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Weekend reading: Economics from the heart

Weekend reading

Some good reads from around the web.

A couple of decades ago, a friend of mine wrote a short semi-spoof mathematical proof on relationships and sex.

I don’t remember the specifics – something about numbers of dates versus the chances six months later of certain steamy sexual acts – but for five minutes it was very popular on the Internet (which meant it got emailed around a lot: that was the Internet two decades ago!)

We’ve come a long way since then. Today my friend’s proof would be spread by Twitter and Facebook, and, equally, nobody would bat an eyelid. Applying esoteric academic theory to love and marriage has gone from an undergraduate joke to mainstream respectability.

Personally, I remain very partial to explanations of why I am so much more attractive in my 30s to women than when I was 21 (it’s certainly not my sports car!) or why so few men try to chat up the one ‘Perfect 10‘ in a bar.

Such theories are full of holes, of course, and desperately short of romance. Yet like all economic theory, pretending the world is populated by Vulcans making purely rational choices (rather than by us nutters who really do inhabit it) can yield interesting insights, and make you feel less frustrated about your partner’s obviously compromised mental state, as this article from Salon explains:

Imagine, for example, a woman who has hooked up with a guy and has to weigh the cost and benefit of either staying the night or sneaking out to get a better night’s sleep in her own bed.

Either way, it’s all about resources and trade-offs,” says Paula Szuchman, author of the upcoming Spousonomics.

“If you start thinking instead like, what will he think if I leave, how will I be perceived if I don’t leave, etc., etc., you muddy the waters. If you take out the static and focus on the actual trade-off — sleep or no sleep — you’ll make the right decision. In theory.”

So take heart, mon petit: There’s an equation out there somewhere to mend it!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s keep the gift giving frugal out there.

From the money and investing blogs

Money Maven roundup

Mainstream money media sites

  • What is driving exchanges’ urge to merge? – Peston/BBC
  • The pound question – Flanders/BBC
  • State of the world’s forests (chart) – The Economist
  • How will global miners spend their fortunes? – The Economist
  • Value beats growth, 20 times over – The Motley Fool
  • New acronyms for the BRIC-generation – The Motley Fool
  • Anthony Bolton gives an update on investing in China – FT
  • Better deals for buy-to-let investors – FT
  • Most with-profit pensions have underperformed tracker funds – FT
  • Another new kind of structured product – FT
  • Analysing an illiquid rare coin collection – FT
  • Women will get £2,000 a year less from state pension – Telegraph
  • Billions lie unclaimed in dormant accounts – Telegraph
  • Employers cutback staff perks due to downturn – Independent
  • Russian risks and rewards – Independent
  • Banks offer new online money management tools – Independent
  • Tesco launches 5.2% seven-year retail bond – Guardian

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • 1 Len Penzo February 12, 2011, 6:36 pm

    When we humans are in our late teens and 20s, it is the ladies who are holding all the cards — at least when it comes to the game of love. But over the slow roll of time, things start to change. The pool of eligible bachelors starts to shrink markedly as we enter our 30s, around the same time the single ladies begin to not only compete with a larger pool of younger gals, but they also hear their “biological clocks” ticking.

    So I’m not sure if us guys are *really* more attractive in our 30s to the ladies — or it’s merely a slight case of desperation setting in with the opposite sex. LOL

    All the best,

    Len Penzo dot Com

  • 2 The Investor February 12, 2011, 11:35 pm

    @Len – Yes, that partly explains it I’m sure, except it also holds for women in their 20s! (Or at least some — more than when I actually was in my 20s is the point…) I think it’s a combination of more confidence, not caring as much (until I get to really know/care about someone), and having less to prove. Something like that?

    As I say, it’s not the bling because I’m still hoarding it all, mu ha ha. 😉

    Perhaps I was just impossibly geeky in my 20s, so I’ve just come up to average.

  • 3 Surio February 13, 2011, 4:48 am

    I didn’t know what you were driving at, until I came upon the “Valentine’s day” in the end. Here’s a valentine’s day strip for the curmudgeons amongst us (yours truly included there)

  • 4 Surio February 13, 2011, 4:50 am

    OK, didn’t know “img” tags are not supported. Sorry. Find the strip here.

  • 5 Marc February 13, 2011, 5:44 am

    I think Len is more or less right, probably a soul-destroying biological/evolutionary logic to it. Most women prefer older guys, turns out they are generally wealthier, less capricious, dependable, … et cetera – these factors will confer great benefits to potential offspring and thus further the success of the Woman’s [half of the] genetics. Hence the cycle continues that proliferates such innate behaviour (in general).

    Women also have a very limited window of reproductive capability as alluded to by Len. Plus, biologically speaking, they don’t have many chances to put out their genetic legacy whereas men can take the “scatter-gun” approach – Women generally attempt to opt for quality over quantity ;-).

    We can’t completely generalise, but these are just biological trends – for instance usually only men ever need to “try” to get sex (incredibly ugly females aside). Sure, our conscious thoughts and ability to override simple urges mean we have a large variation in behaviour but you can see trends.

    However, you frequently refer to primitive instincts cocking up investment strategy (pun not intended), well I believe this is exactly the same situation. We aren’t able to manipulate our fundamental instincts as much as we might think, the fact we still exist points to certain behavioural traits being more-or-less imperative.

  • 6 Financial Samurai February 13, 2011, 4:56 pm

    Just wait till your in you 40s! You’ll be the king player pimp Monevator as the female pool will be even greater, and you’ll have that much more money!


  • 7 The Investor February 13, 2011, 9:40 pm

    @Sam – Well, I have to admit I don’t stay up at night worrying from that point of view. I do wonder if I am missing out on something else though. I just have never felt the big draw/compulsion to have the alternative life of a family house full of kids. Lots of people I respect did, do, and tell me I should though. We’ll see – it’s certainly not on the cards at present.

    (Not sure how we got down this path, but readers shouldn’t draw the conclusion that I am moving around London’s clubs and bars like some modern Alfie with a girl on each arm. I am admittedly occasionally doing that (well, one woman at a time, and usually the same one for a good old stint) but more often I’m in front of this bl*sted computer, or similarly engaged. 😉 ).

  • 8 engin33r February 14, 2011, 5:53 pm

    Just want to say thanks. Every Monday when I come into work these lists are a fantastic way to start the week. I especially enjoyed the “Did you miss the best 2 years…” by Gen X.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  • 9 The Investor February 14, 2011, 9:48 pm

    @engin33r – Great to hear, thanks for taking the time to write your comment. It can feel a bit of a treadmill collating them some Saturday mornings, so it’s good to know there are people who enjoy them.

  • 10 Surio February 18, 2011, 7:14 am

    Yes, how impolite of me for not mentioning this before. I agree with engin33r. These weekend reading links are superb. And the surprise is also somewhat doubled when you find your own post got a mention at one time or another. 🙂

    Thank you for taking the time.

  • 11 The Investor February 19, 2011, 10:47 am

    @surio — Thanks and you’re welcome!

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