Want to become a millionaire? Turns out, your personality might help — or hurt — your chances.
A new study from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) at the German Institute for Economic Research and the University of Munster found that millionaires, especially self-made ones, tend to be more risk-tolerant, emotionally stable, open, extroverted and conscientious than everyone else.
"This is the first study to describe the personality of millionaires using robust data," Mitja Back, a University of Munster psychology professor who co-authored the study, said in a university statement. "Since the rich wield particular influence over societal decision-making processes, and since personality has a determining influence on the way people think and behave, the investigation of millionaires' personality traits is of great social relevance."
Researchers studied data from validated personality tests of more than 20,000 sampled individuals in the SOEP, an ongoing household-based study of thousands of people in Germany that began in 1984. Of the personality tests researchers studied, more than 1,000 were from millionaires.
The tests measured what the study's authors referred to as the "Big Five" personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Researchers say traits like risk tolerance, emotional stability and extraversion were especially evident among self-made millionaires, and "less pronounced" in people who inherited their fortunes.
The higher the wealth, the more pronounced those personality traits were, the study said. Even among non-millionaires, people who saw themselves as self-made — or, in other words, having made their money on their own, without significant help from others — shared many of the same personality traits.
"Taken together, the results suggest that personality is a relevant factor in wealth accumulation," Johannes König, a research associate at SOEP and another study co-author, said in the same university statement.
The study was published last week in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications. Researchers defined "millionaire" as someone with an individual net worth of at least 1 million euros, which equates to $1,092,450, as of Thursday morning.
Nearly 22 million people in the U.S. fit that description, according to a 2021 study by Credit Suisse — although the study's authors warned that German millionaires may differ in personality from millionaires in other "high-wealth countries," including the United States.
The U.S. has "more unequal" wealth distribution than Germany and "is generally considered to be more individualistic than other countries," the study noted.