Rich with personality: Millionaires more outgoing, emotionally stable, study says

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MÜNSTER, Germany — There’s an old saying that money can change a person. Now, European researchers suggest some millionaires may actually change for the better. Scientists from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) and the University of Münster say millionaires tend to be more extraverted, open, risk-tolerant, conscientious, and emotionally stable than others.

Importantly, these qualities are particularly apparent among self-made millionaires, or people who started out in life with far less and had to earn their wealth. Researchers used data supplied by the SOEP, which is a representative random sample of the German population. In 2019, researchers added an additional sub-sample of 2,000 wealthy individuals to the SOEP. Fast forward to today, and the panel routinely polls over 1,100 millionaires whose net worth averages around four million euros ($4.39 million).

“This means that the very wealthy are now overrepresented in the SOEP, making it possible to analyze this very small population in a meaningful way,” explains SOEP researcher Carsten Schröder, who initiated the top-wealth sub-sample, in a university release.

Self-made millionaires exhibit these qualities most often, while other millionaires born into money display “less pronounced” signs of emotional stability and other qualities. Notably, millionaires whose personalities corresponded most closely to the typical profile had the most wealth.

What about people who aren’t millionaires?

Meanwhile, among the rest of the population (non-millionaires), study authors found a “weaker version” of this personality profile among people who earned money and had success in life through their own actions and hard work. While these individuals may not technically be millionaires, they display very similar personality qualities and see themselves as “self-made.”

“Taken together, the results suggest that personality is a relevant factor in wealth accumulation,” explains lead study author Johannes König, research associate at SOEP.

“This is the first study to describe the personality of millionaires using robust data. 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,” concludes study co-author Mitja Back, Professor of Psychological Diagnostics and Personality Psychology at the University of Münster.

The findings appear in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.

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