11/12/2013 01:38 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2013

No, Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type Does Not Determine Your Wealth


Are you poor, or at least not as pornographically wealthy as you should be? Well, bad news: Apparently this is because you have a lame personality that will never change. Sorry.

You see, wealthy people have wealth because of their personality type, as determined by what's known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, reports Fani Kelesidou in a post at the Motley Fool website. The wealthiest people of all are ENTJ types -- short for extroverted, intuitive, thinking, judging -- Kelesidou observes, based on an infographic she "stumbled upon" at something called the Career Assessment Site. Sounds legit.

This infographic claims that average household income is highest among ENTJ types. It does not cite any source, but Kelesidou decides to run with it because a couple of wealthy people -- Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett -- are ENTJ types, according to "experts," therefore QED. She also suggests that the surge in income inequality in recent decades is because of personality types, as well.

"So, next time you ask yourself why your neighbor drives a Lamborghini while you are stuck with an old Volvo, you'll know the answer," Kelesidou writes. "Apparently, when it comes to your earning potential, your character makes all the difference."

There is so much wrong here that it is difficult to know where to begin.

Let's start with the very concept of Myers-Briggs personality types. These are basically zodiac signs lightly dusted with science. FDR and Richard Nixon were allegedly ENTJs, as are Whoopi Goldberg and Lex Luthor. All exactly alike, obviously. Based on a Myers-Briggs test, I am an INTP (introverted, intuitive, thinking, perceiving). But these labels don't always fit very well. Sometimes I'm an introvert, sometimes I'm an extrovert, depending on the situation. My type labels me as a "rationalist" just like Steve Jobs (though not of the money-making variety, apparently), but I am pretty much constantly irrational about everything. I therefore place about as much stock in my personality type as I do about my zodiac sign (Aquarius).

Personality types are at least grounded in some reality, unlike horoscopes. But there are real practical limits to dividing all of humanity into just 16 groups, particularly when the borders of those groups are so squishy. For example, here is Kelesidou explaining why Warren Buffett is an ENTJ:

ENTJs think ahead to the future and approach problems from several different angles.

"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago," Warren Buffett once observed.

Wow, Warren Buffett has cracked the age-old mystery of where big trees come from. No wonder he is a billionaire, as is every single person who has ever worked in agriculture or landscaping or observed nature.

What Buffett would probably tell Kelesidou is that luck has more to do with success and wealth than personality type. There are plenty of ENTJs working at low-paying jobs, or unemployed, because they didn't get the same breaks and opportunities Warren Buffett got.

In fact, Buffett has essentially said just that, as part of his argument that the wealthy should pay a higher share in taxes and Kelesidou even quotes him: "If you're in the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99% percent."

Kelesidou dismisses this squishy sentiment as just some flaw in Buffett's otherwise perfectly "rationalist" personality type. What, Buffett is a cold-hearted capitalist who also cares about the 99 percent? Does not compute. And she goes on to declare that the recent rise in income inequality Buffett seeks to remedy is just a law of nature, like gravity:

Is it just a coincidence that rationalists in the U.S. claim a 10.3% share of the population and, at the same time, the top 10% of richest households make up for around half of the income earned last year?

Or is it by a stroke of luck that, based on an analysis conducted by economist Emmanuel Saez, over the 20-year period between 1993 and 2012 the top 1% of U.S. earners saw its income's real growth climb as much as 86%?

No, it's not coincidence or luck, Kelesidou is essentially saying, it is due to the fact that ENTJs are just better than the rest of us losers with sub-optimal personality types. It's another version of the old conservative argument that wealthy people are wealthy only because they just worked harder for it, not because they were born into their money or stole their money or got huge subsidies from the government to make their money.

Kelesidou does not explain why the gap between the ENTJs and all the rest of us started widening so dramatically a few decades back. Were there just not as many ENTJs alive in the 1970s? Although maybe that can be explained by ENTJs getting into government and writing laws to give massive tax cuts to other ENTJs.

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