The Five Personality Traits of Self-Made Millionaires

Why are the rich rich? Maybe it’s luck. Or, maybe it’s their personality traits.

Late at night, we’ve all pondered one of life’s deepest mysteries: What is it that makes Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Taylor Swift so special, anyway? Why is it the select few go on to become self-made millionaires (or, *ahem*, billionaires) while others simply fall short?

Leg-ups, lawsuits, and mastermind songwriting abilities aside, the super wealthy could share more than just a ton of cash. Yes, they may have similar core personality traits, too. In this article, we look at how the rich score on the Big Five personality test. Plus, we give some expert-backed tips to boost your chances of making big bucks.

What is the Big Five personality test?

Before we go any further, let’s cover the basics. You may already be familiar with the Big Five personality test. Despite being less famous than Myers and Briggs and other systems, the Big Five is thought to be the one of the most scientifically sound personality models and is the one that researchers tend to use when assessing personality.

As the name suggests, the model uses five verticals — each distinct — to measure an individual’s personality: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. The concept rests upon the idea that we each have different levels of these traits, which can be measured through a series of questions. 

Your score on each of them likely impacts your everyday behaviors, the decisions you make, and even how you think. 

Personality traits of the super wealthy

What do self-made millionaires have in common — aside from the size of their bank accounts, of course? That is the question that German researchers set out to answer. To get to the bottom of the conundrum, the team took a deep dive on data looking at 20,000 citizens. The data included each individual’s scores on the Big Five personality test and what their net worth was. It also looked at whether their wealth was inherited or self-made.

The study found that rich individuals, i.e. people with a net worth of more than one million euros, had a distinctive personality profile when compared to the non-rich. Overall, they tended to be more risk-tolerant, open, extraverted and conscientious than the rest of the group. 

The study also found that these individuals tended to be less neurotic than others. Let’s take a moment to break down what each personality trait looks like in real terms.

1: Risk Tolerant

Making serious money is oftentimes risky business. Whether it’s making the right call or taking that all-important leap of faith, self-made millionaires rise to the challenge.

“Business ventures, investments and other avenues that lead to significant wealth often come with inherent risks,” explains Niloufar Esmaeilpour from Lotus Therapy & Counselling Centre. “Those who can navigate these uncertainties without becoming overly stressed or anxious might be more likely to reap the rewards.”

As a disclaimer, that’s not to say that top-earners throw caution to the wind when it comes to their decision-making. “It's also important to note that risk tolerance doesn't necessarily mean recklessness. It can imply a calculated approach to uncertainty,” adds Esmaeilpour.

2: More Open

Making it big can often mean spotting something that others may have missed. Rather than fostering a closed mindset, self-made millionaires are more likely to keep it open. This approach to life — and, of course, business — could help them to reap financial rewards.

“Being open to new experiences and ideas is a hallmark of the trait known as Openness. This quality might be particularly advantageous for the wealthy, as it often correlates with a readiness to adopt fresh business approaches, venture into novel investment opportunities, or swiftly adapt to the ebb and flow of economic trends,” says Esmaeilpour.

3: Extraverted

Big earners often have big personalities to match. Since networking is central to any type of business, it’s logical that a person who exhibits Extraverted traits would do well here. After all, if you love connecting with others and being sociable, you’re already onto a winner.

As Esmaeilpour puts it, “Extraverted individuals might find it easier to create and maintain valuable connections, negotiate deals, or lead teams, all of which can play a role in accumulating wealth.”

“These connections can afford incredible privileges that may be more difficult or beyond reach for others less fortunate,” adds Lisa Lawless, PhD and CEO of

4: Conscientious

Scoring high on the Big Five trait of Conscientiousness means you dedicate yourself to your work and ensure that you follow the optimal processes. So, it’s no real surprise that people who have the ability to knuckle down and be productive end up making more money.

“Conscientious individuals are typically organized, responsible, and persistent. Such traits can be advantageous in managing finances, planning long-term goals, and ensuring tasks are completed efficiently and effectively,” says Esmaeilpour. “It's not hard to see how these attributes might correlate with financial success.”

5: Less Neurotic

The final piece of the puzzle that makes up self-made millionaires is a low score on Neuroticism. Yes, those who make it to the top of the financial charts are more likely to be emotionally stable and show fewer neurotic traits than the rest of us. Who knew?

