Where'd all the money go? If you spent part of the Labor Day weekend paying bills, that question may have entered your mind. I may be able to help with a partial answer:
Washington. That's where a substantial chunk of your hard-earned cash went.
Except at income tax filing time, you probably don't think much about the bite Uncle Sam takes out of your wallet or purse. That's by design; income tax withholding from your paycheck, a little at a time, makes the full tab less noticeable.
Let's look at the income tax bill (yours will be different; these numbers are based on averages, use of standard deductions and calculations by a computer tax preparation program):
If you're married with two kids and you and your spouse earn a combined income of $60,000 a year, you'll pay about $1,940 in federal taxes and another $2,290 to the state of West Virginia.
Once the kids move out, Uncle Sam moves in: Your federal tax bill goes up to $5,110. Another $3,460 goes to Charleston.
That's far from all of it. Regardless of whether you have dependent children, you and the spouse also will pay $870 in Medicare taxes. You won't even see the $3,370 your employers withheld for Social Security.
And that's just half the bill. Your employers also had to kick in $3,370. That's money that, without Social Security payments, they could have given you directly.
Should you and the spouse get better jobs and push your income up to $80,000, it gets substantially worse. Without dependent children, you'll pay $8,150 in federal income taxes and $3,840 to the state. Social Security will take $4,960 from your checks and Medicare will get another $1,160.
Your $80,000 has just been reduced by $18,110 - more if you count your employers' shares of Social Security.
That's just the obvious pain you feel from taxes.
If you own a nice home, you'll pay $900 or more a year in property taxes.
If you buy clothing, appliances, medicine - anything but food - West Virginia's sales tax adds 6 percent to the tab. Assuming you spend $12,000 on taxable goods, that's $720.
We'll be conservative and assume you only drive 12,000 miles a year in cars that average 25 mpg. State and federal fuel taxes will cost you $260.
You'll pay another $200-$300 a year in personal property taxes on your two vehicles.
Decided not to buy government-approved health insurance? That'll cost your family a minimum of $285 in penalties.
Depending on where you live, you may pay a few hundred dollars a year in local government fees for services such as fire protection. Look closely at your phone and cable bills. There are taxes tacked on to them. Call it $500 a year when all those miscellanous hidden taxes are added up.
If you're in that $60,000 income category and get all the breaks such as deducations for children, figure about $8,500 a year just in the taxes and fees listed above. If you're at $80,000, without kids, government takes nearly $21,000 a year.
That's just what you know about.
Everyone from whom you buy goods or services pays taxes, too. They pass the cost on to you.
Did I forget to mention the cost of companies complying with government regulations?
When all is said and done, government may well be spending more of your money than you do.