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If You're So Smart Why Ain't You Rich?

The classic glib rhetorical question, but now with actual answers!


It's a classic philosophical problem, and usually one posed rhetorically, as if expecting no answer. The thing is, if you are clever, you might wonder why your success in the world doesn't match your mental powers. However, I have solutions to some of these things. Even a philosophical enigma such as How Long is a Piece of String are solved here! In terms of the matter of How to Get Rich, there are many answers.

Now you might think I could be glib about this, because if anyone was silly enough to ask me "If You're so smart, why ain't you RICH?!", I could reply "But I AM rich!", which completely deflates the argument. Fortunately I'll not leave it at that, because I have a general-purpose solution which is more helpful to other people!

In a way, this page exists to help people who are clever but who haven't yet become rich. The good news is: There are solutions.

I've observed that most noticeably, members of Mensa, the High IQ Society, tend not to be as wealthy as their amazing intelligence quotients suggest they should be. This is a practical world manifestation of the vexing puzzler "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?". Surely, by logical reasoning, those clever people should be wealthy! They can play chess, and they can solve the Rubik's Cube, and they can do IQ tests in a jiffy, but when it comes to the bank balance, they're not in the expected percentile.

I know the answer to this, and it can be demonstrated in the following odd storytelling:

Supposing you and your neighbour are each going to dig a big hole, perhaps for installing a pool in your respective gardens. You might ponder, standing there leaning on your shovel, on how it can possibly be right that your neighbour is getting on so well. "Surely", you might say, "I have got the better shovel, with the finest titanium blade, and crafted to be the optimum dynamic for excavation, and yet my neighbour, who is a schmuck, has already dug a much bigger hole than I have?!". But there's the answer: Application! Your neighbour, even with a rusty old shovel and not half the back muscle you've got, has dug a big hole because of actually having a go, rather than just standing there!

Yes, but brain-power isn't about effort. True, but in essence the concept of "application" is still valid. The clever people are good at playing chess, but when challenged to a game of life, they sometimes don't apply the same mental powers, and that's why they are not rich. This idea of adopting a chess-playing attitude against the problems of life is typical of the positive anti-religious way of thinking that works so well with Direct Drive, a philosophy which has the thing to be said in its favour: It actually works!

Admittedly, as with many things in life, it's more complicated. There are many things going on, such as luck, and initial conditions. However, it's a fact that there are a lot of clever people who would succeed on merit, but who fail on results in the bank, because the thinking-power they've got is not applied to their situations in life.

Now in your own case, it's not for me to say whether your success or lack or it is because of this. You might have your own reasons for how things have got the way they have, for example, luck, or being misdirected, or on not having been dealt the right cards, or it being pre-ordained destiny, or on your being compelled by emotional forces to behave in a particular way. I am not telling you how to live your life. I believe that choices are often a matter of personal taste, and people have to make their own mistakes. Nevertheless, there is this interesting idea, which you could put to the test by experiment, that if you apply your powers as a clever person to the actual problems in life, you might actually do very well. It's surely worth a try?


The expression is sometimes phrased "If you're so Smart, how come you ain't rich?", or other variants. It's the title of a song, and a DVD, and a book, etc, because the notion seems to stick. It's also sometimes described as "The American Question", as a parallel to "The American Dream", which is the idea that anyone can become a success if they put their mind to it. The idea assumes a few things, most notably that the person is living in a free market economy of the capitalist tradition in which it is possible to set up your own business. Also it's assumed that the person's true desire is to become rich. There are other forms of self-fulfilment and success in life, although financial wealth tends to help in achieving some of the other things too. If you don't accept the money=happiness notion, you could rephrase the question "If you're so clever, why aren't you happy?".

It has been noted that the question "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?" is typically reeled off by people who are neither smart nor rich, simply as a glib counter-argument to discredit anyone who states an educated opinion about anything. As with "How long is a piece of string?", it's not usually considered a serious question with a meaningful answer. However, I am helpfully answering such questions, so when someone waxes lyrical with a comment like "How high the moon?", I'm likely to say "Oh, about a quarter of a million miles".

If you are serious about your hope to get rich, then with a good plan and a bit of luck, it typically takes about ten years. So, not exactly "quick".


Another of the things about life is that it is set up to be such that it's remarkably easy to just muddle-on through it by making "default" decisions and life-choices. There are implicit assumptions which can mislead you into behaving in a "normal" way, but this is part of the deception of the world, almost as if it's been deliberately set up that way. Well, you don't need to be normal. Normal is over-rated.

The fact that it's possible to survive without putting much thought into life is a way the system has to lull you into a false sense of assumption. If, instead of things being the ordinary way they are, it was some sort of post-catastrophic scenario, you would be applying your mental abilities to survival like some of these characters in sci-fi movies. The trick is to put up such a strategic fight against the ways of things in life regardless. More about this at Direct Drive