UPDATE: Focus on finance

July 11, 2003

Tax relief; e-mail spam; SUV crashes

 

UPDATE

Focus on Finance

By Yvonne Chilik Wollenburg

Jump to:Choose article section... Tax relief off to a quick start Most e-mail spam lies Deadly SUV crashes went up in 2002 Even the no-brainer funds need watching More beefs about stockbrokers

Tax relief off to a quick start

As called for in the new tax law, the Treasury Department will make advance payments on the child tax credit, which rises from $600 to $1,000 per child. Parents who claimed a child tax credit on their 2002 tax return will get a check from Uncle Sam this month of up to $400 for each child under 17.

The new law also cuts long-term capital gains taxes from 20 percent to 15 percent. Earnings from stock dividends will also be taxed at a lower rate. Income tax rates drop to a range of 25 to 35 percent, and married couples get an increase in the standard deduction to $9,500. All these changes mean that taxpayers will get an average tax cut of 12 percent, says the Treasury Department.

Most e-mail spam lies

Two-thirds of unsolicited commercial e-mail messages studied by the FTC contained lies about either their origin or content. Of messages with phony "from" lines, nearly half suggested they came from someone the recipient knew. Many misleading "subject" lines also suggested some sort of personal relationship, such as "Bob says 'hi.' "

More than half of the spam in the random sample was about investment and business opportunities, financial offers, or adult products, such as pornography. Nearly all the messages about business or investment opportunities, such as chain letters or work-at-home schemes, contained false information.

Deadly SUV crashes went up in 2002

The number of people killed in rollover accidents involving sport utility vehicles rose 10 percent last year, says the federal government. Due largely to the increase in deadly rollovers, the number of people killed in highway traffic accidents rose to 42,850, the highest level since 1990, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Motorcycle fatalities rose by 3 percent, to 3,276. Deaths among riders aged 50 and older increased by 24 percent.

 

 20012002% change
All passenger vehicles10,13010,626+4.9%
Cars4,5494,746+4.4
Vans784695–11.0
SUVs2,1422,353+9.8
Pickup trucks2,6432,819+6.7

 

Even the no-brainer funds need watching

Index funds, touted as the cheap and easy way to diversify your portfolio, vary in how well they track their benchmarks and how much they charge, says Standard & Poor's. Tracking errors—the deviation between a fund's portfolio and the index it purportedly follows—means that index funds don't always have the same rate of return as the index itself.

Higher fees also eat into the performance of index funds. Fees charged by 65 funds that track the S&P 500 index range from a low of 0.12 percent to nearly 3 percent.

 

FundTracking error*
Dreyfus S&P 500 Index Fund (PEOPX)0.06%
Dreyfus BASIC S&P 500 Stock Index Fund (DSPIX)0.07
Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFINX)0.08
Munder Index 500 Fund (MUXAX)0.08
One Group Equity Index Fund (OGEAX)0.08

More beefs about stockbrokers

The number of complaints and questions filed by angry investors with the SEC went up by 17 percent in fiscal 2002, say newly released data. The most common complaint, which rose by 40 percent, concerned fees and commissions charged by stockbrokers. Complaints that brokers failed to follow customers' instructions went up 37 percent, while gripes that brokers made unsuitable recommendations rose by 16 percent.

 

Yvonne Wollenberg. UPDATE: Focus on finance. Medical Economics Jul. 11, 2003;80:22.

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