Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Choosing your Valentine from a Value investing standpoint

The most important decision a man can make is arguably his choice of wife. A wrong choice can ruin his happiness for the rest of his life. If he tries to regain his happiness by getting rid of the wrong wife, he risks financial ruin because of the huge cost of divorce. At least women gain financially when they divorce. Therefore, it is very important for men to put very careful thought into the screening criteria for potential wives. 

ALL men, including me, start off on a wrong foot when we look for wives. We are immediately turned on by a gorgeous hot babe. Naturally, we get instantly turned off by this other babe (click here).

Like value investors with a contrarian streak, we should not dismiss too quickly what makes us feel uncomfortable. Often, it is the unpopular and neglected that yields value.

Physical beauty is the most over-rated attribute among the qualities that men seek in women. It is so desired by men that we bid up prices of beautiful women in the marriage market to stratospheric heights and yet, is beauty really that important? Have you ever heard of parents advising their sons to get a hot babe who performs well on the bed so that he can receive good sex? To parents who know better, it is always about good character and someone who is respectful to them. Physical looks appeal to our basic animal spirits but in the ultimate scheme of things, they do not matter that much. Besides, all women, however beautiful, must become ugly some day. Aging is inevitable. Postponing the inevitable costs lots of money. Is that good value? Instead of paying up for a depreciating asset, should we men not focus on the more enduring assets like good character, mutual love, great communication, matching interests, good financial habits? It will be ideal if a gorgeous hot babe also possess these enduring assets. However, if such a woman comes along, she most likely will be very expensive to acquire. She will probably be spoilt by rich suitors who treat her with expensive dinners and gifts. The poor and middle-class simply cannot compete. For the richer ones, it will still cost a bomb. Why get yourself embroiled in a bidding war? On the other hand, if we were to place our bet on a value babe who possesses the enduring good assets but looks like a pig, she will not only be cheaper to acquire but the probability of success is also higher. Money spent on wooing girls who reject you yields zero returns. So, place your bets on higher-probability ones where there are no competing bidders.

Alright, I know I know. It is madness to expect men to settle down with a pig-like value babe. Just as investors should choose a style that suits their temperament, men should choose a wife that does not look too abhorrent to their taste. A plain-looking Jane with 2 eyes, 1 nose and 1 mouth should do fine.

If you are a cheapskate on the prowl for value, ugliness presents the opportunity for mis-pricing in the wife market. An ugly woman does not make a bad wife. In fact, it may be a blessing in disguise for her. I have a theory that men who marry beautiful women have a higher chance of straying. They marry for beauty. Unfortunately, the aging wife's beauty fades with time and when that happens (with 100% certainty), they look for a younger and prettier mistress. The ugly wife, on the other hand, is on safer grounds because the husband will hardly notice that the aging wife has gotten uglier because it cannot get any worse. Besides, if the husband really cared about beauty, he would not have married her in the first place. It may not be a bad idea for a man to get used to an ugly wife right from the start since she is going to become ugly one day anyway. This reduces the risk of him womanizing which is financially disastrous even for the rich because of the cost of divorce. Unfortunately, boys will be boys.

Since men are expected to foot the bill on dates, we should think of ways to minimize this cost. The most cost-effective way is to find a wife during your school days. As students, it is fair to expect both parties to go on Dutch since both are not earning an income.

Dating women near or slightly above the marriageable age yields a higher chance of landing a wife. When a woman gets older, she will start to worry about being left on the shelf. Older women are more serious about getting married. Therefore, money spent dating older women is more likely to yield returns than on younger women. The older age is a catalyst that will shorten the time for one's investment to bear fruit. Younger women who are not so keen on marriage will keep the poor man waiting and spending. To minimize your cost, keep your expenses on dates to women who are serious about marriage. The ideal case is to marry the first girl you date and kiss. This is not only cheap but the relationship is also healthy as it is free from past emotional baggage. This advice is not applicable to swinging bachelors who derive pleasure from switching girlfriends and having fun with lots of partners. This is just another freedom of choice for one's lifestyle, although it is a very expensive one.

For men who are thrifty and aim for financial freedom at an early age, it is very important to find a thrifty wife. It is hard to save if one party earns and the other spends. It is hard to fill a leaky bucket. Opposing financial habits in a couple can kill a relationship. The European crisis is an example of such a union at risk of breaking up because of the mismatch between thrifty Germany and spendthrift Greece.

From my personal experience, a good way to evaluate whether a girl is of wife material is to observe how she treats her own family. How she treats her family today is an indication of how she treats you when you become family tomorrow. If she is not a filial daughter, drop her. If she cannot get along with her siblings, find out why. If she loves her family very much and showers them with great care and generosity, she will probably be a good wife to you, a good mother to your children and a good daughter-in-law to your parents. Such a wife, even if she looks like a value babe, should bring happiness to the man who marries her.

Picking the right Valentine. A much more difficult task than picking the right stocks

9 years ago, I wrote about choosing your Valentine from a value investing standpoint. What I wrote then still stands today, Beauty is over...