“If you are truly serious about preparing your child for the future, don’t teach him to subtract — teach him to deduct.” Fran Lebowitz
Here in the United States, we spend about $1.3 trillion on education, including early childhood programs, K-12th grade, the whole college-industrial complex, and adult learning and continuing education. This is obviously crucial for training the next generation of Americans to lead and make responsible choices. But how much of that $1.3 trillion do we spend on the sort of truly practical wisdom that makes the day-to-day challenges of life easier to navigate? For example — how much do we teach our children about the taxes they’re going to spend the rest of their life paying?
“Make sure you pay your taxes, otherwise you can get in a lot of trouble.” Richard M. Nixon
Most kids don’t think much about taxes except as something their parents grumble about, until they get their first paycheck and wonder “who the heck is FICA?” But signing up for that first part-time job is like swiping right on the IRS, expecting a fling but getting a lifelong relationship. The average American pays six figures in taxes over the course of their lifetime. But you aren’t raising your kids to be “average,” are you? No, your kids are going to pay way more than that. What should you teach them about it? What do you wish your parents had taught you?
“From a tax point of view, you’re better off raising horses or cattle than children.” Former U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder
Probably the most important thing to teach them is that taxes aren’t something that “just happens” to them every April 15. Children grow up to become voters, and the choices they make on Election Day can have a lot to do with how much they pay. Children also should learn that taxes can be something they plan — they shouldn’t just wait until April 15 for their accountant to tell them how much they owe when they have the chance to work with us to learn how to pay less. They ought to learn that cheating is foolish, especially when there are so many legal ways to pay less.
“Just because you have a briefcase full of cash doesn’t mean you’re out to cheat the government.” Pete Rose
Raising smart, successful children is rarely easy. You can outsource reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic to your local schools. But there’s no AP class in practical finance — no semester-long program that covers how health insurance works, or how to navigate the world of office politics, or how to get over a broken heart. (Compared to those things, taxes are easy!) But like it or not, your kids will be paying them forever, so you might as well set them up to do it with the right attitude!
“If you get up early, work late, and pay your taxes, you will get ahead — if you strike oil.” J. Paul Getty