I think there are challenges for people when they look at our group and think they’d like to live like we do. The initial impulse I’ve witnessed before is to go buy things that would seem to indicate that one’s now gentrified. This reaction is typical of the middle class or upper middle class. They still express themselves by purchasing things.
On the other hand, we express ourselves frequently through choices, most of which involve restraint and reflect a perspective focused on the long term. These choices appear very calculated to some but are often knee-jerk reactions to us: taking care of yourself, making certain your children get the education they should, having a monthly budget and adhering to it, committing your best efforts to your work or your charitable activities.
These things are so obvious and bone dull that they quickly lose their luster when people are exposed to them. They want a lifestyle guide, interior decorator, or a secret handshake that consecrates them as members of club. There isn’t one.
No offense or disrespect for your book, but it’s just a point of reference. There’s no substitute for two or three generations of hard work, money, education, literacy, and an overriding sense of purpose. Someone has to have the resources, vision, and energy to commit to this.
The most common road to this I’ve seen has been for one spouse to make a sizable amount of money. Sometimes it’s a large fortune, sometimes it’s barely comfortable. It’s not the size as much as the management of it, and the subsequent behavior of the family members going forward. The other spouse focuses on the children and the family life. Do they have manners? Are they working hard in school? Are they dealing with their problems effectively?
One without the other and you miss the mark. It’s not easy to make money and hold on to it. It’s not easy to raise productive children in an affluent environment. It’s not easy to remain modest and anonymous. Conversely, it’s a point of pride with our group when it’s accomplished to a certain degree. It is acknowledged and there is respect given.
I wouldn’t say it’s a comfortable life. It requires discipline and diligence. I read a book recently in which the main character noted that prison was difficult only for those who hadn’t attended an English boarding school. There’s a measure of truth in that, I think, even though I have experienced neither. There is, I will admit, an absence of worry.
It is less emotional in our world. We laugh at more things more often, but I think we cry less often. Depression or self pity is looked upon a some sort of indulgence that really reflects poorly, considering the advantages our group enjoys. “How are you?” as I think you’ve mentioned before, is a greeting, not an inquiry. And don’t try to hug me. We’ll shake hands if you’re a man, or I’ll kiss you on the cheek if you’re a woman and we know each other well.
I’ve rambled. In conclusion, part of the challenge is getting here. There are no shortcuts and there is no assurance of remaining here. Another challenge, I would guess, is to find the motivation for pursuing something with so few visible, material rewards.
14 thoughts on “Old Money: In Their Own Words”
Thank you, LMC. Not rambling at all. It’s what Byron has been saying all along. I liked your reference to prison and the English boarding school.
I enjoyed this! I am a “homemaker” and well meaning people have often pointed out that I could be making money with my education. Sure…but my husband and I have decided to be countercultural and raise our own kids, it takes a team and we only have one shot! Thank you!
Excellent choice, Stephanie. You get one shot at raising a child. All the money in the world can’t buy back an afternoon in the park. Thank you…and good luck! – BGT
Hello Stephanie. My wife is a homemaker as well. Master’s degree and all. We wouldn’t have it any other way. There is no fortune lost, only transferred to a less tangible form. My hat goes off to you.
Very much enjoyed reading ‘my husband and I have decided to be counter-cultural and raise our own kids.’ And I bet you’re doing it well.
Good points LMC, well written too. The middle and upper middle class can purchase items for the purpose of giving the impression of gentrification, but it is no substitute for a lack of substance behind the facade. If they don’t assimilate the values and unseen lifestyle choices (financial and otherwise) that make up the core of living well and instill these in their children, they and future generations of their family will remain as they are in class. I’m not against someone enjoying and appreciating certain things money can buy (especially if the thing is an asset), but to put the cart before the horse (or permanently void of the horse) for the purpose of show and deception I think is where the lower classes get it wrong.
Thank you, Alex. “Cart before the horse…” perfect analogy. – BGT
This rings true. I don’t know who this person is, but I believe he or she is Old Money. Many people try to purchase the accoutrements of an Old Money Lifestyle, but it’s really about character; about being kind hearted and fair minded and doing the right thing even when it’s not the easy thing. And, for better or worse, it’s probably not possible to fully adopt the Old Money attitudes and adapt to the Old Money lifestyle if you weren’t born into it.
Family money usually doesn’t last in significant amounts beyond three generations, and even when it does it’s not all glitz and glamour. Living well takes work and being Old Money does not exempt anybody from this.
Good call, Amy. Glitz and glamour usually signal and end to real affluence. Thank you. – BGT
I think old money families develop in different ways. During late 1800’s, many fortunes were made as a result of industrial activity and low taxes. A lot of this wealth was flaunted – not handled the old money way to be sure (perhaps the picture used for this post includes such people, haha) However, at some point they or their children decided to change their mode of living to the values and constructs outlined in Byron’s book and in this blog. This point would mark the beginnings of old money status for those families I believe (beginnings being the key word).
On the other hand, during the same time there were many very poor immigrants (my own ancestors included) that made there way to this country looking for a better life. And through extreme thrift, running small businesses, and a lot of hard work they were able to succeed in not only building wealth, but passing these values and wealth on to future generations. In these cases, the values and attitudes were there from the beginning, but the old money status hadn’t taken hold I think until the money and values had developed some patina by passing through the generations.
Our family’s money has withered, but the values, attitudes and habits have not.
Thank you for the comment, David. The values are key. Good for you. – BGT
“And don’t try to hug me. ” I had to laugh at that one. It’s so true. Ditto for strangers greeting me with “Hey” or people addressing me by my first name in a business setting when we’ve never met or spoken. But maybe that’s just my European upbringing showing…
Thank you, LP. Yes, these issues are too common. – BGT