A modified version of the post Candy Tax and other Childhood Grudges
My shove into the world of taxation didn’t come during my sophomore year of college when I worked my first legit job. The first memory I have of taxation (pretty sure it was without representation) occurred Halloween night 1993.
Dressed in my finest green felt with an orange feather stuck in my cap, I made the rounds of Heritage Woods as the cutest Peter Pan you ever did see. My one year old sister held court in her stroller wearing a matching Tinker Bell ensemble. Between her huge blue eyes and my endearing wit, we were really bringing home a substantial candy haul.
When we got home I ran to the living room and dumped the contents of my cloth pumpkin bag onto the floor. Oh the candy. So much yummy candy. Unfortunately, our two big dogs came running and I had to defend my stash. My Dad called off the hounds and I eased up my defensive stance realizing, a moment too late, a bigger threat had entered my candy territory.
Leaning down to pluck a fun size bag of Skittles from my pile, my Dad said the two worst words I had ever heard: “candy tax.”
My mouth dropped open and I yelled, “put it back!”
Those Skittles were my hard earned income. I shoved my body into a green-felt Peter Pan costume for those Skittles. I told jokes to the cranky lady down the street for those Skittles.
THOSE WERE MY SKITTLES!
My Dad looked at me and said, “We took you trick-or-treating, so we get some of your candy.”
Granted, I was four and much too young to truly understand taxation, but in my mind it stood for someone coming in and unjustly taking something I had worked hard to earn. Almost 20 years later when I received my first “real job” pay check and saw Federal, State and New York City taxes taken out I’m pretty sure I opened up to my mouth to yell, “put it back!”
Apart from my financial origin story, I learned about net profit after selling Krispy Kreme donuts at a yard sale, candy tax is my earliest memory about finance. I’m blessed to have two parents who were committed to making sure I had an understanding of finances early on in life. An understanding and respect for money is empowering and, in my opinion, one of the greatest gifts parents can give their child.
Even when we were little, my sister and I weren’t handed much. Sure, birthdays and Christmas were elaborate affairs filled with glorious toys, but in between we learned how to earn what we wanted or helped pay for it ourselves.
If I pointed out a toy at the store and asked for it, my Mom or Dad would ask if I was willing to pay for half. If I met them at 50 percent, then I could have the stuffed animal (it was always a stuffed animal). Nine times out of ten I wasn’t interested in paying the $4.50 it usually cost for a cuddly creature.
However, this tactic taught me to evaluate purchases and prevent impulse buys at an incredibly early age. It’s a tough skill to learn later in life, especially when you have bills to pay.
I have many peers who feel some of my financial tales are cruel at best. They see it unjust that a parent would take candy from a baby, take the seed money back from donut stand profits and require a child to pay 50% of the cost of a toy (or later in life, the cost of college). Many of those peers are the same ones who don’t have any grasp on personal finance. Instead, they choose to rely on mom and dad or simply live in ignorance hoping they can pay the bills each month.
With Halloween coming up this week, I encourage those with children to consider using the holiday to teach about taxes. It might result in some tears, at first, but perhaps it will leave a lasting impression that could be the foundation for a life of financial literacy.