Old Money: In Their Own Words

We don’t advertise.

Those were the words engraved into my brain as a child and young man. We enjoy our money and accomplishments in private, and we endure our hardships in private, too.

If you’re doing well, not many people really want to know. If you’re not doing well, not many people really want to know. The people who know you well will know you well enough to know, one way or the other. And they’ll ask if something’s wrong. And you can share your good news and know they won’t be envious.

You’ve run the New Yorker cartoon with the two couples talking at a cocktail party, and the man says ‘We just decided to stay preppy like nothing happened,’ or words to that effect. The telling aspect of that caption is that you can’t tell what happened. Did they have a windfall of cash? Did they lose everything?

Exactly. We don’t brag. We don’t complain. We don’t ‘share’. WASPy backgrounds and private schools have pretty much tamped down emotions by the time you’re 18, for better or worse. And emotions aren’t necessarily the best guides in life. Passion for a particular line of work perhaps being an exception.

We don’t talk about being ‘survivors’ of any particular disease. We don’t talk about ‘disease’ much at all because we don’t want to call that in or focus on that. We talk politics from an issue or fact based perspective, pretty much free of dogma and extremism, with a sense of historical context.

Our ‘support group’ is our family or our friends from prep or college. We discuss money in business meetings when we’re talking business, or with investment advisors, lawyers, or accountants in private.  In my family, we’d get called into my father’s office over the garage. The door would close, we’d sit down, and finances would be discussed in a very straightforward manner. When my father was finished, he’d open the door, we’d walk out, and discussions of money were finished.

Talking about your money in social situations will get you dirty looks. Talking about other people’s money will get you 86’d.

So you asked my advice? Stay preppy. Don’t advertise. That’s pretty much it. – ASP


14 thoughts on “Old Money: In Their Own Words

  1. Completely agreed. I was always raised that it was vulgar to count other people’s money, and that someone always has more regardless of where on the ladder you are. I’ve learned to sit back and make the appropriate noises when someone mentions a new luxury car or expensive trip, content with my situation in life. Though I’ve always been told its perfectly acceptable to complain about the cost of actual expenses (30k to reroof the house etc), any voluntary expenses are to be paid and kept quiet about.

    Jon

  2. I remember this cartoon. It was published in 1981. The seventies were a bad decade financially for a lot of people with economic stagnation, a flat stock market and very high inflation. I always took the remark to mean that they had enough money in reserve to ride out bad economic conditions without having to change their lifestyle.

    But now that I think about it, it could also refer to the fact that preppy style had fallen out of fashion with the masses in the 1970’s and would come roaring back to popularity in the 1980’s with the publication of The Official Preppy Handbook which was published in 1980 or 1981.

  3. Very well said. There are so many great quotes in this piece but the one about disease ‘survivors’ is pure gold. I am aggravated by those phrases because they imply power to humans that they just don’t posses. So if someone dies of a disease, does that mean they weren’t strong enough? Give me a break. Also, no one cares for your success (because they might be jealous) and no one cares for your sad stories (because they don’t want to be bummed out). I’m just going to stay preppy as if nothing ever happened.

  4. This post, like many others is reassuring. Grateful to have these discussions that delve into the shared values, intricacies and nuances of this kind of life that we cherish. This is particularly important now as ephemera dominates everything from fashion, to politics, to food, eating habits and so forth.

  5. Thank you. Wonderful article. I also purchased “The Old Money Book”, an excellent read. Thank you. Hugo.

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