Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Meditation on Money

Today I am working on my taxes. Like everyone else who makes at least part of their income as a self employed person, gathering all the receipts together so that you can calculate your income versus expenses is one of those tasks that demands a number of hours of time and attention and it can be frustrating if you have not kept your records and receipts where you can find them.

There are moments of enlightenment in this preparation. For example, identifying which expenses were a waste of money, and which brought a good return, thus pointing the way to be more efficient and more profitable next year.

Some people express a lot of anger over paying taxes, but I do not. Here are a few my insights on the subject.

Ask someone who used to have a good paying job and then lost it because their company moved that job to India or China, and I'll bet they would much rather have a decent paying job and pay taxes on that income rather than be on unemployment or working at some much lower paying job now.

If you think about it, every job that is off shored means one less income tax that a person will be able to pay, which, of course, reduces government income. On the whole, it also reduces the quality of life as people fall from an income bracket which would enable them to buy houses, cars, and make other major purchases. Another reason to be concerned about this corporate behavior.

Most people who start their own business have a dip in income before it rises again, unless they have someone who has given them money to use, or they have a spectacularly successful new beginning right off the bat.

There is concern about money wasted in pork barrel spending or earmarks. We probably never had a government budget that did not have any pork in it. Representatives will probably always be looking to get some of that for their home district, in the same way that lobbyists are always making donations to campaign funds in order to get laws passed that they want. Can we stop these practices? Unlikely.

One of the things that makes our country a good place to live and expresses our sense of decency toward other people is the use of our tax dollars to help those who are worse off get some help when they need it. Thus far, I have gone through my whole life without ever collecting one unemployment check or one set of food stamps. I am glad of that. I have seen or heard comments that some people would like to simply do away with Social Security and Medicare as a way of lowering their taxes. I do not agree. I have paid into Social Security since I was 14 when I got my first regular part time job and my Social Security card, and I certainly will be drawing out a monthly check when I get to be the right age for it. And if and when I am eligible for Medicare, I will use that too.

Here is a mystery of money to ponder. In all this discussion of reforming the health care system, some people raise the concern that if we covered everybody, where would the money come from? Did you hear this question before invading Iraq? Or Vietnam? Or wherever? When we have wars, where does that money come from? Or for that matter, questions of why we should get into a war. I would far prefer that my tax dollars help people get health care coverage than finance a war.

All in all, I regard paying taxes as just part of what it takes to live in this country. As I prepare my taxes, I keep an eye out for what I can learn from the process, and even though some money paid in may be wasted, I am sure that some of it is going for good purposes. I agree that our representatives do an imperfect job of managing our money.

As I look at my own expenditures, I never have a perfect year either. How would I define perfect? A year in which all of my expenses were wise and yielded great returns. No, every year I have spent some money wisely and some money foolishly and every year, I have made money on some investments and lost money on others.

This exercise is part of our learning process. Think of it as a meditation on money. And yes, I always have a professional help me prepare the forms and submit them. It is well worth it.

There is something to learn from all of the things we do, even the things we do not like to do. It is all part of raising consciousness.

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