Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taking stock of love

I've been thinking about the differences between poly and mono, and the stock market. And remember, I am definitely in the category of hopeless romantic, but I'd like to talk about relationships using the stock market as an analogy. Bear with me, this is going to be good.

The American system of capitalism embodied in the stock exchange works on the principle of perfect information, or transparency. Any information about publicly traded companies that is deemed to be "material" - that is, something that might affect earnings, has to be publicly disclosed. So if a pharmaceutical company invents a new drug to cure cancer, every step along the development of the product (positive and negative) must be announced. This ensures that the price of the company's stock always reflects as closely as possible what the market will pay for it, in as close to real-time as possible.

So if people are optimistic about a company and think well of its prospects, appetite for the stock increases and the price goes up. Conversely, if the company appears to be headed for hard times, people will sell any stock they are holding and the price falls. If information is not disseminated as it should be (i.e. insider information) it's illegal to act on it to profit in the market. Just ask Martha Stewart.

So it is in a way with relationships. If you believe that a relationship with someone has a good future, you "buy stock" in the form of spending time and effort being with them and nurturing the relationship. If you think the relationship is headed for disaster, then you're more likely to "sell off" slowly or quickly, by either spending less time with them or dumping them entirely.

Now, the difference between poly and mono is that, in most cases, poly people are more likely to embrace the whole "transparency" concept when it comes to relationships. Consider that in a poly relationship, where each person agrees to be as candid as possible about their feelings and attraction to the other person or other people, everyone involved is kept fully informed. By being informed, each person can then make an informed decision on whether they want to keep buying stock in the relationship, hold the amount they already have, or start selling it off and reallocating their resources elsewhere (i.e. dating other people).

However, in a mono situation, that's like buying a majority interest in one company and letting your investment stay in that one particular stock without any active management on your part. And that's great, if the company you invested in is a blue-chip stock with long-term success in the market, like Apple Computer, General Electric or ExxonMobil. You'll probably come out ahead with a lot less effort.

But if you picked a company that looked safe once that later falls on hard times - like AIG or General Motors - you might find yourself holding a lot of worthless paper, especially if you're not paying attention because you think your choice is faultless. In a mono situation, it's easy to get lazy and stop the regular flow of information because you are fully invested in that company/person and both of you are restricted from pursuing other opportunities. And when the flow of information is impeded, sometimes negative information builds up and all becomes public at once, causing a distress sale with widespread repercussions; i.e., a financial market meltdown, like the one that happened in late 2008-early 2009.

Anyway, that's the thought that's been running through my head lately. Like any other prospectus, I'm not giving advice here. Your situation and risk profile is unique. Please read carefully before you invest.