Money or Brains: Which Determines Success and Happiness?

Is it better to be born rich or intelligent?

The age-old question of whether it’s better to be born rich or intelligent has been a topic of debate for generations. This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of being born into wealth and possessing innate intelligence. We’ll weigh these factors against each other to better understand which might be more beneficial in the long run. But, as you’ll see, it’s not always a straightforward answer.

The Benefits of Being Born Wealthy

Immediate Access to Resources

Being born into a wealthy family means that you have access to resources that can make life easier from the get-go. This includes financial stability, healthcare, and a comfortable living environment. These factors can contribute to a better overall quality of life.

Early Exposure to Opportunities

Children born into wealth often have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, travel, and learn from a variety of experiences. These opportunities can contribute to their personal growth and development.

High-Quality Education

Wealthy families can afford to send their children to prestigious schools, which often provide a high-quality education. This education can open doors to future success, both academically and professionally.

The Limitations of Being Born Rich

Lack of Motivation

Some people born into wealth may lack the motivation to work hard, as their financial security is already guaranteed. This lack of drive can lead to a stagnant personal growth and a less fulfilling life.

Overdependence on Wealth

Individuals who are born rich might rely too heavily on their wealth and not develop essential life skills, such as budgeting, time management, and conflict resolution.

Potential for Detachment from Reality

Being born rich can sometimes result in a sense of entitlement and detachment from the realities faced by the majority of the population. This can hinder personal growth and empathy towards others.

The Benefits of Being Born Intelligent

Natural Problem-Solving Abilities

Those born with innate intelligence often possess strong problem-solving abilities, which can lead to success in various aspects of life, from academics to personal relationships.

Greater Adaptability

Intelligent individuals can adapt more quickly to new situations and challenges, making them better equipped to handle the unpredictable nature of life.

Intrinsic Motivation to Learn

Being born intelligent often comes with a natural curiosity and love for learning. This intrinsic motivation can result in a lifetime of knowledge acquisition and personal growth.

The Limitations of Being Born Intelligent

Possible Social Isolation

Intelligent individuals might sometimes feel isolated or misunderstood by their peers, which can lead to loneliness or difficulty forming deep connections.

Difficulty in Finding Fulfillment

When faced with a world that doesn’t always appreciate or understand their abilities, highly intelligent individuals may struggle to find fulfillment in their personal and professional lives. They might find it challenging to identify activities, careers, or relationships that truly engage and challenge them.

Higher Expectations

Those born intelligent often face high expectations from others, which can lead to immense pressure to succeed. This can result in stress, burnout, or a constant feeling of never being good enough.

What Does the Research Say?

The Role of Wealth in Life Outcomes

Research has shown that being born into wealth can significantly impact a person’s life outcomes. According to a study by Chetty et al. (2014), children from high-income families are more likely to have better educational and career outcomes than those from lower-income families. This is partly due to access to better educational resources, extracurricular activities, and networking opportunities. However, it’s important to note that wealth alone does not guarantee happiness or fulfillment in life.

The Impact of Intelligence on Life Outcomes

Intelligence, often measured by IQ (intelligence quotient), has been linked to various aspects of an individual’s life, including academic success, career achievement, and even health. A meta-analysis by Strenze (2007) found that intelligence was positively correlated with both educational and occupational success. Other studies have shown that individuals with higher intelligence tend to have better problem-solving abilities, decision-making skills, and adaptability in various life situations.

The Interaction of Wealth and Intelligence

Interestingly, some research suggests that intelligence may be more important than wealth when it comes to predicting life outcomes. A study by Hart et al. (2010) found that children with higher intelligence scores were more likely to overcome the disadvantages associated with low socioeconomic status. This suggests that innate intelligence could potentially compensate for a lack of financial resources to some extent.

However, it’s important to consider that this is not a one-size-fits-all answer. The relationship between wealth and intelligence is complex, and other factors, such as emotional intelligence, social skills, and resilience, can also play significant roles in determining an individual’s success and happiness.

Combining Wealth and Intelligence: The Ideal Scenario

While both wealth and intelligence come with their unique benefits and limitations, the ideal scenario might be a combination of the two. A person who is born rich and intelligent has access to resources, opportunities, and the intellectual capacity to make the most of them. However, it’s crucial to recognize that life is more complex than simply being rich or intelligent, and other factors also play a role in one’s success and happiness.

Factors Beyond Wealth and Intelligence

Factors such as emotional intelligence, resilience, and a strong work ethic can be equally, if not more, important than being born rich or intelligent. These traits can help individuals navigate life’s challenges and contribute to their overall happiness and success.


In conclusion, while being born rich or intelligent each has its advantages and disadvantages, it’s important to acknowledge that other factors contribute to one’s happiness and success in life. Ideally, a combination of wealth, intelligence, and other essential traits would create the best foundation for a fulfilling life. However, we must remember that it is ultimately our actions and choices, rather than our circumstances, that define who we are and the lives we lead.


  1. Can you develop intelligence if you’re not born with it?Yes, intelligence can be developed and improved throughout one’s life. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, problem-solving, and learning new skills, can help increase intelligence.
  2. Is it possible for someone born into poverty to become wealthy?While being born into poverty presents challenges, it is possible for individuals to overcome these obstacles and achieve wealth through hard work, determination, and smart financial decisions.
  3. What other factors contribute to a person’s success and happiness?Emotional intelligence, resilience, work ethic, and supportive relationships can all contribute to an individual’s success and happiness.
  4. How can wealthy individuals ensure they don’t become overly dependent on their wealth?Building essential life skills, setting personal goals, and engaging in meaningful activities can help wealthy individuals avoid overdependence on their wealth.
  5. Can intelligence compensate for a lack of wealth?While intelligence can’t replace financial resources, it can help individuals make better choices and find creative solutions to overcome financial challenges.