A lot is heard in the blogosphere (or at least in the blogosphere that I read) about the IQ test and its implications. Some studies mention how IQ and wealth seem to be related, i.e., the higher your IQ the more money you make. (This is not absolute, but there’s a strong correlation).

However, what IQ in theory measures is “general intelligence”, but what does that mean exactly? The fact is that usually people tend to be stronger in one area and weaker in others, some better at math, some better at writing, some better at logic, some better at visual-spacial ability, and so on and so forth.

For instance, I don’t know what my real IQ is. Taking an average of the test I tried online, such as this one, I would say that it is around 115, maybe 120. Still, I’m stronger in some types of tests than in others.

In the GRE that I took last year, my Verbal score (in the new scale) was 170. That is the maximum number of points possible, the top 1%, above 99% of test-takers. Great, right? However, in Quantitative Reasoning (Math) I managed to get only 154, or above 64%, mediocre at best. What gives?

Asians tend to be good at Math and therefore manage to get into professions where Math is important, such as Engineering, Science, etc. However, the professions of the “top 1%” (in termos of earnings) seem to be more related to Verbal ability (Law, Media, Politics, Management, etc.), perhaps with the exception of Finance, where you need to be good with numbers too. Is Verbal or Math more important in the end?

I tend to think that neither. To be rich, there are two things that are much more important. The first one is to have money. It’s not a joke. You hardly ever start from zero. In the Italian film “Bread and Chocolate“, a millionaire character says: “You don’t make money working, you make money with money” (Il soldi si fa coi soldi). To get rich, you need money to invest. Rich people usually came from rich families, or are associated with other rich people. There are a few cases, such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, who have a low middle class background and come up with really brilliant ideas and get rich, but they are not the majority.

The second thing that is most important for someone to become rich, is to have great interpersonal skills. You can have a 150 IQ but if you’re not good in interpersonal skills, it’s very unlikely you’ll go far. Theodore Kaczsynsky had an IQ of 187; he didn’t strike rich, he lived in a hut and became the Unabomber. I would then conclude that, to be rich, having good interpersonal skills is more important than having a very high intelligence, although, of course, you can’t be too dumb. Unless you are a pop star, but that’s a different story.