Old Money: In Their Own Words

In response to your question, I would say there are a few challenges. There’s a pull that comes from the responsibility. I could spend half my day answering emails from the money manager or on the phone with the house manager. Busy work. I have to stay focused on my profession while managing the duties of my position. I’m the oldest and the only son so it falls on me to supervise assets that provide for an extended family.

I feel isolated at times. I’ve distanced myself for the most part from people who have ulterior motives. Most of the people I do business with won’t introduce me to someone who needs an investor for a business or a donor for a charity. We run a pretty closed shop. I have not extricated myself from friends and family members coming to me to solve their problems. I think this might be more of a universal problem than an old money problem, but it remains a challenge for me. I tend to see problems as the natural outcomes of choices and habits with very little room for luck or fate. My wife encourages me to be more compassionate. It’s a work in progress, as they say.

There is a college friend of mine who is distinctly middle class. When he came home with me during a school break for the first time, he silently gawked at the house but didn’t ask me any impertinent questions. After dinner was served, he picked up his plate, knife, and fork and carried them into the kitchen, set them near the sink, and thanked the cook for the meal.

My mother assured him that it wasn’t necessary for him to do that. He sat back down and said, Well, Mrs. B., I’m sure you guys have your ways of doing things. I have mine. We’ll meet in the middle if you’ll just tell me what these other two forks are for. (Formal dinner place setting joke.) The comment went down in family history and we’ve been friends ever since.

However, I have not been successful at socializing with other people outside my class. The challenge is that they can be rude and I am obligated to remain polite. It’s fatiguing. My college friend has endured embarrassment after introducing me to people he thought would be fun only to have them behave poorly. We now have a silent agreement that neither one of us is trying to expand my social circle.

Another thing that vexes me is that many people outside my office and set of close friends don’t have any idea of how hard we work. By we I mean affluent people. Pennies from Heaven it’s not for most. I certainly had advantages growing up and I could have coasted through life quiet easily. That’s not good form and it leads to discontent, so I didn’t do it. My wife tries to moderate my response when someone asks if I’m ‘jetting off to Aspen’ this weekend or some other stupid comment. No, I’m working a half day on Saturday and spending Sunday with my family. At home.

I don’t pretend that these are real challenges, like college tuition or medical bills. I do hope they help you with your column. Enjoyed the Guide to Marriage. Wish my daughter would have read it.

We’ll see you in the spring. – Tad




14 thoughts on “Old Money: In Their Own Words

  1. “Wish my daughter would have read it.”

    One can only hope there is or was a prenuptial agreement. I agree that Byron’s books are valuable, but unfortunately there are no books that can guarantee a successful marriage.

    Of course, it’s important to expect a son or daughter in law to have values, impeccable manners, higher education, work ethic, etc. But social status and money — I’m not saying this was implied in the quote — no matter how welcome, are never a guarantee for a fulfilling relationship. Many married men of high social status end up with a younger mistress, which is particularly humiliating for wives, definitely at a certain age.

    It wouldn’t be ethically right, as a father, to prefer the risk of a daughter marrying a successful but potentially unfaithful man, than the thought of her having to work to help pay the bills, like most people. Indeed, it may be difficult to accept that a modest yet dedicated husband could be a smarter choice for a genteel lady, in the long run. Still, the choice is hers.

  2. I was most struck by the poster’s feeling of isolation. I have long known that the presence of money can be very isolating for all of the reasons your poster mentioned. I have suspected it is the very reason my Surprise Millionaires keep a tight lid on their wealth accumulation activities. They believe (rightfully so) that the wealth they have obtained may change or even damage their current friendships and relationships. I am sure there is some type of connection between old money values and the Surprise Millionaire phenomenon – I just don’t know what it is … yet 🙂

    Thanks Byron

    1. I think it is why so many lottery winners regret winning. Most states require winners to announce the win and amount so they have no opportunity to remain under the radar screen

      1. Good comment, Janet. The promotional aspect of showing the lottery winners to the public is not helpful. Mandatory financial planning should be a part of the state’s gift to the winners, in addition to the money. – BGT

    2. There is a saying among the French: “Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés” (In order to live happily, live hidden).

  3. The lines about friends and family looking for help to solve their problems being universal gave me a wry smile. I loved the mentions of your friend’s wife, too. 🙂 Great piece with some food for thought. Thanks (again) for your blog and books, Byron.

  4. “I could spend half my day answering emails from the money manager…” Really? As someone who has 6 trusts, not one wealth management firm is corresponding on a daily basis, let alone one where you’d spend half the day answering emails. This story is completely fabricated.

    1. Hello, EMJ. I, too, thought the comment was a little off, but I felt the overall point of the email was worthwhile. So I posted it. Thanks – BGT

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