Where Does All Our Money Go?

This weekend, I had two things to accomplish; get my tax return in order and begin to shop for a new truck. Given that this is a very busy time of the year for me, I decided to quietly shop on-line for that new pickup while she got all of her tax documents together.

Since I am the financial professional of the household, I decided to make preparing our return and buying a new truck a simple two-step process.

Step one: Review our gross income to begin tax preparation while getting a better handle on our finances. Step two: Convince my wife that there was still time this afternoon to go kick a few tires. Surely, given our income level, a new truck is affordable.

Step one started on a high note, both of our W-2 forms showed that we earned more money than we had in 2016. Should I get the white or the black, 5.7L 4×4 Toyota Tundra?

Step two was about to begin when my wife, who is not an accountant, asked a very simple question, “Why doesn’t it feel like we make this much money?” Followed by the second more difficult question, “Where does all of our money go?”

Being an accountant, I thought I would summarize our gross income, reduce it by our taxes withheld and then detail our household expenses to best illustrate how we spend our money.

My project got cut short when we began reviewing the difference between gross and net pay. I felt the purse strings start to tighten, and rationalized that a gently treated preowned Tundra might be just as good. Thanks to the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943, this upper-middle income family had 47% of our income taken off the top for Federal, State, Social Security and Medicare taxes. Tax withholdings aside, that still left us with plenty for a used truck, right?

Slowly my wife crossed her arms and asked about our 401(k) deductions. I reviewed with her the benefits that I was sure that she already knew about and explained that that too can directly off the top. Given the dollars that come directly from our gross pay, she suggested that it might be wise if we budget our expenses for the new year.

I am a CPA; I could surely whip up a budget before the dealership closed. We proceeded to draft our 2018 budget, while I closely monitored the time.

With 53% of our after tax and retirement savings left to budget, the numbers quickly unfolded; deduct 18% for housing, 8% for auto, 7% for food, 6% for healthcare, 5% to charity, 5% to savings, that left 4% for everything else. I thought we were done; I’ll take the 2014 black 4×4 Tundra please. “Did you budget for our after tax season trip to the Bahamas?” she asked.

It was then that I realized, my 2007 Toyota worked just fine.

Jamie Boulette, CPA has 30 years of tax experience and is managing director of Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs with offices in Bath and Oakland. He can be reached at jboulette@pfbf.com or 371-8002.

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