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Differences Between Old vs New Money


You've likely heard about old money vs. new money and wondered what's the difference. After all, money is money.

While money is money, there are differences between old and new money that you may want to understand when understanding where someone's wealth originated.

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Key Differences Between Old Money vs. New Money

You might think money is money, but there is a difference between old and new money. Old money is generational wealth. It's likely been passed down from generation to generation. It may also have a social class tied to it, such as incredibly wealthy families like the Rockefellers.

New money is earned money. You aren't handed new money; you must work for it. This doesn't mean only old money families can be wealthy or upper class, though. New money families can be self-made millionaires, working hard for their riches.

Source of Wealth

The most significant difference between old money vs. new money is its source. New money, as we said, is earned, and old money is passed down, sometimes from multiple generations. New money examples include celebrities like Oprah Winfrey or Paul McCartney; they worked for their riches, whereas families like the Vanderbilt's had their money handed down to them.

Are There Similarities?

As many differences as there are between old money vs. new money, there are similarities too. Money is money, and sometimes the lines between the two can blur.

For example, a new and old money family will likely have similar spending habits. They both typically live in nice houses, drive nice cars, and have brand-name items.

Many old and new money families also have financial independence. Whether they pass it down to future generations may differ, as this is common for old money families but not as much for new money families.

Defining Old Money

So what does old money look like?

Old money is generational wealth or money passed down from past generations. It could go back one generation or many; each family differs. Most old money families are of the upper class and often have connections.

You won't find old money families on the lists of the world's wealthiest people, as they tend to fly under the radar and not show off their wealth.

Old Money Lifestyle

People with old money carry a lot of pride. They come from a line of wealth, and it's their job to keep it going. As a result, they are often some of the world's most influential people but are also more frugal than you might expect someone of that financial stature to be.

Old Money Mindset and Behaviors

Old money families grow up knowing the money they have isn't 'their money.' They have a right to it, but they also must be able to pass the money down to future generations. In other words, they aren't supposed to waste money. They look at purchases as investments, not just a way to spend money.

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Defining New Money

New money is money people earned themselves; no one handed it down to them. So while they may have the same amount of money as people with old money, they don't have the same social status.

New Money Lifestyle

The major difference between old money vs. new money is how people live their lives. New money families often seek the spotlight. They may have a rags-to-riches story, but they also spend lavishly without regard to passing the money down.

Of course, this doesn't define all families with new money, but the most common new money individuals are athletes, actors, and other celebrities in the spotlight.

New Money Mindset and Behaviors

New money refers to those who earned their money. Many people feel they deserve to spend the money because they earned it, unlike the old money examples who had the money passed down to them from many generations and have a responsibility to care for it.

What Is the Old Money vs. New Money Aesthetic

Sometimes you can tell if a person has inherited wealth or is newly rich by their aesthetic or how they carry themselves in life. Here are some common examples.

Social Perspective

Social perception is the easiest way to tell the difference between old money and new money. Old money families are often (not always) more educated and refined. They also hold themselves to a high standard.

New money examples often come from low-income families or those who lived sad lives, such as in foster care or with grandparents. These self-made billionaires worked hard to beat the odds and made money themselves.

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Leisure and Hobbies

People who come from affluent families often have 'old school' hobbies. They may ride horses, play tennis, or take up fencing or sailing. They have hobbies that people today would likely overlook or might not even know exist. Having unique hobbies is only expected in their social circle.

People with new money don't have time to be bothered with 'old school' hobbies. Instead, they spend their time shopping, showing off their money, and doing things that put them in the limelight. This is why many celebrities make grand gestures with their money to show off their wealth.

Saving and Spending Habits

Another significant difference between old and new money is how they spend and save. People with new money tend to spend extravagantly. This is because they feel like they need to show off their wealth. They may also have less regard for saving money, especially if they have a rags-to-riches story.

On the other hand, people with old money view spending money as an investment. They buy items that will last a long time and don't give in to trends. They don't care about showing off; instead, they care about preserving their wealth for future generations.

Wardrobe and Style

People with old money don't dress to show their wealth. They do the opposite. They don't want to show off with brand-name logos or clothes that seem expensive. They would rather mute their wealth and invest in tailor-made clothing that will last a long time. Their style is respectful and timely, not trendy.

On the other hand, people with new money wear all brand-name clothing with prominent logos boldly showing off their wealth. They want people to see them walking down the street in expensive brands and turn their heads. In the eyes of old money individuals, the trends people with new money have and wear are seen as tacky.

Help and Services

People with old and new money often have help around the house or with everyday tasks, but people with old money look at "the help" as a regular part of their lives. They conduct their lives like nothing is different, having the same conversations around them that they would have in private. They are incredibly polite and respectful of the people who serve them.

People with new money often have different regard for hired help. They feel they deserve it because they have the money and may look at those who serve them as lower class.

Privileges and Opportunities

People of old money often have opportunities and privileges new money individuals don't have because of their connections. They can snap their fingers and care for problems because they know the right people. Unfortunately, the same privileges are only sometimes available for self-made individuals.

Money Mindset and Discussions

People from old money don't understand the poor or middle-class family someone with new money may have come from. They don't understand being unable to cover the bills or put food on the table.

People from old money never have to give spending money a second thought. If they want to do it, they can. However, new money individuals may still stop and think about an opportunity even if they know they can afford it because of their upbringing or history of not having enough.

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Desire for Attention

People with new money often want attention and a lot of it. So they try to get it by wearing brand-name clothing, driving flashy cars, and broadcasting how much they spend on something or where they go to make themselves look good.

People from old money don't want attention. It's not necessary for them. Instead, they desire respect, traditions, and responsibly caring for their family's wealth.

Financial Management of Old vs. New Money

People from old money take better care of their money. They don't spend because they can. They are more frugal than people with little money. They think through every purchase, repair old items to keep them working as long as possible, and invest carefully to ensure their future generations have money.

People with new money may not be as careful. They spend because they have newfound wealth and love it. While they may save and invest for the future, they typically aren't as cautious as old money families.


Is There Still Old Money Today?

Yes, old money still exists, although it used to be more widespread. The generations that passed down the wealth have scattered among hundreds of people in future generations, so it may not seem as high.

Can New Money Become Old Money?

There isn't a specific timeline money must follow to be considered old money. So yes, money passed down to future generations can eventually be considered old money because it doesn't come from wealthy self-made families.

Final Thoughts on Old Money vs. New Money: The Bottom Line

Old money vs new money is a common debate, and new money can easily become old with the right habits. It comes down to how many generations the money passes down and how each generation handles the great wealth.