How Does Old Money Compare to New Money?

Last Updated on September 20, 2020

How Does Old Money Compare to New Money?

Many of the world’s wealthiest people acquired their money from family rather than their own work. The term “scion” is the official title. However, we often use the term heir or heiress to describe a person who inherited their wealth rather than being self-made.

Generally, “old money” people have more affinity to other old money people than to the “new rich.” 

Who Are the New Rich?

The Nouveau Riche, are (often) crude, ill-mannered, show offs. Napoleon created a new aristocracy in Europe. “Old Guard” aristocrats didn’t think too much of them. When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, many of the new aristocrats & monarchs were dethroned and the old guard was restored. Now many generations later, most consider these aristocrats’ descendants to be pretty classy people. 

It is common that people want to think they are “better” than others. The “Sons & Daughters of the American Revolution” or “Descendants of the Mayflower” (first white people in North America) have annual meetings but the rest of the world rarely acknowledges them. 

Of course, we can’t really consider these people to be new rich a few hundred years down the line. The term is still in use to describe those who are first generation wealth, for want of a better phrase.

Does This Change Their Work Ethic?

As a self-made person I am more comfortable with ambitious people of accomplishment than with mere “old money.” That doesn’t mean that people who inherited money can’t be high achievers. Indeed, many are.

For example, many who inherited wealth have used it to start their own businesses, or have invested in charity. However, one thing they’ll always be missing is the experience that comes from having to grind to reach the top.

Bill Gates is always a good example of this. He’s been on the rich list for many years now, and made it there (mostly) on his own. Gates is also a good example of how being in the right place at the right time can work wonders for business.

Those who work for their money and status also have a better appreciation of the value of money. After all, if you’ve always lived comfortably, how can you understand the difficulty of having to struggle?

Old Money Vs New Money

In short, we can boil the difference between old money and new money down to:

  • Old money is generational wealth. New money is first generation wealth.
  • Those with new money will often have a better appreciation of its value because it means more to them.
  • Old money is usually seen as a sign of privilege, both positively and negatively.


I’m a self-made person, and so I can appreciate the ambition it requires to reach the top. However, that’s not put those of old money down, as many of them use it wisely. 

From my perspective, it doesn’t really matter how long the money has been in the family. It’s what you do with it once it’s yours that makes all the difference. All the money in the world doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t use it well.