Being married to the fairer sex, one often finds themselves watching television shows that don’t normally show up on their radar in order to spend quality time with said partner. Funny, as when Star Wars comes on I find myself quickly alone in the room. Marriage is about sacrifices though and so last night I sat through 90 minutes of what I can only imagine the CIA refers to as water-boarding.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t exploit my discomfort to find some pop-culture references that can be tied into something for this blog. Usually, I prefer to do these lists with things I actually like (see below), but I can make an exception.

So what can a reality show that by its very nature defies the statistics behind matchmaking teach us about money? Just see:

If something is profitable, make more: And it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to make money. This is really what The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have always been about. Television and movie producers will happily take concept and run it into the ground. Not only have the original shows had many seasons, but offshoots of the concept like Joe Schmo, Joe Millionaire, and Flavor of Love and more have also had varying degrees of success. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t even have to be a success based on the fake premise of one person finding love among dozens of members of the opposite sex. It just needs to be entertaining. This model isn’t limited to TV. We see this in toys, video games, and just about any form of entertainment because product and content executives really have no idea what will work until it’s in front of the people.

Nothing is safe, there are no guarantees: On The Bachelorette one beautiful woman is given 25 guys that will try to court her. Through a long and drawn out process of elimination she will get the group down to just one and then that one must choose to be with her or not. Many times the show ends with the two engaged or at least caught up in a fairy-tale style romance. The reality is that the couples don’t normally last. This is easily evidenced by the fact the current bachelorette won on the last bachelor and then they broke up. The same thing of course applies to our finances. No investment is perfectly safe. Any investment, even the cash in your bank account could go away. Most people assume their money is always safe because that’s how it’s pitched by bankers and investment advisors. Investments and cash are much safer than a relationship formed on a reality show, but by its very nature money is never safe. Even under your mattress.

There’s always enough idiots to fall for a scam: The financial crisis exposed Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme and since then government agencies have cracked down on dozens of other investment scams. But there will always be enough morons to fall for the next one. Just like there will always be enough potato-brained viewers to buy into the premise of The Bachelorette. Keep in mind, the premise is that 25 guys would all magically like the same girl and compete for her love. The only place that’s reality is China. But like an investment scam, to get viewers the show sells the idea that something that is too good to be true is actually true.

Stick with the boring options: Advisors and bankers commonly convince their clients to put their money in products they don’t understand. But they look interesting and have all the bells and whistles. On the show the best person for the man or woman is likely the most boring contestant. The one that doesn’t cause trouble and stays out of the way of the other suitors. The one that doesn’t do cheesy things to get attention of viewers or the opposite sex they’re courting. But those people aren’t entertaining, and don’t last long on the show. It was clear in the premier who the producers of the show like, and they will somehow last much longer than the view would expect because they’re fun to watch. Stick with boring investments that are easy to understand, they’re the only ones that will still be around when you’re old and grey.

Past performance is not an indication of future returns: We see this all the time on the documentation you receive about mutual funds. They must disclose this in the marketing materials because those materials contain nothing but carefully framed charts showing their past performance. It’s good they must disclose this. On The Bachelor this is not disclosed, but it is implied in the premise. The show’s track record for successful relationships is actually terrible. The simple fact that they bring back someone that was matched in a prior season is enough. This year the beauty has a kid too. I’m sure that kind of baggage will certainly get the guy to stick around after he wins.

People will do what their incentives tell them to do: On the show, every person has an incentive to win. Winning gets you celebrity status for at least a short time. If you can “win” you can parlay that into a career in Hollywood regardless of your relationship status. The winning couple can make quite a bit of money in endorsements and other celebrity related goodies. So is this really about love? Love of money perhaps. Pretending to love a pretty girl long enough to get there is a small price to pay. This is exactly the same problem we have everywhere in the world: politics, business, school, sports. People have various incentives and they may not be perfectly aligned with the intent of their position. This is why we are constantly disappointed but really shouldn’t be surprised when these people do something bad that lines their pockets.

There is much to learn in the world of television. Look all around you and try to learn lessons from other peoples mistakes.

Other “Six Things <something> Can Teach Us About Money” Posts:
Star Wars
The Ferengi
James Bond
World Cup
March Madness

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categories: business, investing, lists, personal finance