It was on April 22, 2013, that I created and first posted on this blog. Candidly, I thought I had about a year’s worth of things to say about The Old Money Book (published on April 8 of that same year) and Old Money culture in America.
I originally wrote the book because so many people I knew had been living well–until the Financial Crisis of 2007–and then suddenly had their world turned upside down. And by ‘living well’ I mean the nice house, the new cars, the designer clothes, the ready cash (which in hindsight we all recognize as ready credit cards), and the freedom from worry that only the very, very rich can really afford to have.
As lay-offs, foreclosures, and bankruptcies swirled and engulfed the college-educated, upwardly mobile, and seemingly affluent around the country and around me personally, I was in disbelief: why didn’t they see this coming? Why were these people living like this if they didn’t have serious money in the bank to handle this kind of rainy day? Why weren’t people living the way we (my family and a few other OMGs I knew) did?
Friends and colleagues sold cars and jewelry for whatever they could get for them. Some walked away from their houses and mortgage payments, equity be damned. Their children’s college educations were interrupted. Their portfolios were gutted.
Some called and visited, confiding more than I ever wanted to know about their financial situations. The carnage was not just on the television news; it was in my living room, shaken and lost.
Inevitably, the conversation turned to, ‘So how are you guys doing?’, I would have to shrug and say ‘We’re hanging in there.’ And I left it at that. The truth was that, yes, we took a financial slap in the face with the crisis, but it wasn’t a body blow. Our solvency was never in jeopardy, and our lifestyle never changed. Our twenty-year-old sedans still puttered around town, shuttling my wife and I to meetings during the week and to the farmers market on Sunday. She wore–and she does today–a wardrobe of mixed pieces: some 30 years old and some 30 days old, all classic, all timeless. I ambled about, as I always have, in button-down shirts, khakis, and Allen Edmonds shoes.
It was only when a friend came to me with wonderful news that the idea for The Old Money Book took firm hold. Her husband had been unevenly employed as a back-up and session vocalist in Los Angeles for years. Now, he’d auditioned and earned a place as a featured singer with a world-famous rock and roll band that would be going on tour for 18 months. This was his big break. The money would be coming in fast and heavy. All those years of her working a 9 to 5 job while he did one-day studio gigs were over. And she came to me for advice. Okay…why, exactly?
‘I know you’ve got money and I think you’ve always had it,’ she said with the candor of a person on a mission. ‘I don’t want to blow this. What can you tell me?’ I sat there in the Chinese food restaurant in silence for a moment, then I launched into something like The Old Money Sermon on the Mount: a free-flowing, nonstop barrage of advice, warnings, and encouragement that left her hand cramping from taking notes and my throat sore from pontificating. An hour and a half later, the restaurant was empty and we were both done.
All the anger that had built up in me from watching so many people make the same money mistakes had poured out. All the anxiety in her about how to handle this new money and this new life had melted away. She had a philosophy she could get her head around. I had something I knew I could, and should, write a book about.
The following weekend, I phoned some OMGs I’d known for decades and told them what I was thinking. Comments ranged from the sincere: ‘I think it’s a great idea,’ and ‘Anything I can contribute, let me know,’ to the sarcastic: ‘You’re a traitor to your class. You’re going to out us, expose all our secrets, and ruin it for everyone.’
The publication of The Old Money Book did not result in an upper class apocalypse, I’m happy to report. My friends whose double-barreled names begin with initials and end with numbers remain safe and sound. Their butts sunk into a sea of chintz, LL Bean rubber mocs clonked on the coffee table, they tap on their laptops, contribute to some of the ‘In Their Own Words’ posts you read, and encourage other OMGs to scribble a word or two on my behalf.
Five years later, even after writing The Old Money Guide To Marriage, I find I still have things to say. More importantly, I find that I’ve helped create a community–a safe space–where you, the reader, can come to contribute, be inspired, and learn. Because an Old Money life is a discreet and reserved one, it can be isolating: Does anyone else share my traditional values? I am the only one not spending like a crazy person? Is anyone else fatigued with the ‘consumer/celebrity culture’ that permeates American society? Am I the only millennial who dresses just like my grandfather?
Fear not. When it seems like no one else understands you, we do. Whether we’re Old Money by birth or by choice, you can share with us. We who wear the blue blazers and the boat shoes, the pearls and the cardigans. We who still read. We who still appreciate conversation. We who send thank you notes. You can count on us, the ones without our elbows on the dinner table.
And I emphasize that I’ve helped create this community. Without you, there would be no community. So again, a word of thanks and a heart full of gratitude, from me to you.
