Rich old man, younger woman. It's a common story, but why bother with marriage?

Over the course of his 82 years, George Soros has done a great deal for a great number of people, using his colossal personal wealth of roughly US$20 billion.

The Hungarian-born businessman has given away some US$8 billion of his fortune to a variety of liberal causes; he once said removing George W. Bush from office was "a matter of life and death", and stumped up US$1 million to support the vote to decriminalise marijuana in California (failing both times, despite his money).

He's still very rich, of course, and extremely philanthropic, and a writer on all manner of topics economic and financial, often expressing his dislike of unfettered capitalism and globalisation.

And just this week, on his 82nd birthday, he announced he was engaged to be married for a third time, to 40-year-old girlfriend Tamiko Bolton, who, according to reports, runs a web-based yoga education business.


The cynics are quipping that he's giving her an "antique organ" as a wedding gift, and questioning the bride-to-be's motives in getting hitched to someone four decades her senior. It's their business, but I do find myself looking at the picture of the blissful couple and wondering why the heck he's bothering - at his stage in life - with the whole marriage lark.

Why walk up the aisle when he already has two ex-wives to support, a Brazilian ex-girlfriend suing him for not providing her with an apartment, and five children all undoubtedly in line for a share of his dosh-laden pie?

Most of us can understand the time-honoured calculation: older man + pots of dough = dishy young playmate. After all, what's the point in having an obscene amount of money if you can't fulfil your every desire? And judging by the length of time they've been together (four years) and her relatively advanced age (he could probably date a teen if he was that way inclined), perhaps this really is a love match after all. But none of that explains why he needs to put a (diamond on platinum setting on gold) ring on it.

And although the financial benefits of this union may accrue to Tamiko, perhaps she hasn't heard that studies show women shorten their lifespan when they marry men who are vastly older or younger.

Generally, marriage extends life expectancy for men and women (and I'm sure that finding seems counterintuitive to many people), and an older man can increase his allotted span by marrying a younger women (if all the horizontal tango-ing doesn't do for his heart). But for a woman, it seems, the greater the age difference between her and her spouse, the lower her life expectancy. A study of two million Danish couples showed that a woman lived longest when she married someone close to her age; too much older or younger and her life expectancy can drop by as much as 30 per cent.

And a study of US census data has shown that men married to younger or older women tend to make less money than men married to someone their own age, and that as the marital-age gap expanded, men's IQ test scores dropped.

Not that anyone can possibly discount Soros' mental faculties, or his earning power. However, you have to wonder about the effect that marriage No3 will have on both.

* Illustration by Anna Crichton: