16 August 2016 – 

intelligenceHey, do you know how to determine whether you’re intelligent or not? Some would suggest an IQ test is a good place to start but I’ve found the latest, definitive guide for finding out whether you are of above average intellect. Keep reading and tell me what you think of this ground-breaking research.

These are the signs (some would say side effects) of intelligence in human beings. Other than just being intelligent.

Let’s run through the traits.

  1. Untidiness

Research conducted by the University of Minnesota claimed that an unwillingness to tidy up was a sign that a person’s mind was on other (more important) things.

The study also found that a disorderly environment was better for one’s creativity than one which was ordered, which tended to perturb people from thinking originally. So that messy desk is really a sign of genius.

  1. Recreational drug users

According to a study by National Child Development:

More intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children.

This is not to suggest the drugs make you smarter as an adult, but that there is a correlation between drug use as an adult and having been an intelligent child.

  1. Eldest child

The interplay between siblings, parents and the eldest child lead them to become more intelligent. The New York Times covered the slight but significant edge possessed by oldest siblings when their IQs were compared to younger siblings.

  1. Teenage virginity

This one is a little tricky because it either means you have an IQ of over 110 or below 70. According to the Penn State Collegian, which looked into the research, an adolescent with an IQ score of 100 was 1.5 to 5 times more likely to have had intercourse than an adolescent with an above average score of about 120 to 130.

  1. Nocturnal early years

A study published in Psychology Today has found that more intelligent children grow up to be more nocturnal adults. This was supported by another study found that while night owls were out performed at school by early risers, they tended to be more successful in later life.

  1. Left handed

There is some disagreement over whether or not links between left-handedness and intelligence can be found, yet some correlation between ways of thinking have been established. Left brain activity (associated with creativeness) is more prominent in left handed people. In addition, lefties have been found to be ‘divergent thinkers‘, able to combine two seemingly unrelated topics. So if you count that as smart, then they’re smarter.

  1. Foul mouthed

The findings of a series of vocabulary and emotional tests published in Sciences established that ‘fluency is fluency’, and those who shared emotional characteristics with intelligent people were also the most profane.

As such the ‘poverty-of-vocabulary’ myth with regards to swearing has been thoroughly debunked.

  1. Funny

A study by scientists from the University of New Mexico has found that humour is a good predictor of intelligence. The study also found that it was a good predictor of mating success.

  1. Thinness

If you were more intelligent as a child, you’re more likely to be a thin adult.

Several studies have looked at individuals over a period of time and found that the more obese ones were less intelligent. This can be because intelligent children grow up to be wealthier adults, and therefore the correlation between wealth and thinness comes into play.

  1. Cat lover

A 2014 study by the Rochester Institute of Technology gave 600 students a personality and cognitive ability test. Those who identified as a cat person performed noticeably better in the intelligence measuring sections of the test than those who identified as a dog person.

  1. Tall

A study by Princeton University entitled ‘Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labour Market Outcomes’ found that even before schooling has come into play, the height of a child is a good indicator of their intelligence, and the taller the better.

  1. Modesty

It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Essentially unintelligent people will overestimate their abilities, and the smart will do themselves down. Apparently, that’s why the ignorant are nearly always arrogant.

Source: Indy100


Well, what do you think? Does this mean that if you’re an tidy, dog-loving, short, slightly rotund person, your mental ability lags behind us tall, messy, perfectly formed, blessed-with-a-hilarious-potty-mouth, not to mention modest, types? No, I didn’t think so.

Or do you think that a better gauge of intelligence would be about how you achieve a bunch of more important things, such as, oh, planning your financial future for example? It’s not much use having an IQ of 150 if you can’t afford to pay your bills or save and invest for financial independence is it.

Financial intelligence is what’s going to help make you a winner. You could start by exercising what Mr Money Mustache calls the ‘frugality muscle. “Now what the hell is that?” I hear you say. “There’s no such thing”. Well, ok, maybe you won’t find ‘frugality muscle” in any medical journal but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Financial intelligence is not going to be something you are good at from day one and to get better you need to exercise. Like strengthening any muscle group, it takes time and it takes effort. Your frugality muscle is no different.

Begin by taking small steps. Start tracking your expenses. Not just the medium and big ones, but every cent that you spend. That will allow you to achieve two aims. One, discover how much daily lattes, buying lunch every day, little treats “because I work hard and deserve it”, and takeaway meals are costing you over a year. And two, it’ll give you an idea of how much you actually need to live on once all of the wasteful, consumeristic spending has been cut out of your life. You’ll probably be surprised by the numbers.

Next, start saving all of that cash you have previously been wasting. While you’re doing this, start learning about investing your savings for better returns. There’s a heap of better ways to invest your hard earned than leaving it sitting in a bank savings account. Learn these and you’ll be in a far better position to make smart, informed investment decisions.

