Bad news this week, for nice people. Turns out, having an agreeable personality puts you at a financial disadvantage in this cynical world.
Not because nice people are less capable of being successful, or because they are more cooperative than their meaner counterparts, but, simply because they tend to value money less, the research suggests.
“Previous research suggested that agreeableness was associated with lower credit scores and income,” says Sandra Matz, a professor at Columbia Business School and lead author of the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “We wanted to see if that association held true for other financial indicators and, if so, better understand why nice guys seem to finish last.”
They analyzed data for over 3 million study participants, and what they found does not bode well for all you nice guys and gals out there.
“Agreeableness”, they found, is closely associated with increased debt and default rates, and lower savings for most people. And between two UK cities with roughly equal income levels, the city that was rated as “more agreeable” also had a 50-percent higher bankruptcy rate – the price of generosity.
It seems that it pays off to be an asshole. Financially speaking, at least.
“Being kind and trusting has financial costs,” says Joe Gladstone, a co-author of the paper. “Especially for those who do not have the means to compensate for their personalities.”
The relationship between agreeableness and financial hardship was, understandably, keener for low-income individuals. People with lower income rates simply can’t afford to be nice, generous or trustworthy.
Does this mean that we should all abandon our affability? Ditch our agreeable nature, and start acting more like Kevin Spacey’s character in Horrible Bosses?
Maybe. If it’s money you’re after, then yes, probably.
The takeaway here, though, only reinforces a bit of age old wisdom we’re all familiar with: that money is the root of all evil.
It incentivizes people to act selfishly, it fuels environmental exploitation (and social exploitation for that matter), segregates classes, and makes life hard for anyone who tries to be kind or generous to others. Mean people and sociopaths make more of it and are less susceptible to financial hardships, often have better credit and more power to keep on being dicks.
So, next time you’re looking at your finances and wondering why you’re so poor, why you’re so saddled with debt and hinging on the verge of bankruptcy, just remember: it’s probably a sign that you’re a good person.
You just might finish last, in the end.