Friday, April 13, 2012

New Rich versus Old Rich!

As the butler in a billionaire's household I'm frequently asked about the differences between the old rich and the new. This is one of those areas where generalizations are dangerous of course, in that we're all so different in the way we conduct ourselves - whether we're new rich, old rich, or poor for that matter.

To make an attempt to answer, let's first look at the definitions:

Old Rich is usually associated with land ownership (the landed gentry), with money being inherited down the line for at least three generations. These people live from their trust funds and incomes from their properties. They don't have to work - at least as we know it - but to be fair some of them do administrate. Which is great work if you can get it, right?

New Rich (the Nouveau Riche) usually refers to those who've made their fortunes themselves - as industrialists, bankers, builders, the oil rich, inventors, investors - not to mention the money that flows from sports and media fame - actors, musicians and the like.

An interesting note here: in America the Rockefeller family (oil) and the DuPont family (gun powder), the Vanderbilt's (railroads) and the Astor's (real estate and hotels) were once considered new rich. But since these families have managed to hang on to their fortunes and pass it down to these very days, they're now considered old rich families.

Moving right along - conventional wisdom has some very specific adjectives when describing the new and the old rich:

The Old:  Quiet, proper, reserved, careful and moderate. They don't know any other way of life except being rich.

The New:  Loud, crass, vulgar, gauche and splashy. They're ecstatic about their new-found wealth, and why not have some fun, right?

I have to admit I agree with the above assessments. But again, the danger of generalizations is that it overlooks the new rich who are quiet, modest and share their wealth through charities of all sorts. And it overlooks the famous heirs from prominent old rich families who's crassness and vulgarities are constantly being splashed across the news and Hollywood tabloids. So go figure.

In Europe, there are three classesThe Royals of course, the Bourgeoisie (people with lots of money), and the Proletariat (the working classes). Interestingly enough, no matter how many billions the Bourgeoisie might accumulate, they still cannot cross that social barrier of becoming Royalty. Although with enough money and socially-important accomplishments you could be 'Knighted', like Sir Paul McCartney or Dame Edith Evans

In America, having thrown off kings and queens in the War of Independence, we just have the Bourgeoisie (our Upper Classes), and the Proletariat (our Middle and Lower Classes). And not having royalty to keep the richest bourgeoisie in their place, our American billionaires often seem like fish out of water - flopping around, not knowing what to do with themselves and all their money, and constantly embarrassing themselves in front of a TV audience.    

Nonetheless, we still try to re-create royalty in America by assigning lineage as an indication of respectability and respect. Members of the Mayflower Society, families that can trace their ancestors back to the Mayflower, are of high esteem. Then there's the DAR, Daughter's of the American Revolution, way up there on the list of American high society. And there's the Junior League that further establishes a social hierarchy in America in the absence of royalty.

The thing is, history shows us that being rich, whether new or old, is of no real indication of serious intelligence, magnanimity, or any social conscience at all. You can have old money out the wazoo and still be stupid as an ox, or even worse, selfish. Or new money that allows you the opportunity for selflessness, grace and charity.

To wind this up, I really don't know what else to say about the differences between the new and the old rich. There's decidedly a difference, of course. But who really cares, and why? Would you rather be at a cocktail party with a bunch of boring old-rich buzzards - or a nutty new rich party where any crazy thing might happen? I vote for the latter myself - but that's just me.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening,



  1. Dear Andrew you could never bore me . It is so much fun to read your blog ! Keep writing and I will keep reading !KEK

    1. As always KEK, thanks for following along!

      And for your nice compliment!


  2. As usual, you are spot-on, Andrew! The Rockefeller's are on the Christmas Card and Hamper list where I toil ... and, I miss speaking with Brooke Astor's butler. You are so right about the different quirks and personalities of the Uber Rich (old $) and the New Money sector, for that matter! Just as in all other groups there is a good smattering of all peculiarities. And, the rare gem, as well (btw, I don't mean rocks, I mean people)! :)

    I just love reading your blog ... you are a hoot and a howl. Are you a member of DEMA? Just curious. I'd love to your hear thoughts either way on the org.

    1. Always great to hear from you, Glenda!

      But I'm absolutely jealous! At least you have the Rockefellers and the Astors -- I just have insanely-boring politicians and Hollywood trash to deal with!

      Loved your use of the German "Uber" Rich, as opposed to "Unter".

      And I thought the obscure meaning of the word "Hamper", as you've used it, was all but dead. Meaning indispensable -- but sometimes in the way! Ha! Which describes a lot of my employers' friends as well! (Actually, most of them!)

      So thanks for all the linguistic titillation!

      As for DEMA (Domestic Estate Management Association), no I'm not a member. But this organization, as well as several others, was mentioned in Butler School, and I'm sure it's useful to belong to any continuing-education and networking group -- especially if you're planning to be a job hopper.

      Which you are I are not.

      I know you've been with your family for seven-or-eight thousand years now, while I've only been with mine for three-and-a-half thousand! But still, isn't that proof enough we're not job hoppers!

      To other House/Estate Managers and Personal Assistants who might be following along, these organizations, no doubt, are also helpful in keeping our professional attitudes alive -- most definitely if our employers are abusive and kick us around like dogs!

      But at the moment, dear Glenda, I'm not a member of any professional organization. (I did join AA once, but they kicked me out right away!)


  3. I've never really analized my own understanding of the differences between the new and old rich, but you just made it all so clear. My husband and I are on the verge of becoming new rich ourselves, and I hope we will fall under your category of having grace and charity. Thank you so much for your efforts. I have been relying upon your blog to learn how to be rich. Your information is amazing, especially the articles on invitations, regrets and stationary. Mary Margaret

    1. I am completely humbled by your message, Mary Margaret. Thank you so much for reading. You have given me every reason to expect that you'll enjoy your success and use your new position in life to be of help to others.

      Please do stop by here anytime. And all good luck to you!