Two similar articles popped up in my news feed this past week.
Major financial and business reporting services published both articles and both examine the relationship between intelligence and wealth. They end with different conclusions.
I took issue with one of these articles and want to share my two cents.
The first article was published by Inc. magazine and was particularly troubling. This column cited an Italian study that measured talent and the amount of wealth talented people were able to gain.
The author of the article was particularly troubled because he had met so many wealthy individuals and just couldn’t come to grips that so many wealthy people don’t seem very intelligent or interesting.
In his own words, the wealthy people he had met just seemed so “dull.”
Ultimately, the study concluded that those who became wealthy were just luckier than their more talented and intelligent counterparts who were unable to create wealth.
The entire premise of this study is flawed. The idea that intelligence and talent should somehow equate to the creation of wealth is absurd.
Sometimes, intelligent and talented people chose to work in a field that doesn’t pay well.
Thank goodness for this. Could you imagine if our best musicians, artists, and teachers all decided to run hedge funds?
I won’t discount the role that luck can play in the creation of wealth, but I have found that behavior is a much more significant factor.
Bloomberg published the second article titled “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich.”
This article cited a study that found that intelligence plays a minimal role in the creation of wealth.
The Bloomberg article states that personality is a much more significant factor in wealth creation than anything else.
The study concludes, “… financial success was correlated with conscientiousness, a personality trait marked by diligence, perseverance, and self-discipline.”
I tend to side with the study cited by the Bloomberg article for two reasons. A Nobel Laureate did this study, and it confirms what I have seen. I admit I have a bias, but that doesn’t make me wrong.
So, if intelligence has a small role in the creation of wealth what are the factors that have a more significant role?
I have found that people who are willing to live below their means are destined for retirement and wealth.
This willingness does not come from intelligence, but rather humility and a desire for simplicity.
While intelligence doesn’t play a role in wealth creation, knowledge can. People who have the discipline to learn how money works are a step ahead. Most financial concepts are simple and can be acquired with little effort.
A little financial knowledge can go a long way, but this doesn’t require a high level of intelligence.
I consistently see people whom society would deem less intelligent, succeed financially because they know several basic financial principles.
The lesson here is not to let yourself be limited by poor assumptions.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to create wealth.