We’re five years old, darling.
48 thoughts on “Anniversary: Old Money Turns 5”
Congratulations on completing five years. I must say, that I love your blog. It’s given me a lot of knowledge of things I had no idea about. A lot of people around me live beyond their means and your book would serve as a perfect gift to them. I especially like the book on marriage.
Thank you, psychogrok. I’m happy it’s been helpful, and I’m glad you enjoyed. – BGT
Love the book and the posts. Best, Michael
Thank you, Michael. Hope you’re well. – BGT
Félicitations, bien joué. It should be entertaining to see one’s spiritual baby turn five.
I had the opportunity to spend some time around OMGals and OMGuys in university, along with plenty of “new money”. We all did laugh at the Tea Partay videos back when.
Now, a decade later, I am seeing some of my friends going through the lifestyle inflation so typical upon finally hitting UMC status, both professionally and socially. The studio is no longer enough, only 140m^2 (=1500 sq ft.) will do. Included a walk-in closet. The solidly engineered German car, traded for a Range Rover. Wagyu steak accompanied by magnum bottles of fine red ($250 a pop), when we used to go with burgers and beer (I second Nassim Taleb in saying burgers taste better — higher fat content!). Never mind, the credit card will pay for it. Divorce, maybe the biggest and most infallible hit of all.
On the other hand, other friends starting to see the light. Minimalism and a certain frugality, not due to necessity but life quality maximization. Other shared values: one marriage is probably enough to last a lifetime. Entrepreneurship to be tried before turning fourty. “Buy it for life” as guiding principle in purchases. Eschewing TV in favor of a (by now) huge collection of literature.
I will probably give one of them the OMB, if only for seeing the face they make. My kind of enjoyment.
Thank you for the work you do, and providing me with plein de joie dans la lecture.
Merci beaucoup, Johannes. Yes, the lifestyle can creep up on people…and their net worth. Great list of dangers, and the opposite end of it: frugality, and a sense of the real value of things. Much appreciated. – BGT
That’s a great line: The Old Money Sermon on the Mount. Maybe one day you can list The Old Money Ten Commandments. It should make for interesting reading.
Thank you, Bob. I will have to work on the OM 10. Great idea. – BGT
Congratulations! Your words are constant encouragement to stay the course. Ask my husband how many times in a week I start a sentence with, “well Byron says…”
One should always keep in mind Mark Twain and his: “History Does Not Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes.” Going back in history, Giovanni di Bicci de Medici recommended to his son to stay away form public eye. Going further back in history, Frescobaldi family form Florence might have the key how to stay on both feet on the ground. I thing they started in 12th century and they are still here. Unnoticed!
The wealth that never existed can’t be destroyed. However, the majority of the people still live in illusion, which they consider to be reality. They think that material possessions represent real wealth, but the day of reckoning is around the corner once again. Perhaps one should ask Rahn&Bodmer.
Thank you, omgm. Yes, the old European families really know how to stay under the radar. – BGT
Thank you Byron for sharing your wisdom. You have a gift with words. Your blog and books have truly enriched my life as well as my family.
Thank you, Kim. Much appreciated. – BGT
I have been a regular reader and commenter for nearly four of those years. Lots of great posts and comments from readers. Old Money values seem self sacrificial during the good times, but when the bad inevitably show up you had better have your house in order. Posh cars and flashy homes with more debt than equity is just one layoff away from foreclosure. I am more “new” money than old since I have built my wealth myself, but the values and education I was given is my inheritance which will pay dividends for generations. This blog has provided great advice on living well, dressing well and handling wealth well. I am proud to be regular OMB reader.
Thank you, Dario. Your support and contributions to the blog over the years are really appreciated. I hope you and the family are well. Continued success… – BGT
I’m sure glad you’ve been at it for five years, Byron. I started reading your blog about six months back and I read The Old Money Book as well. It makes me yearn for my childhood being ferried around in my parents Peugeot (and later Volvo) in a Connecticut suburb listening to them instill values in me and sharing stories of their time living abroad. I never considered my family “rich”, but we were certainly comfortable, had every opportunity and were raised with that certain “gentility” which is hard to come by. My parents never made me feel like I was better than anyone else or like I had a silver spoon in my mouth, though I realize in retrospect I lived a very privileged upbringing. Your writing has helped me put all of this in perspective. My parents have been happily married for 38 years and I have recently married an OMG myself. I’m a southerner now, and I find a good bit of OM culture where I live now, as well. I’d like to give my future children a similar experience one day. And by the way, at 31, I am the millennial who dresses like my grandfather!
