You don't have to be smart to be rich. Individuals with below-average IQ test scores were just as wealthy as brainiacs, finds a national survey.
"What the results really say is it doesn't matter whether you are born smart or you are not born smart, you can do financially okay," said the study's author Jay Zagorsky, an economist at Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research.
"It's not 'I'm not particularly intelligent, I'm destined to a life of financial failure and hardship.' The results said [if you have] a positive attitude and [want] to save up money and build up your wealth, you can do it no matter what your IQ is," Zagorsky told LiveScience.
The study, detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Intelligence, also showed that highly intelligent people have financial difficulties, maxing out credit cards and missing bill payments. Zagorsky suggests that the financial troubles could be linked with an inability to save money.
Past studies have shown that intelligence positively affects income , or the money a person makes per year. "Individuals with a higher IQ typically have a higher educational attainment and a higher occupational status and that is very well established," said Ruth Spinks, a behavioral and cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Iowa, who was not involved in the study.
However, just because someone has a high-paying job doesn't mean they are wealthy, which is a measure of the difference between a person's assets and debts.
The scientists examined survey information from about 7,400 respondents who participated in the nationally representative National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a survey of young baby boomers, or individuals born between 1957 and 1964, from across the country. The current study is based on 2004 data, when the participants were between roughly 39 and 47 years old.
The respondents answered questions about their income, total wealth, and three measures of financial difficulty: whether they have maxed-out credit cards, if they have missed paying bills over the past five years, and whether they have ever declared bankruptcy.
Intelligence scores were based on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), a general aptitude test used by the Department of Defense to determine "trainability" of new recruits. AFQT scores have also long been used to measure intelligence. Scientists in the field have found that after about the age of 5, a person's IQ scores remain relatively stable.
Financial sweet spot
Participants with higher IQ scores tended to earn higher incomes, with each additional IQ point associated with an income boost of $202 to $616 each year. For example, a person with an IQ that's in the top 2 percent of society (130 points) would rake in between $6,000 and $18,500 per year more than an individual with an average IQ of about 100 points.
The results showed a financial sweet spot of sorts that hovered around the average IQ score, for which people had the lowest financial distress.
A person's IQ had no impact on their wealth. So even though the "rocket scientists" earned on average higher incomes, they didn't have the savings to show it. And in fact, some higher-IQ people had more problems with maxing out credit cards and missing bill payments.
Zagorsky's current research is showing that people with off-the-charts IQs don't necessarily save more money.
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Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.