One of the most important behavioral markers for Old Money individuals and families is their attitude…or lack thereof.
Old Money is many times noticed by what it is not: loud, arrogant, obnoxious, or condescending, to name just a few. The logical reasons for such behavior are obvious but worth noting.
First, when you’ve come from a position of privilege, there’s no reason to advertise the fact. The people who know it may already resent you. The people who don’t know it, well, they can remain in the dark, or be surprised when the find out: ‘Wow, she seems so friendly, I had no idea her family was that rich.’
That’s the kind of comment typically made about Old Money. The best of its behavior is, as I’ve said before, the antithesis of The Rich Kids of Instagram and every reality TV show you’ve ever watched.
New Money should take note: there is the heady rush of having just assembled a pile of cash. But remember, you’re hardly the first person to have gone from modest circumstances to much more comfortable circumstances. History is full of titans of industry and stars of the stage and screen (and sport) who hit it big.
What is much rarer is handling fame and fortune well. Rehab facilities, tabloid publishers, and divorce lawyers do well taking & making money from those who couldn’t handle New Money.
Know that there’s a fine line between being proud and being obnoxious. Be proud of your accomplishments, but realize that everybody’s not you. Also know that things change. You’re New Money today, but you could be No Money a year from now. If you don’t think it’s possible, do a Google search for ‘bankrupt celebrities’ and scroll through the flinch-inducing results.
Through attitude and behavior, New Money can make itself a target: criminals, hustlers, and family members (who knows which are most dangerous) can come out of the woodwork. Again, why advertise with an arrogant attitude?
I’m not saying that all Old Money Guys or Gals are chatty, warm, and fuzzy. A lot of them aren’t. The social distancing that Covid has brought to us is nothing compared to the emotional distancing that many OMGs have been brought up around.
But surrounding that sometimes chilly demeanor is a room temperature neutral zone of manners and etiquette. Arrogance and depression are polar extremes foreign to Old Money. They are emotions are usually a reaction to exterior circumstances, not an internal psychological thermostat.
We stay on an even keel most of the time. Optimistic, focused, aware, busy, pragmatic, circumspect. The self-indulgent, navel-gazing tendencies that plague others and mark New Money are less common with OMGs. Worrying about what other people think is almost non-existent.
New Money needs to make sure that everybody knows who they are. Old Money knows who they are and isn’t concerned about who knows it…or doesn’t.
In closing, it’s important to remember that this pandemic has been very cruel to many people, both financially and personally. Being kind and patient, sans l’attitude, is going to be critical for us as we reenter society in a healthy and productive manner.
So let’s be the Old Money person in the line at the supermarket or making our way on the metro. Let’s be rich enough to be polite, to be modest, to be discreet.
Let’s the the ‘nobility’ in noblesse oblige. Let’s be Old Money and show how much we don’t have…when it comes to attitude.
9 thoughts on “Old Money vs. New Money – The Attitude”
The skill of making money and the skill of having money are not the same. The skill of having it, handling it responsibly, not letting it go to your head, not losing it, may be even more rare than the skill of making it.
Be kind, if nothing else, just be kind. I don’t mean so kind that you are taken advantage of but, be kind to all. That is the mantra I was raised with. New money has yet to figure this out. Kindness is not loud, is not brash, does not beg to be noticed. Kindness is quiet. Enough said.
Thank you Amy and Sterling, for what you said. I’ve re-read your words and mulled them over.
This is a wonderful post Byron – thank you for sharing your wisdom and helping to bring clarity to my unstructured thoughts on the topic.
Reading The Old Money Book 2nd edition and Old Money Style. Thank you for the books.
You’re very welcome. Stay safe and enjoy! – BGT
This is such a good reminder, Byron. I grew up in an era of therapy and processing ALL your emotions, raging and letting your feelings show. As I grow older, I’m realizing the wisdom of not indulging in too much naval-gazing, not processing excessively. The elegance of restraint. I would love to learn more about how to develop equanimity if you haven’t grown up with it. All the best,
Excellent post. The definitive guide to OM values. Take special note of arrogance and depression. This is new money behavior related to external forces. Even keel OMG’s have no need for arrogance and have sufficient security, goals and perspectives to keep out of depression.
There are those more nuanced benefits of coming from a place of relative privilege and deep financial security, which are seen in “attitude.” I would add that that confidence informs this attitude. Time, family, old friends, interests, hobbies, community activism, political participation and sport – to name a few – make the bedrock of our life. Not a new car, flashy, trendy clothing, fads etcetera. Private school, College, music lessons and so on all paid quietly, as well as upkeep of the summer cottage, all paid quietly.