The Government Took $275 Million… And Gave You $0.85

So much for Equifax paying up…

Last week, we updated you on the ongoing drama surrounding Equifax’s 2017 data breach.

In July, Equifax reached a settlement for the data breach, agreeing to pay up to $700 million for folks who suffered from the massive data breach.

As part of the settlement, Equifax must provide 10 years of free credit monitoring to everyone impacted by the breach. That’s about 147 million Americans. Alternatively, folks could file to receive a $125 check in lieu of the credit monitoring.

The response was “overwhelming,” according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). So much so that the agency is now urging people to accept the credit monitoring over the cash.

That means it’s unlikely anyone will see that $125. Expect a few bucks, max.

While the headlines around the Equifax settlement mentioned the amount of $700 million, the reality is that $175 million of that goes to state governments and $100 million goes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Another $300 million to $425 million goes to a fund that will provide credit monitoring services… you know, one of the services that Equifax provides. We won’t be surprised if some of those hundreds of millions of dollars end up back at Equifax.

And the final salt in the wound… Only $31 million was set aside to cover the $125 cash payment option. Meaning that if all 147 million Americans affected filed for it, they would get a total of $0.85 each.

Remember: The government isn’t going to take care of you.

It took $275 million in fines for itself… while giving pennies to the average American hurt by the breach.

Equifax and the FTC shouldn’t be shocked Americans don’t trust Equifax’s credit monitoring…

The company could have prevented the May 2017 breach. Worse still, Equifax didn’t notify anyone of the breach until the end of July 2017. Even the initial offer of so-called “free” credit monitoring ended with a $20 charge for some folks.

This is more proof of what we’ve said for years… No one is going to take care of you but you, so be proactive in monitoring your own credit.

By law, you can get one free credit report from each of the three credit-reporting services each year. Do what I do and rotate through each of them since they each have slightly different information in their databases. You can get the report online from www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

Q: I’ve been following your advice on blueberry consumption and my body feels better from toes on up as my daily walks feel more like sailing now. Many days I’m eating 18 ounces, and occasionally have had 36 ounces. Is the 36 ounces too much and what, if any, detriments are there to eating that amount? I feel so good since following your advice, and I’m guessing there’s a lot of benefit I’m getting that I don’t notice, that I’m quite tempted many days to eat the 36 ounces, but I certainly don’t want to overdo a good thing. Thanks for your great column. – G.S.

A: Unfortunately that old saying “You can have too much of a good thing,” applies to blueberries too.

Depending on the study you read, you need anywhere between half a cup to just under around a cup and a half a day. A half cup of fresh blueberries is about 2.6 ounces. I get at least that each day… and might go up to a cup and a half (eight ounces) depending on the time of year.

With what you’re eating, you’re definitely reaping the benefits… but you might be overdoing it.

Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber, which is essential for good health. But too much fiber in your diet can cause gastrointestinal problems including bloating, excess gas, and diarrhea.

Blueberries are also high in salicylates (an ingredient in aspirin) which can cause vomiting, constipation, and acid reflux.

And the other problem you experience when you eat too much of one food is lack of variety. We love blueberries, but eating them for every meal seems rather boring. Blueberries are an incredible food, but don’t eat them at the expense of a more varied diet, which provides a better range of vitamins and nutrients.

Q: Do you think that MAYBE the fact that almost all cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, etc are being given antibiotics just MIGHT have a little to do with the problem? – R.R.

A: You’re absolutely right. About 80% of all antibiotics in the U.S. aren’t given to humans… but are instead given to the animals that end up on our dinner plates.

Now, bacteria don’t develop resistance overnight or after cutting short a single course of antibiotics. They’ve been developing ways to resist drugs since penicillin first came on the scene. But the more we abuse antibiotics, the more these bugs will gain resistance. That gives rise to bacteria that can survive two or more drugs, making them “superbugs.” What’s more, bacteria can share resistance genes with other types of bacteria, which spreads the problem even further.

And what happens in humans to evolve these superbugs happens in animals, too.. And we feel the direct effects. Studies like the one out of JAMA Internal Medicine found a link between folks who got a particular superbug and how close they lived to crop fields that used pig manure fertilizer. The superbug is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA claims about 20,000 lives each year.

So yes, livestock does contribute to the rise of superbugs. But we can’t control the livestock industry directly. What you can do is purchase meat that’s raised without antibiotics (or limited antibiotics). You can read more about these designations and what they mean right here.

Remember, taking control of yourself by properly using antibiotics is something you can do to help fight against the further rise of superbugs.

Q: I just wanted to point out that something in today’s bulletin isn’t entirely correct. The bulletin said this regarding 401(k) accounts:

“And if you take money out before you’re 59 and a half, you’ll have to pay an additional 10% penalty.”

There are several ways to withdraw from a 401(k) before age 59-1/2 without penalty:

1. After age 55 if you leave the company at which the account is held.

2. At any age under Rule 72(t).

3. Due to hardship such as medical expenses.

4. For a down payment on a house.

Just thought I’d pass that along… thanks! – P.G.

A: Thanks, P.G. That’s absolutely true and we should have included it. It’s important to mention that even within these exceptions there are limitations. For example, you can only use up to $10,000 from your 401(k) to buy a home. And this is only for first-time homebuyers.

You can also roll over your 401(k) into an IRA without penalty as long as you deposit the money into the IRA within 60 days.

The IRS has a full list of exceptions here.

Keep your questions, comments, and criticisms coming our way. We read every e-mail… [email protected].

What We’re Reading…

Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 9, 2019