More than half of Americans say to polls that getting rich is very or somewhat important to them. How should these aspiring millionaires pursue this popular goal?
There are, of course, many avenues to wealth (including that low-effort standby: inheriting), but there are nevertheless certain skills, such as high technology and financial know-how, that seem to be associated with wealth. You may want to buy it. Or you could study the personal habits of the very wealthy.
But that leaves a big part of the puzzle missing. What about the personality it takes to get rich? Is there a certain constellation of inner qualities that makes you more likely to get rich? Many amateur researchers have scoured interviews and harassed corporate titans to find out, but thanks to a major new study recently published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, we now have a much more scientific answer to this question.
How homemade millionaires score on the Big 5.
The German team combed through detailed survey data on more than 20,000 of their fellow citizens, looking specifically at individual wealth and how respondents scored on ratings of what psychologists call the Big 5 personality traits.
This is the only scientifically validated framework for assessing personality and it examines how people fall on five measures: introversion/extroversion, openness to new experiences, agreeableness (basically how nice and pleasant you are), conscientiousness and neuroticism (how emotionally stable or prone to fluctuating negative emotions that you are).
You can read the entire study here, but here’s the key takeaway from the British Psychological Society’s description of the results: “The team found that the rich participants [those with an individual net worth of more than one million euros] had a different personality profile than the non-wealthy participants: they were generally more risk-tolerant, more open, outgoing, and conscientious, but less neurotic. statistically significant.
This personality profile of high extroversion, conscientiousness, openness, risk tolerance and emotional stability was higher in self-made millionaires than in those who inherited their money, suggesting but not proving that these personality traits lead to wealth rather than wealth that drives people to develop these personality traits. The fact that this personality type was also slightly more common among the self-employed, but not the wealthy, supports the argument that it encourages the kind of entrepreneurship that is likely to create wealth.
Your personality is yours to shape.
Much of this won’t come as a huge shock. If you don’t do what you say you will do (accuracy), you are unlikely to succeed in making money. It’s also no shock that being sociable and friendly helps you get ahead. The world runs on relationships. Likewise, studies going back decades consistently show that openness to new things strongly correlates with creativity and intelligence (and even slower aging). So why not wealth too?
But while the personality type most likely to lead to homemade riches may not come as a huge shock, it may come as a surprise to some that this isn’t just trivia or a crystal ball. Contrary to popular belief, personality is not destiny. While personality certainly has a hefty genetic component, science shows that it can still change dramatically throughout our lifetimes and in response to the demands of our lives. In fact, a recent study showed that you can consciously change your personality within weeks by performing simple activities to train the target trait.
So if you’re one of half of Americans who want to get rich, know not only that these are the traits most likely to bring you, but that if you so choose, you can shape your own personality to be more like the personality to seem mostly shared by self-made millionaires.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.
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