If you’re not paying off those credit cards every month, seriously, consider getting rid of them. Debt is going to be the biggest killer when it comes to forging ahead towards your financial goal. Getting rid of debt, especially if substantial, or you have several, requires some planning. My previous article “Get out of debt” should help get you started.

At some stage now, you will have worked out how much you’ll need to have in your stash to enable you to retire. Putting this simply, to allow you to stop having to earn a living, you’ll need a minimum of 25 times your living expenses. This will provide a regular income, using the 4% safe withdrawal rate theory, for the rest of your life, without ever touching the principal invested. For more on this, check out these two sites, Mad Fientist and Morningstar.

Now this is very simplistic but it is realistic and it’s the plan that I adopted when I gave up full-time work earlier this year, aged 50. If I didn’t have faith in the viability of the theory, then I wouldn’t be suggesting it to you.

If you’re new to the idea of FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early), this probably isn’t going to make complete sense right now. Again, to gain financial intelligence, you need to work at it, exercise that frugality muscle, learn how to invest and what to invest in.

One of the best sources of information and inspiration are the other personal finance bloggers who write regularly about how they are working towards financial independence. There’s plenty out there but here’s just a few of my favourites and regular reads:

Dividends Down Under – Australian based, Tristan and Jasmine are regular writers who are in their early 20’s. They still have a way to go before reaching financial independence but have a firm plan of how they’ll get there.

Quit Work For Life – A blog from fellow kiwi and working mum heading towards FIRE  by investing in property and shares.

Finance Superhero – Another early starter on the path to FI, but with a clear plan of reaching that point in as short a time as possible.

Millennial Money Man – As the name suggests, M$M is young but well respected in the personal finance blog community.

The Green Swan – Not only does JW (aka The Green Swan) write a blog about what he’s doing to reach FIRE, he’s also written a really good book aimed at those who are starting out on the path to FIRE and may be looking for inspiration and ideas to achieve this. Well worth a read.


How are your plans for FIRE going? Have you recently begun the journey or are you an old hand? What advice would you offer to someone starting out? And what do you think about the way to tell whether you’re intelligent or not? Can you see it becoming a replacement for the IQ test?

14 thoughts on “12 signs of intelligence. See how you measure up.”

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Martin!

    I agree, to flex that financial intelligence muscle you need to work at it. I did the same as you, becoming a regular reader of a number of personal finance websites and blogs. It helped me learn and get started on my path toward FI.

  2. We appreciate the mention Martin, thank you very much for that.

    Some of those traits are interesting and probably are a sign of intelligence (funny and modesty make the most sense to me) whereas some others are probably just unrelated yet correlated. I don’t like the actual IQ test, so I’d much rather have something like these correlations to get a better picture.

    Seen as you mentioned us, our journey is only just beginning but hopefully we’re doing the right, intelligent choices now which will make our lives much easier in the future 🙂 To anyone just starting out, I would suggest to look at the habits of people who have achieved what you want to achieve. I’m sure they all (MMM, Getfiredasap, Retirein1500days etc) all have ‘spend less than you earn and invest the difference” in common.


    1. You’re welcome guys. Yeah, I don’t know how much credibility you can put in that list of traits. I fit some of them too so does that mean I’m intelligent? I don’t know. I’ve done some pretty unintelligent things in my life.

      I think you guys are worthy of a mention as you’re planning your financial goals from an age when most people are blowing every cent on wasteful self indulgence. And you’ve hit a few hurdles along the way but haven’t faltered from the plan. I reckon you’ll get there sooner than you think.

  3. I don’t put a lot of stock in that list or the various studies. “Financial intelligence is what’s going to help make you a winner.” Indeed. Couldn’t agree more, my friend.

  4. Those signs really surprised me, Martin. I have to say that I wasn’t expecting to read any of them when I saw your headline.

    Studies are a funny thing, because researchers can manipulate data to suit their biases. I’m not saying that this happened in the above studies, but that’s something I often think about when maintaining a skeptical approach toward these kind of studies.

    1. I don’t think any of them are particularly scientific, FSH. Like a lot of surveys and studies these days, the data can be manipulated to give the result you want. I’m quite a tidy person so what does that suggest about me? A healthy dose of skepticism is probably wise.

    1. I’m not sure that it’s very scientific, Thias. I don’t think your wife is going to let you get away with that excuse. Try it though and be sure to let us know how it goes hehe.

  5. I love reading various other personal finance websites because I love hearing different personal perspectives on finance. I learned so much along the way and have a lot more reading to do.

    I love the points about doing small things daily that will accumulate to a larger result in the end. Overnight successes are very rare (though they do exist) while long-term successes aren’t!

    1. Hi Finance Solver, as many have said, the journey to financial independence is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Short of getting rich quick from an inheritance, winning lotto, or some other stroke of luck, for the majority of us it’s going to take time but as I can attest, it’s worth it. Cheers for stopping by and commenting.

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