Why it's never too early to talk taxes



Barbara Stewart, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

The first time I remember hearing about income tax was playing Monopoly as a kid. I hated landing on that space, because I had to pay rather than collect, but that was about as much I understood.

Even when I was in my teens, I recall adults doing their taxes as a task that wasn't just mysterious: it was extremely difficult -- scary even.

I had to file my own taxes when I was 23, and I was so ignorant of the whole process that I paid (out of my meagre earnings) for an accountant to do them. It was a different story for many of the smart women I have interviewed as part of my ongoing research. Quite a few of them mention tax time as a pivotal part of their upbringing, and a key part of how they went on to successful careers in the world of finance.

One woman's dad was a self-made, middle-class investor who worked in the military. When she was 14, he gave her all his T4s and receipts and asked her to do his taxes for him. She had to ask a lot of questions, of course, but it was a great way to learn about money. It came easily to her and she soon knew all the lines on the tax form.

As the years progressed, their discussions became more complex. He would ask her things like how would it affect her taxes if she ever got divorced or what would happen if she realized capital gains on her stock portfolio. She loved it, and she is now a freelance business editor.

Another woman's father suggested she invest the first $500 earned from her job at Canadian Tire. She fondly remembers him walking her into his broker's office and she recalls the feeling of opening her first investment account. Even though her father was an accountant, he asked her to complete her own tax return. Her dad would leave her in a room to figure it out and she would ask questions when necessary. Now she's a chartered accountant and portfolio manager.

In today's society, young people are educated in many ways. But they are not often given the opportunity to reflect on and develop their own set of values.

I believe in the power of wise messages from families, friends and mentors as a tool to influence and inform values around money and possibly even a life path.

Looking for a topic for your next Sunday dinner table conversation? Talk about taxes with your kids. What percentage of your household income goes to pay taxes? What does this money get spent on? Discuss the importance of Old Age Security, Employment Insurance, child benefits, and various social and educational programs.

Whether or not you are a parent yourself, passing on advice, life lessons or wisdom can end up making a huge difference in helping a younger person understand money matters.

Having input in conversations about taxes (or money in general) can directly build confidence, and confidence is the fundamental element that will drive a lifetime of rich accomplishments.