Update

February 1, 2008

Practice and financial news you can use.

HEALTH PLANS

Score cards: Turnaround is fair play

PERSONAL FINANCES

When a relative reneges on a loan

Did you lend your brother a few grand last year-or a few years ago-with the promise that he'll pay you back? Are you assuming you can kiss that money goodbye? Well, don't despair. You may still be able to write off the loan on your tax return. According to the Federal Tax Course Letter, you'll need to attach a statement to your Schedule D that lists your brother's name as the debtor, why the money was lent, when it was due to be repaid, what you did to try to collect the loan, why the debt's now worthless, and why the deduction is being claimed. If you meet all of these requirements, you can claim a short-term capital loss on Schedule D, which offsets your short-term capital gains dollar for dollar.

For future reference, it's always a good idea to draw up a formal note establishing the terms of the loan.

MEDICAL MYTHS

Drink eight glasses of water a day-NOT!

There's no evidence that your health will suffer by not gulping lots of water each day, according to a new article in BMJ, whose authors investigated six other medical myths. Studies suggest that people probably get adequate fluid intake by consuming fluids other than water, such as juice, milk, and even caffeinated drinks. In fact, downing too much water can be dangerous and has been associated with water intoxication, hyponatremia, and even death.

Other myths debunked in the BMJ article:

The study's authors said, "Physicians would do well to understand the evidence supporting their medical decision-making. While belief in the described myths is unlikely to cause harm, recommending medical treatment for which there is little evidence certainly can."