What does it take to get (and stay) rich? According to a new study, a surprising quality: a sense of purpose.

OK, I get that sounds wishy washy. I was also skeptical when I heard about this "sense of purpose" study.

But it seems legit. The psychologists who conducted the study followed more than 5,000 participants over nine years. The researchers even found out how much more people who had a sense of purpose in their study earned. People high on the sense of purpose scale accumulated an extra $20,857 over the course of the study.

Here's how they conducted their research. First, the researchers needed to quantify sense of purpose. They asked participants these questions:

  • Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them
  • I live life one day at a time and don't really think about the future
  • I sometimes feel as if I've done all there is to do in life

People who strongly agreed with statement one and strongly disagreed with the other two were deemed to have a high sense of purpose. The participants also answered questions about their personality, life satisfaction, income and wealth.

From the very start, it was clear that those who had a higher sense of purpose had higher incomes and wealth. Over the next several years, the researchers checked in with as many of the participants as possible. The sense of purpose people earned and grew their wealth more than the others. "Participants who reported a higher sense of purpose had higher levels of household income and net worth initially, and were more likely to increase on these financial outcomes over the nine years between assessments," the authors wrote in a paper they published in Journal of Research in Personality.

The purpose-related financial gains seemed to benefit the younger participants most. Participants aged 20-35 at the start of the study stood to increase their earnings and wealth more. Those aged 35 and older at the start of the study weren't as lucky. Perhaps is reason is that the younger population was still in process of finding and nailing whatever their purpose was.

All the data was self-reported, so there's a possibility people weren't totally honest in sharing their incomes and wealth. Still, the researchers feel strong about the results of their study. It's difficult to make a case against finding purposeful work or creating a purposeful life, which lead to better job satisfaction, happiness and well-being. Earning more money can't hurt either.