Business Insider Edition

A woman who studied 600 millionaires says the key to getting rich has nothing to do with how smart you are

Hillary Hoffower , Business Insider US
 Jun 30, 2019, 01:24 PM
To get rich, one should be financially literate and conscientious.
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
  • Building wealth doesn't come down to how smart you are, according to a researcher who studied more then 600 millionaires in America.
  • Instead, it's about financial literacy, which is related to better financial decisions and outcomes, she said.
  • But financial literacy alone isn't enough - one must also be conscientious, one of the most important success factors for getting rich.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

Intelligence may be helpful when it comes to success at work, but that's not always the case when it comes to getting rich.

So says Sarah Stanley Fallaw, the director of research for the Affluent Market Institute and an author of "The Next Millionaire Next Door: Enduring Strategies for Building Wealth," in which she surveyed more than 600 millionaires in America.

"Most research finds that the smarter we are the better we can perform," she wrote. "Should this be the case for financial management at home?"

Not necessarily. Research conducted by her father, Thomas J. Stanley, for his book "The Millionaire Mind" found a lack of support for the correlation between wealth and intelligence, as measured by his respondents' SAT scores.

Jay Zagorsky, who analyzed the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which looked at 7,500 people, also found little support for the correlation between IQ and net worth, according to Stanley Fallaw.

She suggested that instead of using cognitive ability to indicate financial success, we consider financial literacy, which she defined as "the knowledge of or ability to use personal financial management practices and methodologies."

"Financial literacy is related to a host of financial 'success' outcomes, leading to better decision-making about a variety of investment-, debt-, and spending-related issues," she wrote.

Financial literacy has little influence if you're not conscientious

But that's not enough when it comes to building wealth, Stanley Fallaw said. Getting rich also requires conscientiousness - she called it one of the most important success factors because of its relationship with net worth, regardless of age and income.

"Many of the behavioral components that impact net worth, regardless of how old we are or our income levels, including frugality, planning, and responsibility, tie into this personality characteristic, and help us understand why it is so critical in the creation and maintenance of wealth over time," she wrote.

She cited a study published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs that examined the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and found that conscientiousness was related to net worth. The researchers also found that financial literacy had some influence, in relation to self-control - a key component of conscientiousness, Stanley Fallaw wrote.

Industriousness, virtue, order, responsibility, and traditionalism are the other five components of conscientiousness, according to Stanley Fallaw.

She's not the only researcher to emphasize the importance of conscientiousness when it comes to building wealth. Jude Miller Burke studied 200 self-made millionaires for three years and found that they all tended to be conscientious and displayed the trait at a higher level than less successful people.

They "reap rewards because they are the least likely to let their lives spin out of control when a crisis happens," Burke wrote in her book "The Millionaire Mystique." "They plan carefully, execute their plans, and reap the self-esteem that comes from keeping their promises and working at a high level."

Conscientiousness consistently leads to success - and marrying a conscientious partner can boost your salary by $4,000 a year, a study by Brittany C. Solomon and Joshua J. Jackson of Washington University in St. Louis found.

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