Thank you, Richard. I really appreciate it. It sounds like you had a great family environment. Good for you. Key search terms for ‘good living’…Connecticut, Volvo, and dressing like your grandfather! – BGT
Hi Byron. Yes, a very sincere congratulations to you on your five-year anniversary. I also have been following you for quite some time and have gone back to the beginning and read every one of your posts. I always eagerly await the next one. I don’t know if I am new money, but I know I’m certainly not old money. Unfortunately, I wasn’t raised with the values you espouse, but I have since learned them so well in my new life that I can list every one of them from your book in the order they were written. And I must admit to “stealing” them from you when I now define my values and philosophy for life. I know and live them like I know my own name. And it has paid off in more ways than I can describe here. So, you see, you have helped many of us, perhaps more than you know, and you have reinforced those values for those who have always known them but find temptation around every corner. I am beyond grateful for your advice and am also proud to be an OMB reader. Keep up the good work.
Thank you, Bev. Your support over the years is greatly appreciated. I’m glad it’s been helpful to you, and I’m honored that you’d adopt some of what I’ve written as part of your philosophy for living. Hope all is well. – BGT
Congratulations Byron. You have touched many lives and helped many people the last five years. Thank you!
Thank you, John. Much appreciated. – BGT
It is only in the last six months that I found the OM book and incredible blog, but I have really enjoyed catching up with all the posts. Thank you so much for writing and today for sharing the origins of your idea. You are really a great storyteller!
I am writing something myself and struggle with the doubts of its relevance to anyone else, but then realize all I have gained by reading the work of other writers.
As others have commented here, your advice stays in my mind.
Thank you, Elle. Please persevere in your writing. You never know where it can take you. – BGT
Thanks, Elle. Please persevere with your writing. You never know where it can take you. – BGT
Thanks for your writing. My great grandparents four of them, came over from Europe sponsored to work as house servants in Weston, MA and New Orleans. There was a bit of old money ways that were passed on and I have always been grateful. Its afforded me the ability to fraternize above my class and kept me from the traps many lower class people find themselves in.
Ive mixed this with other cultures Ive been exposed to and it works well.
Great blog. Its appreciated. You still have admirers and people who take your example in other classes.
Thank you, Rachel. Much appreciated. And thank you for sharing a little about your family history. – BGT
Congratulations, Byron, on your five-year anniversary and long may this blog prosper! It is one of the very few that I read on a steady basis and I always find something that makes me think, challenges my assumptions, and sometimes brings a tear to my eyes. This is truly a wonderfully affirming community of intelligent, thoughtful, civil and humorous people and one that I hope I may always be a part of. Through your blog and your Old Money book, I have learned so much, not just about financial wisdom, but other areas of wisdom as well. I enjoy reading the comments and learn from those, too. Thank you for all your work and please always be assured that your readers are here enjoying our sense of community.
Thank you very much, Sophie. I’m glad you enjoy and benefit from the blog and books. Here’s to another 5 years! – BGT
Congratulations Byron. I constantly turn to your book or blog whenever I get the urge to be a bit “spendy”. It usually shuts up the “gimme” voice. Growing up in Ireland, I come from a family where we didn’t necessarily have the wealth, but the traditional values were instilled in us from an early age. I find that the Old Money values tie in well with my faith practice as a Quaker. I love your tongue in cheek posts and constantly look at the wardrobe posts with a sigh of relief. Going by your lists, I don’t actually “need” to shop for anything. It’s all in my closet. I bought many of my Ralph Lauren button-down shirts from a great second-hand site. I love my LL Bean boots for winter weather in Utah, and I wear my pearls often, but especially whenever I need a facelift if I haven’t slept well. Pearls cast an amazing light on the face.
But seriously, thank you for constantly challenging what reality tv has posited as wealth and class. I’m so happy to see younger readers add their own comments to the blog. This is a multi-generational community.
Thank you, Melanie. Yes, it is great to have the next generation coming up with the values we hold dear. Much appreciated. – BGT
Congratulations on your anniversary Mr. Tully! I’m so grateful I came across your writing just when we realized that our company would grow considerably in the forseeable future. I’ve learned so much, discovered that we made very good decisions and perhaps most importantly, feel confident and comfortable without any need for an outward show of what (others may think) our social and financial status might be. Thank you very much for publishing your thoughts – I know that always takes a lot of courage and discipline!
