Once upon a time, my wife and I were like the vast majority of young parents our age—struggling to keep the family fed and the bills paid and always, it seemed, a little desperate. We seemed to live somewhere on the edge of having just barely enough and never quite enough money. It was maddening. I was happy teaching English, but every bill and late-payment reminder had me feeling guilty that I hadn’t been more practical and become a lawyer, an engineer, or a plumber—you know…someone who could pay the bills. And buy a house. And take vacations now and then.
One day, because my grandmother was driving my mother up the wall with her insistence that my wife and I should try out for a TV game show called Chain Reaction, Mum begged me to either go for it or tell my grandmother that it was out of the question. So we watched the show, looked at each other, tried out, were accepted, and retired undefeated champs. Oh, and we won $12,900—a fortune. The timing was providential: our car had long since gone to meet its assembly-line worker, and with a second child in the nearish future, we needed a larger place to live. Our windfall allowed us to pay off the credit card, move, and buy what we needed: a fridge, a stove, and a second-hand car. It was the perfect outcome—until, as I was shuttling boxes between the old apartment and our new three-bedroom palace, the transmission on our new “pre-owned” car stopped doing what transmissions do. The cost of putting everything right put us more or less back where we’d been.
I didn’t learn the lesson I should have learned that day until a few years later, when another windfall—a tax refund, I think—allowed us to breathe again a sigh of economic relief. It was as we were discussing that windfall and the brighter future it promised that the fridge died. The cost of the new one just about equalled the amount of the tax refund. What rotten timing, I thought, the fridge conking out just as…and then it hit me, and I learned The Lesson: Never let any appliance hear about any influx of money. To do so is pretty much to guarantee that the fridge, stove, TV, or furnace will come very abruptly to the end of its useful life.
My mother decided a few years ago to give her kids a bit of her estate in advance. I hated having to tell her that within days, though I’m fairly sure I didn’t say anything while near them, my washer and dryer and my car somehow found out. And this year, I was feeling rather pleased that I’d be able to add a bit to my RRSP, but I must have said something out loud somewhere because now I need a new car. And my basement’s sprung a leak—in fact, I think it’s two leaks.
And so, while I’m certainly no financial whiz, I do have some words of wisdom to offer. Should you find yourself on the receiving end of a tax refund this year, do not reveal, let alone discuss the fact anywhere near your fridge or furnace, or indeed anywhere in the house, or in your car. It’s much safer (less expensive) to discuss such things—if you must—somewhere your appliances can’t hear you, at the bank, perhaps, or in the middle of a very large park. Just make sure your laptop isn’t with you.
Murray Lewis, Editor-in-Chief