When I was a young child, toys, snacks and trips to the amusement park just magically appeared. I was fortunate to not have to worry about where the money came from to pay for stuff, and if I wanted something, I usually got it pretty darn quick. Please don't read me wrong. I definitely knew at a young age where the dollar came from and how hard my dad worked to make sure I had everything his little girl desired.
My dad worked his regular 9-5 job as a project managing engineer, and then on the weekends he'd pack the van with espadrilles and sell them at flea markets. To this day, I can't be sure if he gave up his weekends selling shoes to pay for my ice skating lessons or if it was his intention to teach me about money.
Breaking It Down to Explain to Your Kids
Let's say my dad worked 40 hours a week at $20 an hour at his full-time job. His gross income was $41,575 per year, but that's not what he brought home. Of his $3,200 monthly paycheck, a huge chunk was taken to pay federal, state and local taxes right off the top. In addition, a portion went to fund federal Social Security (For 2013, the employee tax rate for social security increased to 6.2 percent = $200) and Medicare programs (Your total income is taxed at 1.45 percent = $45). He also had money deducted from his paycheck for health and life insurance, and he contributed to a retirement plan.
What are taxes used for?
Taxes pay for schools, roads, colleges and governments. Tax money also stabilizes the economy by providing unemployment, homeless and welfare service, and the military.
Once Uncle Sam takes his 20 percent ($640 in this example), my dad's paycheck still had to be stretched to pay the mortgage/rent ($1125), make a car payment ($200), put gas in the car ($250), pay the water, sewage and electric bill ($175), pay the cell phone bill ($75) and buy food ($400). When all the bills were paid, with only $335 remaining, there wasn't much left for fun — vacations, dinners out, birthday parties — much less savings. Thanks, Dad, for making it look easy and for giving me the tools needed to be money conscious. He did all this and still managed to save money for my wedding.
Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom who is trying desperately to raise a money conscious 4 year-old.