When F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Let me tell you about the very rich -- they are different from you and me," Ernest Hemingway replied, "Yes, they have more money." But turn only a few pages into The Money Test and you realize money isn't everything. Nor is it the only difference.
A new book of 19 probing personality and intelligence exams, The Money Test (Beech Tree Books, $12.95) promises to evaluate your chances for riches and success. It is 143 pages of multiple-choice masochism aimed at the ultimate test-it-yourself generation, Americans who've been IQ'd, PSAT'd, SAT'd and GRE'd from kindergarten to kingdom come.
Created by Oregon psychologist and testing expert Elliot Weiner and San Francisco writer Rita Aero -- the same folks who brought you The Mind Test, The Love Exam and The Brain Game -- it's banking on the national preoccupation of the '80s: making money.
The big question The Money Test poses isn't, "Are the very rich different from you and me?" but rather, "How different are they?" Depending on the answer it gives you, the experience ranges, test by test, from unsettling to enlightening. It'll tell you if you've got it made, if there's no hope, or if you must reroute your efforts.
Weiner, we are told pages before a No. 2 pencil approaches question No. 1, catalogued the mental and personality traits critical to the making of wealth during a two-year research study. Measures such as money sense, motivation, business envy, competitiveness and guilt, among others, prove the difference and provide the basis for the test. It also pries into your business vocabulary, money strategy and knowledge of corporate trivia. It sizes up your personal ethics, tells you if you're penny-wise and pound-foolish, and reminds you of the time your high school algebra teacher predicted some day you'd use that stuff in real life.
Here's the unnerving part: The authors stack up your scores against those of "The Success Group" -- 200 paragons of the pocketbook said to be randomly selected by computer from a larger crowd of Americans who needn't ever take these tests. On the average, each is 43.4 years old and makes more than $100,000 a year. And your best efforts are also weighed against those of 62 second-year MBA students as an added indicator.
The authors kick off with the Midas Test, sort of a catch-all quiz that, we are told, measures qualities found strongest in successONEY 1stadd w0120 11-14 B05 or more a year, didn't know their own tax bracket.
Just as you think you've figured how to outsmart the test, the rules change. The Business Self-Image Checklist is a list of 50 adjectives that get personal -- words like argumentative, charming, cynical, suspicious, impulsive. You rate yourself twice; first for "As I Am," and second, "As I Would Like To Be."
It's an exercise in knowing thyself -- and in honesty -- that scratches far below the surface of whether you're a good money manager or not (Money magazine's survey found 41 percent of us think we're not). Weiner and Aero found that highly successful individuals have highly positive views of themselves that "allow you to take risks and uncover opportunities because you are confident and comfortable with your abilities."
Almost as telling is the Business Persona Scale, which asks you to rate your degree of agreement or disagreement with 20 statements, ranging from "To have an attractive, ambitious spouse is helpful for one's career" to others about befriending unsuccessful people, criticizing superiors and driving expensive cars. "We wanted to know just how important the appearance of success is to the reality of success," write Weiner and Aero. Their conclusion: The most successful of The Success Group maintained middle ground in this measure, "not too much flash but enough panache to command attention."
When the Money magazine survey asked the best way to get rich in America, the top responses were working hard (59 percent) and investing in real estate (43 percent), both self-directed means that topped fantasy responses, such as winning the lottery (39 percent) and inheriting money (38 percent). That suggests most Americans would score well on the Success Locus of Control Scale. Asking to judge true or false statements such as "I'd perform better if I got more direction from above" and "Investing in stock is like tossing a coin," it tests for an attitude found dominant in The Success Group -- that their successes or failures resulted from their own actions and were their own responsibilities.
Most fascinating, perhaps, is the Success Envy Inventory, which presents 20 juicy situations. Imagining they've happened to you, you're asked to rate your likely reaction, from "Purple With Rage" to "Actually Happy for the Other Person." The conclusion: Successful people "combine a strong desire to improve their position with a sensitivity toward the negative feelings that come with envy."
Do penny-pinchers increase their chances for wealth? More than a third of the respondents (35 percent) in the Money magazine survey agreed with the statement, "I don't like to part with my money." Money spenders, on the other hand -- those who say they spend their money rather freely -- were found to be more common among higher-income people and younger adults.
The Miser Test assesses that attitude. Do you travel first-class? Do you keep underwear and socks long after they have holes? Do you believe money is ultimately meant to be spent? Weiner and Aero found that miserly tendencies extend beyond the wallet: "Miserly individuals give very little of their talents or of themselves, and rarely do they create an atmosphere of well-being and success."
There are other surprises in The Money Test. While the Corporate Trivia proves mostly guesswork (How many common shares of stock were lost when AT&T was reorganized?) and the Business Math Test is an SAT flashback, the Competition Index strikes dead those who claim, "I'm really not the competitive type," and recommends that, in the business world, it's practically impossible to be too competitive.
The Business Guilt Index is a beaut, too. Do you run errands on company time? Take pens and paper clips home from the office? Lie about your salary or cheat on your income tax? This is where it catches up with you. The good news is that our pillars of business sobriety in Weiner's Success Group all have a little to be guilty about. They "recognize a standard of behavior and integrity in business, and they judge themselves -- and others -- in view of that standard," the interpretation discloses.
But queue up most Americans to take the Money Anxiety Scale. Here's what separates the men from the boys in the bullion vault. Here, ultimately, is how the very rich are, indeed, different from you and me.
Do you worry that making money will become an obsession with you? That money will tempt you to indulge in bad habits? That you aren't capable of handling large amounts of money? That money is the root of all evil? Weiner and Aero tell us comedian W.C. Fields was so paranoid about protecting his money that he deposited it in more than 200 banks worldwide in accounts bearing different names. Most of his accounts have never been located.
W.C. wouldn't have made it into The Success Group, despite a scattered estate of more than $600,000. Most successful individuals, say Weiner and Aero, show a low level of money anxiety, reflecting a high level of satisfaction and self-confidence. But Fields might've related to the finding of the Money magazine survey that while 53 percent of respondents said they worry about money frequently, 37 percent admitted they think about money more often than they think about sex.
Vive la diffe'rence? It's not simply more money.