When I was in my early twenties, I remember complaining to my grandfather about working so hard and yet having so much of my meager weekly earnings sucked out of my paychecks for taxes. He told me that paying taxes was a privilege, that I should be grateful for making enough money to be able to contribute to our country’s growth and stability. I didn’t know a heck of a lot about life at that time. Nor did I have much interest in government, politics, or social welfare. But I liked his sentiment and adopted it as my own. Regardless of how much money I earned, from that point on, I felt a sense of pride and ownership of this country when I saw my gross earnings lessened by state and federal income tax. I know it sounds weird. But having to pay those taxes qualified me as one of the lucky ones.
It’s funny how the stories we live in shape our views of the world. You can embrace gratitude for almost anything. (Although I admit to finding people who do that more than a little annoying.) But in this case, my grandfather taught me to appreciate an inevitable component of living that most people see, at best, as a monumental nuisance. Isn’t teaching our kids and grandkids how to live better and happier lives the single most meaningful thing we can do?
That’s why no matter how disappointed and frustrated my boys are, I’m not reneging on our new allowance policy. My husband and I have thought long and hard about this. We’ve studied the various philosophies about paying allowances. We’ve even instituted several programs that haven’t been terribly successful. So we are now embarking on an allowance policy that enables our kids to earn income for accomplishing daily chores around the house. The program allows our kids to sign up for weekly tasks and then earn 50 cents per completion of said tasks.
For my 11 year old, Levi, this means a chance to earn enough money to buy a real laptop, save for a car and even sock away a few bucks for college. (He’s a planner.) His motivation is truly impressive. Last week alone he earned $10.50 for the week. My husband created on-line bank accounts for both boys and worked with the boys to print up home-made checks as well as withdrawal and deposit slips.
I have to tell you though, I was a little bit shocked when I saw Levi’s paycheck on Sunday. His $10.50 gross income had come to little more than $4.00 after my husband subtracted Fica, State income tax, Social Security and insurance. Levi was crest-fallen. At first I thought my husband had gone too far. I mean, Federal and State income tax? But after I thought about it, I kind of came around to his philosophy. I mean, if our job as parents is to prepare our kids for the real world, what better way to do it than this? I mean, you hear so much moaning these days about kids and entitlement. Why not teach them to work harder for what they want. Placing a few realistic obstacles in their paths may seem cruel or unfair, but when you really think about, isn’t that the best way to lead by example and prepare them for the harsh realities ahead?
When Levi complained that he’d probably never be able to save enough for college at this rate, I told him about Grandpa Irwin’s philosophy. It made me happy to be able to share it with him, like I had passed on a small gift from my grandfather to my son.
They say that people live on through stories and shared memories. And so, on his birthday week, it gives me much joy to tell all of you a little bit about my grandfather; who he was, what he believed, and how his influence still resonates in all of our lives.