“Neuroticism is associated with emotional instability, anxiety and mood swings,” says Esmaeilpour. “Lower levels of neuroticism among the wealthy might suggest that they're less likely to be hindered by excessive worry or negative emotions, which can be barriers to clear decision-making or sustained effort in business ventures.”

How to change your behavior and (maybe) become wealthier

By this point, you should have a clear picture of the traits that the ridiculously rich share. But if your personality doesn’t quite align with all of the above, don’t panic. It’s not game over.

Lawless remarks that while “personality traits typically stay the same throughout life, that does not mean one cannot change behavior.” In the spirit of continuous self-development, let’s take a look at some expert-backed habits. The following advice could help you to become a millionaire or, perhaps more realistically, increase your income.

  • Learn to take calculated risks

Risk-taking may not come naturally to you. That’s perfectly okay. However, if you want to push beyond your comfort zone, you can change your perspective. Doing your research ahead of time could make those big decisions feel less like gambles.

“While it's important not to be reckless, taking calculated risks is often necessary to achieve significant gains,” says Esmaeilpour. “Understand the risk-to-reward ratio and make informed decisions.”

  • Practice being more social

Spoiler: Not everyone loves social situations. And few of us enjoy stuffy networking events. But if you’re looking to get ahead, you should adopt a “fake it ‘til you make it” approach.

“While one cannot fundamentally change their introverted nature to an extraverted one, they can become accustomed to exhibiting more socially outgoing behavior to benefit their financial success by using active reputation management to adapt socially,” says Lawless.

Of course, if that doesn’t work and you still have trouble socializing, there is another option. Find someone who will do the hard work for you — that could be a friend, business partner, or simply an associate you can piggy-back off. The choice is yours.

“Introverted individuals can also seek out extraverted partners to help them develop more extraverted behaviors in themselves or provide such interactions on their behalf,” she continues. “One can join social groups online with similar goals and learn tips and skills.”

  • Create a solid routine 

Conscientiousness may not be a card you’ve been dealt. However, you can counteract this shortcoming by learning to structure your time properly. Whether you use a calendar app, a time-blocking approach, or just a regular old diary, this change could literally pay off. 

“Successful individuals often have daily routines that help them stay productive. This could be in the form of morning rituals, regular exercise, or specific work routines,” explains Esmaeilpour. “Discipline is essential in maintaining routines even when motivation wanes.”

  • Make learning a priority

Staying up to date matters more than you might imagine. Since self-made millionaires tend to be inherently open and curious, they are likely to do this by sheer accident. However, the rest of us mere mortals have to work hard to make learning new things a real priority.

“Wealthy individuals often emphasize the importance of ongoing education, be it in the form of books, courses or seminars. Always seek knowledge, especially in areas you're investing in,” says Esmaeilpour.

Go one step further than the library and look at what is happening in the world. “Explore trends and think outside the box by demonstrating creativity and adaptability,” adds Lawless.

  • Adopt a growth mindset

Of course, your perspective is the key to your success. You don’t have to be a genius to make that connection. Here, Esmaeilpour points to the advice of Dr. Carol Dweck, renowned psychologist, who is famed for emphasizing the importance of having a growth mindset.

“This means believing that abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort, time, and the right strategies,” says Esmaeilpour. “By adopting this mindset, you'll be more open to challenges, resilient in the face of setbacks, and dedicated to learning — all crucial elements in the path to wealth.”

Final words

Becoming abundantly wealthy doesn’t tend to happen by accident. The select few who make it often have a variety of advantages, including an excellent education, background stability and core personality traits. While you can’t change your starting point in the race of life, you can still look to get ahead. One approach is to adopt similar behaviors to the super rich and successful. Use the expert advice that we’ve shared here as a starting point and watch the dollars roll in — well, maybe.

Charlotte Grainger
Charlotte Grainger is a freelance writer, having previously been published in Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Brides Magazine and the Metro. Her articles vary from relationship and lifestyle topics to personal finance and careers. She is an unquestionable ENFJ, an avid reader, a fully-fledged coffee addict and a cat lover. Charlotte has a BA in Journalism and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Sheffield.