Old Money vs New Money

Updated · Apr 06, 2022

What is the difference between old money and new money?

Well, old money means that your family has been affluent for generations, and you were born into privilege.

New money, on the other hand, means that you have made your wealth yourself within the last decade or so.

So, what is the old money vs new money feud all about?

Read on to find out.

What Is Old Money?

Having "old" money means your family has been rich for many years and has passed down the wealth generation after generation.

That doesn’t mean that everyone with generational wealth will be considered “old rich.” Only a few people worldwide can pride themselves in having that title.

Old Money Examples

Some notable examples of old money families include the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, and the Kennedys.

They may have different backgrounds, but there is one key commonality between them: they've been wealthy for many generations. This gives them a certain level of privilege that those with new money may not have.

Some old money people accumulated their wealth gradually from different sources. But over the years, some industries have become synonymous with old money.

Here are a few examples:

  • The arts: Families like the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts have long been involved in the arts. They've supported artists and donated large sums of money to museums and other cultural institutions.
  • Politics: There are many political families with old money, like the Kennedys and the Bushes. They've been able to use their wealth and influence to get into politics and wield power for many years.
  • Real estate: Real estate has always been dominated by those with old money. Families like the Trumps and the Hearsts have made a name for themselves in this industry.

What Is New Money?

People with new money created their own fortune in a short span of time through hard work and assistance from others with new money.

There are quite a few names you’ve heard on that list, too.

New Money Examples

Here are a few notable examples:

  • Tiger Woods: He is arguably the best golfer ever. As such, many might’ve forgotten his humble beginnings. His mother taught him how to play while his father caddied for him. After winning numerous championships, he turned pro and made millions in prize money.
  • Mark Zuckerberg: He dropped out of Harvard to create Facebook with some friends in 2004. The platform grew a lot over the next few years and went public in 2012. That same year, Forbes Magazine named him the youngest billionaire in history.
  • Kylie Jenner: She is only 21 years old but has built a cosmetics empire, and she often appears on top 10 lists of the richest celebrities in the world. That said, some question whether she’s truly a self-made billionaire, given her family’s status. But one thing is for sure: her family hasn’t been rich long enough to consider its wealth “old money.”

Old Money vs New Money

On the surface, the difference between new money vs old money is for how many generations the wealth has been in the family.

However, the disparity between the two groups goes way deeper.

The former have a higher status in society. Plus, they know how to work the system.

Those with new money, on the other hand, have the pride of being “self-made” but don’t necessarily see all the strings attached to wealth.

Social Perception

Old money families are seen as being of a higher status. Typically, they have a prestigious education, are considered more refined, and are familiar with the high society norms.

New money people, on the other hand, are the party crashers of the elite. While they might have just as much money as some old families, they’re still lower class than them. In other words, they haven’t had the time to prove their status.

Spending Habits

There is a stark difference between the spending habits of the old rich vs the new rich.

Old money families are much more conservative in their spending. They see their wealth as their family’s wealth they need to pass down to the next generations.

Hence, their spending habits are more rigid. They tend to invest in assets, such as property, stocks, and bonds. They also give back to the community through donations to charities.

New money families, on the other hand, are less conservative with their spending. Since they didn’t inherit their wealth, they perceive it as their own, not their family’s.

As a result, they are more likely to buy luxury items, such as cars, boats, and jewelry. They also tend to invest in high-risk ventures, such as start-ups.

The Relations Between Old Money and New Money

Old money's attitude toward new money can be summed up in a single word: contempt.

Those with old money regard new money people as inferior and undeserving of their attention. They often refer to them as “nouveaux rich,” with the implication that they lack pedigree.

Old rich have long been established in society and know how to work the system. They believe that those with new money don't have the same level of refinement or sophistication and often look down on them.

While the disdain is subtle, it might prevent those with new money from gaining acceptance in higher social circles.

There are some exceptions to this rule, of course. It takes time and the ability to forge bonds, but many new money families have managed to gain the acceptance of those with old money.

Wrap Up

There’s no winner in the old money vs new money debate.

The value is the same. The main difference is in the source of the wealth and for how long it has been in the family.

That said, the two groups have different backgrounds and values. The distinction in their spending habits is also not to be disregarded.

Due to all this, new money people are often perceived as the “lower upper-class.”

Aleksandra Yosifova
Aleksandra Yosifova

With an eye for research, Aleksandra is determined to always get to the bottom of things. If there’s a glitch in the system, she’ll find it and make sure you know about it.