Does Your Personality Predict Your Wealth?

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A recent article in the Wall Street Journal explores an intriguing proposition: “How Your Personality Can Affect Your Portfolio.” It’s worth paying attention to, especially given the effort that so many of us expend to improve our financial outcomes.

Is it possible that certain financial outcomes are simply a result of who we are, without extra effort, or our even being aware of it?

The findings, highlighted in a recent paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research [1], conclude that – independent of other factors and across geographies – individuals with certain personality types do exhibit statistically significant differences in their propensity to own stocks. And since an ability to maintain ownership of growth assets like stocks typically leads to greater wealth over time, one could argue that, to some extent, wealth-creation simply comes more naturally to some individuals than it does to others.

Yet while that is true, in the real world things are seldom that simple.

That’s because people and money are both complicated topics. While the NBER paper focused on stock ownership and found it to be correlated with a duo of personality traits (openness and emotional stability), an article published in the FPA [2] Journal in 2021 went even further. Those authors looked at four different financial outcomes – financial literacy, financial risk tolerance, income, and net worth – and concluded that in 14 out of a possible 20 correlations between behavioral traits and financial outcomes – behavior was a significant factor a whopping 70% of the time.

“In summary, high Os are well-read and not afraid of risk. Interestingly, high Os’ creativity is not consistently known for higher incomes. High Cs like to learn, are high earners, and are good savers with higher net worth. High Es are high earners who like risk—but do they convert their income and risk-taking into net worth? High As are nice, but don’t like risk. Finally, high Ns are less open to new ideas, earn lower incomes, aren’t risk takers, and have lower net worth.” (p. 9)

That’s why we say that “Life with wealth is a both/and adventure.” Creating and enhancing wealth is not just a logical and technical pursuit. It is deeply personal and depends on your behavior as much as it does on your choice of investments – probably more so.

Does that mean that your personal outcomes are pre-ordained? Anything but. Yet it does mean that, in order to maximize your own financial outcomes as well as to be comfortable with the financial path you choose, each of us needs to understand and take charge of the role we play in the outcomes we achieve.

For example, wouldn’t you like to know what’s going to be easy for you to do in order to achieve the financial outcomes you want, and what’s likely to be a struggle? That way you’re in a position to double down on the former and compensate for the latter. Wouldn’t you like to be aware that there are situations in which you would be wise to question your ‘financial instincts’ and get some external advice before making an important financial decision?

Would you like to know more about your own money personality? If so, we invite you to take a free Money Personality Assessment here. And if you like, we’ll be happy to talk to you about it, but there’s no obligation.

Think about it. Knowledge is power.

Note: If you choose to take the assessment you can request that the pdf report be sent directly to you. When you do that, please WAIT up to 1 minute for the file to be created and auto-downloaded.


[1] “PERSONALITY DIFFERENCES AND INVESTMENT DECISION-MAKING,” by Zhengyang Jiang, Cameron Peng, and Hongjun Yan. Working Paper 31041. Cambridge, Massachusetts. March 2023.

[2] “O.C.E.A.N.: How Does Personality Predict Financial Success?” by Jim Exley, CFP®; Patrick Doyle, Ph.D.; Michael Snell; and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D. Journal of Financial Planning. October 2021.

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