Thank you, Sabine. I really appreciate your support and participation. – BGT
Congratulations Byron on five years in the blogosphere! Your books and blog have been a personal inspiration to me as I pursue my own blogging and writing. Keep up the good work and I hope to be reading your wonderful blog for years to come 🙂
Thank you, Keith. Much appreciated. – BGT
According to Confucianism, any righteous man willing to improve himself can become a “junzi”, or gentleman, second only to the sage (sheng). Regardless of his circumstances, a “junzi” will be virtuous, knowledgeable and disciplined.
I believe that your book and blog inspire a similar idea. I consider myself lucky to have found them.
PS: You still look as young as five years ago!
Thanks, JL! Great quote from a great philosopher. Much appreciated. – BGT
Congratulations, Byron, on five years and know that your wisdom is being used to guide a 17 year old young man to adulthood. He must have learned something because out of 3 possible colleges, two are very good private ones where he can attend for free (perks of his dad’s job) and live at home as so not to incur any student loan debt. His idea, with a gentle wink from Mom and Dad. And once he graduates he will be off to vet school carrying a copy of your books in his backpack.
Thank you very much, Kellie. You’re very kind. And congratulations to you on some great parenting. Please keep us posted on the student’s progress. All the best – BGT
Happy anniversary! I wish you many happy years ahead!
Congratulations, Byron. Thank you for your blog; I just love it. Thanks too, to everyone for joining in. The comments are a great part of this blog. Phillippa x
Thanks, Phillippa! Hope you and the family are well down under! – BGT
You’re wonderful, Byron. I can’t accurately express how grateful I am for your work. Thank you for answering the call to write and share the time-tested and traditional values of Old Money. I’ve mentioned before how this blog feels like home. This excerpt of your post explains why beautifully: “I’ve helped create a community–a safe space–where you, the reader, can come to contribute, be inspired, and learn. Because an Old Money life is a discreet and reserved one, it can be isolating.” Cheers and congratulations to 5 years! May we enjoy many more here, together.
Thank you very much, Simone. Please continue to contribute. Onward and upward…! – BGT
Will do, Byron. Yes!
Recently, much to my chagrin, a couple of close friend of mine found out how little I spend per month and live the way I do. Their comments included “how on earth is that possible” and “why not live a little?”. What they don’t understand perhaps is that I am living a little, a lot in fact. Every day is an adventure. I have a vocation I enjoy and I do well at it. I want for nothing (perhaps some of this is my simple taste), and I’ll be able to maintain my lifestyle no matter which direction the economic winds blow the sails. Their concern comes from me being the only millennial among us to not spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars per week going “out” and “having a good time”. But I am just as content staying at home reading, studying something of my interest, or working on a project. Thank you for the validation that this book has given my choices. Perhaps one day the hangover will set in for my peers and they will want to heed my subtle advice to read the beige colored book I gave them three years ago “(wink, nod.)”. I hope to continue reading the blog and commenting occasionally for years to come. Thank you, again.
Good for you, Austin. And thank you for the kind words. Keep up the good work. – BGT
Congratulations! I’ve enjoyed your blog (and your books) for a long time now and I’m so glad that you’ve found success with both. I look forward to your new book- will it be available in paperback? (Please, for all of us “non-Kindle-ers?)
Something you wrote in this post struck me and I wanted to ask you about it (if I may): OM values CAN be rather isolating- they’re certainly a far cry from the mores of popular American culture. How does one contend with a world whose values run so very contradictory to one’s own? Any thoughts? Is it just a matter of strengthening resolve? Or is that the very reason that the OM folks are so insular?
Hi Lenka, Great to hear from you. Yes, the new book will be in paperback as well as digital formats. Regarding the values gap that many of us run into…I would first say it’s important to accept the fact that every person is on their own path. They will learn their own lessons and enjoy the benefits or endure the consequences of their values and choices. So you have to let them be, without being (too) judgmental.
Second, in order to to be so isolated (and I speak from experience) you will be well served to put yourself in the mix of people who share your values and tastes. How and where to do this vary, but here are some thoughts: you might look for local charities, civic groups, classical music events, library fundraisers, alumni associations, and religious organizations. Look for opportunities to contribute, and you’ll often find good people there. Country clubs are often a mixed bag of OMG’s and social climbers. In the next few weeks, there will certainly be opportunities to contribute and mix it up with people who share your political beliefs as candidates stump for votes and fundraising goes full speed.
I won’t say that it’s easy, but it is important to get out there. Keep us posted on how it goes. I’m sure you aren’t the only one having this sense of distance from others. – BGT