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February 5, 2010     Post-Gazette
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February 5, 2010
 

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Page4 POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 5, 2010 SLOW CLIMB STARTS WITH CONFIDENCE Evidence mounts that we are past the worst of the Great Recession, but recov- ery is still far off. Most con- sumers and business lead- ers are buying the promise that the worst has past as consumer confidence jumped to its highest level in two years this January. One in five Americans be- lieves the economy will improve in the next six months with one in ten be- lieving it will worsen. Unem- ployed managers and execu- tives are starting up busi- nesses at the fastest pace in four years, and the con- sumer confidence index rose sharply last month. About 27% of workers be- lieve the economy is getting weaker down from 44% last month. According to a new survey most private compa- nies are optimistic about the economy. A survey found that the economy grew at 5.7% in the fourth quarter of 2009, the fastest pace in six years. Manufacturers are replac- ing inventories that were whittled down the past three years. At the same time SBA loans have jumped signifi- cantly over the past three years, and a resurgence in SBA backed lending. The unemployment picture is bleak, but is actually seeing signs of improvement com- pared to last year the situa- tion is less dire and less uncertain. Consumer confi- dence matters, because con- sumer spending accounts for 70% of the U.S. economy and people are feeling better about the economy tend to spend more. Unemployment is a lagging indicator, as it rises after businesses are posting improved financial statements. The wildcard is how high unemployment will go. If it climbs too high, it could stall recovery but pro- voke a dreaded double dip putting the country back into a recessionary spiral. Unfortunately it could reach 12% soon and consumers can't spend what they do not have. So this is the "red her- ring" on a quick recovery. Tax preparers are needing a re-education in the new tax laws. Preparers who set up shop for only a few months may be hard to find if the IRS has some ques- tions later. Check the preparer's credentials and don't sign a return until you read it. Sometimes the er- rors are not in your favor because the preparer failed to claim legitimate deduc- tions and credits. If the fil- ing is wrong the taxpayers are the ones who pay the consequences. Once you sign the return you are cer- tifying everything in it and will be responsible for the back taxes, penalties, and interest. So you're on your own to find a responsible, reputable preparer. Even though April 15 th may seem far away, consider getting started now on your taxes. Congress has created new and expanded deductions, credits and other breaks that could benefit many people if they read the fine print. It's dangerous to rely on what you did last year as you could miss some impor - tant new changes. Here are FOR ALL YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS AUTO * HOMEOWNERS * TENANTS LIFE * HEALTH * BUSINESS GROUP Experience makes the difference WE PROMISE TO MEET OR IMPROVE YOUR PRESENT POLICY COVERAGE AT AFFORDABLE RATES CALL TODAY FOR YOUR QUOTE 617-523-3456 1 Longfellow - Place Suite 2322 - Boston, MA 02114 a few changes to watch for as well as professional ad- vice. Charitable giving to Haitian earthquake victims can deduct on their 2009 tax returns after January 11 th and before March i st, 2010. Keep a record such as a can- celled check, a receipt show- ing the name of the charity, date and amount of contri- butions. The basic standard deduction for 2009 is $I 1,400 for married couples filing jointly up from $10,900 for 2008. For singles the 2009 deductions are $5,700. There are higher amounts for the blind or age 65 and older. You can increase this to reflect a net disaster loss and state and local taxes or excise taxes or the pur- chase of a new auto. The price must not exceed $49,500 of the purchase price. You can claim the credit on your 2009-10 re- turn. Leases don't count. Lawmakers have extended a tax credit of $8,000 for some homebuyers. It's known as the "first time buyers". The date of purchase must be before April 30 th, 2010 and claim the purchase on your 2009 or 2010 returns. Many investors lost large amounts of money in the financial markets dur- ing 2008 and have hefty tax losses carryovers that can be used in 2009. Use those! The basic rules re- main the same, capital losses can soak up gains on a dollar/dollar basis. If losses exceed gains you can deduct up to $3,000/year ($1,500 if single) and addi- tional losses can be