lost in America brought back fond memories of growing up in North Dakota: placing first in a fishing derby at Clear Lake (near Wishek, my birthplace); seeing buffalo while backpacking in the Badlands; sledding Lehr’s main street while visiting the grandparents on Christmas Day. You say North Dakota is the least visited state. I say that having no popularity is okay, because everyone knows everyone and the locals prefer it that way.
Big Sky, Mont.
The figure cited in November’s CEO Speaks for Procter & Gamble’s future earnings growth was its future revenue growth projection.
A chart in December’s “The Smart Way to Invest in Net Stocks” cited Furniture.com as a publicly traded company. It is not. Also in December, “The Triple-Digit Club” stated that in 1998 Garrett Van Wagoner’s funds fared “only slightly better” than they had in 1997. Van Wagoner finished the year strongly, with two of his five funds beating the S&P 500.