‘A billion and one’

Several authors appear to be credited with writing about ‘death and taxes’ over the years.

I had a look.

The first reference appears to be from Daniel Defoe, in The Political History of the Devil, 1726: “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.”

Benjamin Franklin used the more common reference we hear today, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Something to do with forming a constitution and introducing voting.

It’s subsequently been used in 1930s poetry, it’s been the title of a variety of popular novels, comics and even a film by the same name in 1993. A music and culture website operates under this name and a brewer makes beer called Death and Taxes.

It’s been the title of TV episodes of Magnum, Zorro, The Bill and ER, amongst others with which I’m less familiar.

I’ll bet it’s been quoted a billion times by people all around the world since it was first mentioned. Probably.

Yet it’s wrong.

Most people have great difficulty predicting their own death and have no idea what tax they are due.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if people could just confirm exactly when they are going to die and how much they are going to earn, meantime. Oh, and perhaps tell us their attitude to risk and their views on assets classes, for that matter. At the very least, they should understand the converse relationship between pound cost averaging and ravaging.

And inheritence, why oh why can’t people just be clear exactly who is going to survive them when they (predictably) die, and the relationships that will prevail across their extended families.

And for goodness sake, do people not know whether they want to go Flexi or Uncrystallised.

Or precisely what they’ll get from the new State Pension. Or how means testing works.

Seemingly not. Maybe they need advice.

I think the phrase should be “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, including death, taxes and all other aspects of pension provision. See an adviser.”

A billion and one.