Want to Get Rich? Look at Your Hands

Jan 12, 2009 5:17pm

What makes for a financial whiz?  It’s all in the wrist.  Or, actually, the fingers.  Read on. A team at the University of Cambridge in England reports that the most successful stock traders at a London brokerage firm they studied are ones who were exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb.  Presumably, they’re bigger risk-takers, more confident, able to work fast in a high-stress environment. But how do you tell which adults had more testosterone before birth?  Measure their fingers.  A longer ring finger, compared to the index finger, means you got more testosterone.  If you look at your own hands, you’ll probably note that the index and ring fingers (the second and fourth) are very close in length.  In men, the index finger tends to be slightly longer; in women, it’s the reverse, though not by much.  (My ring finger is definitely longer than my index finger.  At least on my left hand.)  It’s not a meaningless difference.  The more successful traders in the study (almost everyone at the firm was male) made on the order of $6 million a year — and the researchers say the high-testosterone, long ring-fingered ones, on average, earned six times as much money as their short-fingered colleagues.  The full paper, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is HERE.  (And fingers as a hormonal marker are useful; see the piece that Lauren Cox of our medical unit has written HERE.) There’s, of course, a lot more to the art of getting rich — like knowledge, judgment, and the ability to collaborate.  The authors — John Coates, Mark Gurnell, and Aldo Rustichini — say the macho, quick-acting profile that seems to go with high testosterone levels in men may not be the best thing if you’re in some field other than fast-paced stock trading.  Lead author Coates — a former trader turned business-school professor — goes on to warn against applying the averages they found to individual traders.  There’s been a lot of research on athletes — where the hulking toughness that you’d think comes with high testosterone would seem to be prized.  But Coates points to a favorite example: Jimmy Connors, the tennis player who won eight Grand Slam titles, stood only 5’9". (Photo credit: National Academy of Sciences, PNAS.)

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