The Economics of Love, Lee Iacocca, Hamburgers, and Statistics

Horace Tabor:  “Wait a minute, you can’t buy a woman for money!”
Mad Jack Duncan:  “You just try and get one without it.”

Paint Your Wagon


Flowers for Mother’s Day.  2006 or so.  See, I’m a romantic.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s Wealthy Wednesday here at Wilder, Wealthy and Wise, so let’s look at Money.  And Love.

Are money and love connected?  Intimately connected, though they don’t text each other as much as FBI agents do.  (Seriously – 50,000 texts to a mistress using the company phone?  They’d burn you or I alive as a lesson to the surviving employees before they fired us.)

But money is related to love – married couples are four times (4!) wealthier than their unmarried compatriots.  Actually, each of the married partners has twice what they would have had if they were single, but there are two of them, so, four times.  Why?

  • Stable – If you’re married, you have an emotional backstop and cheerleader. If you’re single, you have a starter cat on your way to becoming a cat lady.
  • Multiple Income Streams – Although both of you might not be working – both of you can work if necessary. That makes working through a family economic crisis easier.
  • Economy of Scale – Two can’t live as cheaply as one. But it doesn’t cost twice as much for a married couple.
  • Accountability – You’ve got someone to help you make better choices – like not going to the bar on Tuesday night. And Wednesday night.  And Thursday night . . . .
  • Healthier, and Happier (but Fatter) – Married couples are consistently healthier and happier than their unmarried counterparts. This translates into better wages and greater productivity at work – and more money.
  • Responsibility – You’re working not only for yourself, but others depend on you. You’d better do your best.

So, yes, being married matters.  But you have to choose wisely:  divorced folks are actually worse off than never-married folks from a financial perspective.  Wilder Love Advice #1:  If you get married, stay married.

How did I learn that wonderful advice?  I broke it.  I got a divorce, way long into the distant past.  Why?  I assure you the reasons were pretty good.

As Henny Youngman asked:  “Why are divorces so expensive?”

“They’re worth it.”

But divorces are expensive:

  1. Lawyers are expensive. They have to buy BMWs and pay for their mistresses and their own divorces.
  2. Alimony, which is a medical procedure where the wallet is extracted through the nose.
  3. Cost of splitting stuff – like household goods. Now you need two irons.  And two coffee makers.  And two Holy Grails.
  4. Child care goes up. You’re both working now, so someone has to watch the children.
  5. Child support costs bunches. And, ironically, is often not even spent on the child . . . .

If my calculations are right, (they were done some time ago) my divorce cost me over $250,000 in 2017 dollars.  Not all of that money went to my ex-wife – a lot of it was interest on money I had to borrow to pay her off.  If I had put that money into the stock market instead?  It would be worth about $650,000 right now.  So, yeah, divorce is pricey.

But worth it.

Besides not getting married, how do you avoid divorce?  I think the best answer involves retired automotive executive Lee Iacocca.  Iacocca was famous for being the brains behind the original Mustang® from Ford™.  When Chrysler Motor Company© was nearly bankrupt, they hired Iacocca to come run the place as CEO.


This is Lee Iacocca – who never had tapioca in Topeka (at least as far as I know).  But the man sure knew his burgers . . . and his love of burgers can teach you about . . . love.  (photo Public Domain)

Back then, being the CEO of a major company came with perks – Chrysler had a chef hired just to cook for the CEO.  Like lunch.  A guy whose job it was to cook for one person.  So on his first day, Iacocca’s assistant asked him what he wanted for lunch – Iacocca replied, whatever, get me a hamburger.

Iacocca was at his desk, looking over some numbers when the burger came back.  He absently took a bite of the burger and then stopped.  The burger was amazing.

The burger was the best burger he had ever had.  Ever.

He dropped everything.  “I need to talk to the chef.”

They introduced Lee to the chef – “Chef, this is the best burger I’ve ever had.  What did you do?”

The chef got a thick, marbled ribeye out of the refrigerator, and ground it up.

Chef:  “First you start with the right meat.”  And that’s the secret with marriage – marry a ribeye.  Start with the right meat.

After my first marriage I knew what I didn’t want.  And if you don’t know exactly what you want, at least knowing what you don’t want gives a direction.  The night I met The Mrs. (at that time she was The Miss), I actually interviewed her (LINK) to verify that none of the things that had plagued my previous relationship would surface in her particular bag of insanity.  She passed.  And yes, I really did use evil interviewing techniques the night we met.

Let’s say you suck at interviewing.  How do you avoid a divorce?

  • Start with a ribeye of a partner.
  • If you’re looking for a girl – she shouldn’t have had many sexual partners. More than a few and divorce is in the air on day one.  There is, however, no correlation with large numbers of sexual partners and guys being a divorce risk.  Who says it’s bad to be a guy?  We even get to die first!
  • If they’ve lived with a bunch of people, or even one or two?
  • If their parents are divorced?
  • If their values are significantly different?
  • Ideal age for a bride?
  • Used to be: Piercings, tattoos, and strangely colored hair?    Now in 2018?  Still risky.
  • Liberals get divorces much more frequently than conservatives.
  • If you smoke and they don’t?
  • If they smoke and you don’t?
  • The smoking thing? Replace it with drinking.  If you drink, she should drink.
  • Be Catholic. Very low divorce rate, also wine on Sunday.
  • Be a college graduate. Marry a college graduate.  Low divorce rates and better insults during arguments.
  • Make more than $50,000. Money problems tear up a relationship.  Actually “Lack of money problems” is a better description.
  • Don’t be knocked up. Easier if you’re a dude.
  • Don’t have a daughter as child number one. Dunno why – higher divorce rate.

On this St. Valentine’s Day you can even follow my routine:  I’ll get home, ask what’s for dinner, complain that it has onions in it, and then grab The Mrs. and look deeply into her eyes.  I’d give her chocolates, flowers and a card.  Except I’m not 12.  I’ll lean my lips in, brushing her ear with them as I tell her, barely above a husky whisper,

“You have produced an adequate wealth effect in my life.”

I’m all romantic like that.

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

The food fight is ON! Comments are OPEN!