6 Personality Traits of the Wealthy and Successful

Author and financial editor Jean Chatzky discusses what she found from researching 5,000 wealthy and successful people

The rich and successful aren’t different from the rest of us just because they have more money. Rather, they have more money because of about a dozen personality traits that help them become wealthy and successful, according to author and NBC "Today" show financial editor Jean Chatzky.

(Related: All About the Ultra-Wealthy in 2017 )

She researched about 5,000 wealthy and successful people and discussed some of her findings at this week's annual Financial Planning Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Here are six of the common personality traits she found are shared among the wealthy people she researched.

1. Happiness/Optimism. Money doesn’t lead to happiness, but happiness helps people have money, said Chatzky, noting that behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman found that, on average, $75,000 a year is what people need to feel happy. Spending money on experiences rather than on things also makes people happier, said Chatzky.

(Related: How Wealthy Millennials Are Changing Investing, Giving and Work)

She explained that being optimistic and happy helps people solve problems, including money problems; live longer; and succeed. But she added that being the happiest — a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 — is not the optimum for achieving success; eight is. The 8s are more likely than 9s or 10s to have emergency funds and to challenge themselves, said Chatzky.

2. Resilience. Resilient people can overcome obstacles on the job and in their personal life and move forward, said Chatzky. When bad things happen, they meet the challenge and take action to move on. They don’t get stuck and depressed.

3. Connectedness. Social capital is another name for this trait, and it’s crucial for advisors because their business is built on relationships with individuals to help them take action to meet financial goals and needs. Having the ability to connect can help attract new clients and get referrals forom existing clients.

“Cast a wide net beyond friends to get your share of social capital,” said Chatzky. “You have to see people in person, not just online.  The biggest mistake busy people make is not to get out there. “ She added that it’s not enough to just show up; advisors need to engage.

4. Passion. The wealthiest and most successful have a passion for what they do and failure is not an option for them, said Chatzy. She recounted the story of Sarah Blakely, the billionaire founder of Spanx, who had an idea about a new kind of shapewear for herself and others but only $5,000 on hand and no one willing to help her get a patent. She then wrote her own patent, found a manufacturer and dragged a Nieman Marcus buyer into a fitting room to show her how the product worked.

“Most ideas are not original but have to be tweaked,” said Chatzy. Blakley’s Spanx is a tweak on the idea of the girdle, which had been around for years.

5. Good Financial Habits. It’s often said that to make money you have to spend it, but Chatzy said the wealthiest and most successful are also savers, not heavily in debt, with long-term plans and the ability to separate emotions from money.

“There's no more important a factor for long-term success than habitual savings,” said Chatzky, adding that the national savings rate, near 3% to 4%, is too low. But "saving is not fun. The brain doesn't like delayed gratification," said Chatzky. She suggested mind games to visualize goals, like the waterfront vacation home a client wants, so that they save enough and invest enough to help fund that.  

Things like retirement don’t light up our brains at all. "That's why automated savings accounts help, said Chatzky. "If you can’t see it and can’t touch it, you won’t spend it." 

6. Gratitude."People who get rich and stay successful give back to peple and organizations," said Chatzky. They're happier and healthier; exercise more and are less likely to be depressed, according to Chatzky. "Gratitude is the key to spending less and aving more. It is the antidote to materialism."

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