carried forward into a future year. Mileage on cars for business use is .55/mile. You also get .24/mile for using vehicles for medical reasons and .14/ If you want to know about EAST BOSTON your first stop should be www.eastboston.com News * Community Calendar Commentary Civic Groups Economic Data History and Much More Visit East Boston's premier public information utility today .... Established 1995 mile for using your vehicles for charitable organizations. There are other deductions for college costs, tax credits for energy savings home im- provements. Go to the IRS website and search for what's new for 2009 Fact Sheets 2010 for any addi- tional information. by Sal Giarratani  ..... - Thoughts of Elvard Semrad Not many folks know of Dr. Elvard Semrad. I met him in 1972 when I first started my employment at the Mas- sachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston's Longwood Medical Area. This state facility was a part of the Harvard Medical School's training for psychiatric training. Dr. Semrad had trained them back as a young psychiatric resident at Harvard. He developed a great passion for his work with individuals struggling with various forms of men- tal illness. He wasn't a re- searcher but a hands-on doc- tor. Patients weren't symp- toms or diagnoses, they were people struggling within themselves and his job was to ease their pain. He was a devotee of Sigmund Freud. Psychiatry to him was a healing profession. I also found out quickly this man was the most non-judgmen- tal guy I ever met. He lis- tened to people and they lis- tened back. Half the battle is, after all, in the listening. Hearing doesn't mean you hear anything unless you actually listen to what is be- ing communicated. In a few months, the 34 th anniversary of his death will be remembered by me and many others whose lives he touched in ways he never knew. His death was sad. He died as they say with his boots on at his desk working. He closed his eyes and gentling went to sleep. His death was shocking. Not just to his colleagues and mental health professionals. But to workers throughout the building he loved so much. Housekeepers cried. Police officers wept. The cli- ents on the in-patient units missed him and his smile. Dr. Elvard made it a point of knowing the names of al- most everyone he met. He would walk through the building and the wards talk- ing to all and listening to all. He seemed on a first name basis with everyone. He made it a point to remem- ber names because he knew people especially those struggling "with the horrible- ness of mental illness wanted to be recognized as human beings." Everyone was equal in his eyes. Upon his death, I can re- member telling another psy- chiatrist, if he could be half as good as Dr. Semrad, he would be a great doctor. That doctor looked at me and smiled in agreement. His last assignment at the men- tal health center was serv- ing as acting superintendent of the facility. He wasn't happy being an administra- tor because it took him away from what he most loved which was helping men and women survive those de- mons within that lessened their lives from its potential fulfillment. I fully respected the man more than any other psychiatrist I have met in my more than 37 years of service to the Department of Mental Health. When he passed I thought he had lived a long and full life doing that which he loved. At his death, I was a young 28 years old. Today, 34 years later, I am await- ing my birthday in May when I turn 62 years old. Funny I don't think I am old and most probably he didn't think that either back in 1976 when he was only 62 years old. I still remember what he looked like. I still remember his smile. I still remember the encouragement he gave to others, me included. He was a good role model for any to follow. I learned so much about life and how to deal with the bumps along the way just by meeting him in the corridors of the building saying ii to each other or just by asking him a ques- tion or two. After his death, a collection of his sayings was compiled in book form and released. The book called "Thoughts of Dr. Semrad" and was written (Continued on Page 15) It's time to call your financial advisor or call meat 617-261-7777. NORTH END PRINTING Funeral Homes " 5 PRINCE STREET NORTH END BOSTON, MA 02113 262 Beach St., Revere Owned and operated by Pamela Donnaruma, Publisher, Post-Gazette 781-284-1127 11 Henry St., E. Boston 617-567-0955 Louis R. Vazza - Mark A. Tauro Funeral Directors wurw.vazzafunerals.com Quality Printing for all your Commercial and Personal Needs Stationery * Business Cards * Menus * Flyers Program Books * Wedding and Party Invitations Announcements * Business Forms and Documents m COMPETITIVE PRICES 617-227-8929