Love is a crappy investment.

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Love is a crappy investment.

Stick with me.

I’m not a robot or a sociopath.

But I do have an MBA.

And love, for most of what we know, does not make business sense.

Unconditional terms

Why does it suck? Let me count the ways.

Love is supposed to be unconditional. You are to give all your resources: time, effort, money–unconditionally, without expecting nothing in return.

No way to diversify the risk. You have to be all in.

Love leads to relationships, and relationships lead to marriage. We scope the market, do our due diligence, and make one picking–the best one–and we hope for the best.

Because we are going to spend eternity with them, for richer, for poorer.

Marriage is a whole other ball game. It’s a lifetime contract that requires no performance evaluation–it’s like promising an employee lifetime employment and stock options–hope he or she will still perform well in the best of your interests, ten or twenty years down the line.

Love ain’t cheap

Happily-ever-afters can come with a hefty price tag. A hefty diamond ring–and then some: do you know that the average wedding costs $35,000? The wedding industry is a US $72 billion dollar industry, and increasing every year.

However despite the spike in costs, we see the marriage success rate drop significantly. A marriage lasts about 8 years on average. In the US, 50% of first marriages end in divorce; of second marriages, 67%, and third marriages, 74% end in divorce. (CNBC)

A divorce costs a whopping US $100,000 on average.

As most marriages are likely to end in divorce, marriage is also abetting to the thriving (and maybe more lucrative) divorce industry. Divorce is big business–employing divorce lawyers, counselors, therapists don’t come cheap.

Further, the negative externalities that come with the territory: the pain, suffering, stress that comes with the territory that you, your ex-spouse, and your children will have to endure.

How to make love less crappy

So how do I make love–and relationships– less crappy?

Simple: Relationships suck because we don’t approach it like a business investment. And we should.

There is an investment mantra, ‘don’t let your emotions drive your investment decisions’. Investors are supposed to make rational decisions based on available information–weighing evidence, before deciding on the most sensible choice. Emotion is the worst enemy of investors because it clouds them from making rational decisions.

But most of the time, relationships are mostly about emotions–human beings as we are. It is all about feelings. Love is supposed to be about that giddy feeling. But love is all about emotions! Love is that dangerous cocktail of serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine that drive people into illogic and euphoria.

The good news is, the feeling of falling in love is only temporary. Otherwise, it could drive you to madness.

‘Serendipity’ may be romantic, but it’s just not that sustainable.

It’s taboo to think of love like a business deal. But in a lot of ways, it kind of is. Like financial investments, you have to put something into it. You invest not just once, but consistently over time. Over time, it grows and becomes more valuable. (JSM)

If done right, the returns of investing in a relationship are even greater than any financial market out there. You yield short term and long term returns, not just financially. A relationship provides us love, company, excitement. You get a teammate for life.

Thus to make love less of a crappy deal, pick the right partner.

Pick the right partner.

If you look at the ultra-successful billionaires, they are successful in marriage just as they are in money-making.

Sure, many of the filthy rich have trophy wives; or multiple marriages. But more billionaires are in their first wives than those who are not (FT). Folks in the three-comma-club have 20-year long marriages on average. That’s way longer than the average of 8 years.

According to The Financial Times: Warren Buffett (52 years). The Late Steve Jobs (20). Carlos Slim (32). Michael Dell (20). Richard Branson (24). Ray Dalio (40) Mark Zuckerberg (too early to tell, but they’ve been together since 2003 and married 2012).

And Bill and Melinda Gates have been married for so long that, if they broke up, I would lose all faith in humanity.

Even if they all have all the money to impress younger, hotter wives; and more money to pay off the old one, they still choose to make their marriages work. The ultra-rich know this: it’s practical to avoid the costs of an unsuccessful partnership.

Separation comes with monetary and emotional costs that will drain your resources.

This does not mean you should stay in a relationship for the sake of it. Assess and choose the right partner: love, passion, and trust are an essential foundation. Then comes shared goals: do you share the same values, are you working towards the same goals?

When you choose to be with someone, you are deciding on a business partner, sexual partner and life partner all at once.

Your partner will yield immense power in many aspects of your life.

They could make you the best version of yourself. Or make your life a living hell.

Bad relationships are like bad investments–you may recoup the money you spent, but you can’t recover the time wasted. Sunk costs.

Just like all bits of advice, this is all easier said than done. How do you pick the right one?

I have my own framework (because MBA–we love our frameworks) and I’ll share them with you in part 2. My framework may differ from yours–we all have different sets of needs, wants, and priorities. Knowing what kind of partner you want starts with some self-assessment and self-awareness.

If you don’t share the same goals and work ethic, if your partner is only concerned about maintaining a high lifestyle, then no level of income would ever be enough for both of you.

if your partner has different attitudes towards spending and saving, they will end up hemorrhaging your bank account and bankrupting your morality.

Rather than being stuck with a deadweight, it is better to be single than to be trapped in a wrong relationship.

Time (and experience) is an asset

Don’t marry too early, and only marry once you’re sure it’s the right thing to do.

Sure–in financial investing, the earlier you start, the better. However, you must also invest in something that you understand too.

Take Warren Buffett–he only invests on what he understands. He started investing in stocks at 11…but that was because he already understood it at that age. On the other hand, he was very averse to investing in tech stocks–because, to his own admission, he didn’t understand it.

Only time–the aggregate of all experiences and knowledge–can provide a clearer picture of yourself and the partner you should be with. If you weren’t ready to invest in something long-term–don’t yet.

In our younger years, we have different priorities. We are selfish and foolish, too focused on partying and chasing. In my immature years, I would not have appreciated the right partner I would need now.

In investing, both personal and financial, it’s important to make sound decisions. To identify assets from liabilities; to identify potential risks and returns; and to identify those that grow value over time.

If done right, love can net you more benefits in life. It feels more fulfilling, and rewarding, to be loved by someone we loved–no dollar amount can replace that.

We need to start thinking of love more as an investment, and not as mere serendipity and a force we cannot control. That way, we can make better decisions and fewer mistakes when it comes to relationships.


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