Old Money

"I made my money the old-fashioned way; I inherited it."
John Raese

The thing about wealth is that it tends to have a sort of inertia to it. It's hard to gain, but once you have it, it takes some doing to lose it. Having the resources to invest, or what Karl Marx called the "means of production," means that it's easier to keep what you have and even make more. And what do you do with all that when you're old and gray? Pass it on to your children, of course. "Old money" refers to families that have been wealthy for many generations and maintain their lifestyle through stewardship of an existing family fortune.

Often goes hand-in-hand with Blue Blood, especially in countries (such as much of Europe) that have a tradition of social stratification with nobility granted formal titles elevating them above commoners. Even in places where no such formality exists, Old Money will tend to know "their sort" and keep to the same social circles, to the exclusion of the Nouveau Riche. In the United States, the "oldest" of money will brag about their family arriving on the Mayflower, or their families being on the list of "the 400" that early New York socialite Mrs. Astor made.

They tend to display their wealth in Simple, yet Opulent ways, in contrast to the Conspicuous Consumption of the Nouveau Riche (such as having unwritten style rules, like which kind of High Class Gloves to wear to which event). They are often Idle Rich, but sometimes will get a job they don't really need to avoid Rich Boredom. Of course, sometimes making sure their fortune isn't frittered away by incompetent underlings or their own Inadequate Inheritors is a full-time job in and of itself.

Compare Blue Blood, Remittance Man, and Uptown Girl. Contrast Impoverished Patrician, someone who has titles but not money, Nouveau Riche, someone who has money but not titles or social graces, and Self-Made Man, someone who made their money through hard work rather than inheritance.

If you're thinking of the phrase "But what's that in old money?", see Old British Money.


Examples

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     Advertising 
  • In an ad for California Cheese, an elder society lady was calling other people "Johnny-Come-Latelies" and bragged about knowing Monterey Jack personally (Rule of Funny, considering the real origin of the name).
  • An online ad for Smirnoff Raw Tea is a rap music video titled "Tea Partay", ostensibly performed by a band called Prep-Unit (or P-Unit), who sing about their New England WASP lifestyle and the fact that their families run the nation.
    • Another video was released later called "Green Tea Partay" by Boyz In The Hills, who are the Hollywood California-based children of actors (i.e. the Nouveau Riche), obsessed with working out, New Age gurus, gadgets, plastic surgery, and acting. Apparently, this is supposed to play out like the East Coast vs. West Coast rap rivalry.

    Comic Books 
  • Veronica Lodge of Archie Comics is part of an old money family from New York (based on a real life family from Boston), and her father moved to Riverdale to try (unsuccessfully) to avoid her being a Spoiled Brat like her peers.
  • This is where Batman gets the money to fund his crimefighting. The Waynes are one of the oldest, richest, and most respected families in Gotham, and often depicted as having been involved in its founding.
  • Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men, apparently funds the whole operation (which if anything would put the Batcave to shame) with the money he gets from being born into a wealthy family.
    • With his Ultimate incarnation, however, this turns out to be a filthy lie, with Charles actually getting money from a group of secret financial backers, something his ex-wife Moira MacTaggert snarkily lampshades when she first meets the X-Men.
    Moira: Who did he tell you his parents were? Bill and Melinda Gates?

    Fan Works 
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/ Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, several of the large weapon-makers (Tediore, Torgue, Jakobs, and to a lesser extent Maliwan) exist because of this trope. Family ties gain one much power in Jakobs and Tediore circles since both companies are controlled by wealthy families. Jakobs is your typical Self-Made Man story while Tediore was created to give the lazy Upper-Class Twit Thalia something to "do" (pretend to run the company while other more competent people do the real work).
  • crawlersout: Many of Tom's friends come from old money (at least, for America), as he attends a very prestigious and very expensive magical academy. Most prominent are his friends Ruth and Washy, the latter of whom is a direct descendant of George Washington himself. Fem!Harry also come from old money, being a member of the Potter family (which still exists in the 1930s), but still has a job in her own time to supplement herself.

    Film 
  • In Beaches, Hillary and CC have a fight (which later gets reconciled), and Hillary calls CC new money, due to CC being a stage actress instead of being born rich like Hillary.
  • In My Favorite Year, this sets up a Literal Metaphor gag. Alan Swann is drunkenly hanging off a ledge, and two Old Money stockbrokers are on a balcony above.
    Stockbroker #1: [looking over the edge of the balcony] I think Alan Swann is beneath us!
    Stockbroker #2: Of course he's beneath us. He's an actor!
  • This sets up the Uptown Girl tension in Kitty Foyle, as Kitty is a secretary who falls in love with Wyn, the son of an old money "Main Line" Phildelphia family. Wyn's snobby family is not pleased.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Judging by the refined manners of John Howlett and the grandeur of the mansion, James Howlett was born into wealth. However, he learns when he was around 13 years old that his mother Elizabeth had an affair with Thomas Logan, his family's groundskeeper, and is their illegitimate child. After the death of both his legal father and biological father, James runs away from home, and he has been scratching a living ever since.
    • X-Men: First Class: Charles Xavier was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He lives in a very Big Fancy House, there are servants (a maid is mentioned), and his mother is a snobby British Socialite who thinks so highly of herself that she never enters the kitchen of her own home. Charles' taste in material goods is often expressed in classic, Simple, yet Opulent ways, in contrast to the gaudy Conspicuous Consumption that we normally associate with the Nouveau Riche.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Past Charles can afford not to work for a decade because he can simply mooch off his inherited wealth. The Xavier family crest on the tail of his personal plane, his plane's elegantly decorated interior, and even the design of the chess set he brings along for the trip are a visual cue to the audience that he is this trope, and not the tacky (or so the stereotype goes) Nouveau Riche.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: This detailed look at Xavier's mansion practically screams this trope. The narrator introduces it as, "In its near 300 years of service, this estate has been the primary residence for New York's elite society." She later adds, "...every effort has been made to preserve its historical and architectural integrity of the above-ground structure." It is estimated to be worth $75,850,000 USD (2016)! Charles owns a collection of beautiful vintage cars which are in pristine working condition, and that takes a lot of coin to maintain.

    Literature 
  • In The Forsyte Saga, the Forsyte clan is shown becoming "Old Money". The old generation (Old Jolyon and his brothers James and Timothy) gained their money in business. Their children (Young Jolyon and Soames) are a transitory generation, but already fully genteel. Soames' daughter Fleur is considered a good match for Michael Mont who is an aristocrat. They are definitely high and contrasted with people who gained money in World War I and are Nouveau Riche.
  • In The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan and Daisy come from old money and high society. It's put in contrast with Jay Gatsby who gets his vast fortune in shady business.
  • In the Cold War thriller The Widow of Desire, Natalie Stuart is a New York socialite who marries a Russian furrier and helps him start a business selling coats to her peers. He even brags that a coat he gives her (although posthumously) would be too grand for one of her "junior league lunches". Also, when one of her friends asked if her family came in on the Mayflower, she said they were Scottish Presbyterians who had their own boat.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Malfoys, being the series' most visible Blue Bloods, have also been fabulously rich for generations and have connections in the highest echelons of government, business, and high society.
    • It's never revealed in-story exactly where the fortune that Harry inherits from his parents in the first book comes from; Word of God states that his father James comes from Old Money.
  • All of the Great Houses of A Song of Ice and Fire count, but the best example is the Lannisters, who control the richest gold mines in Westeros and have been known for their wealth since Lann the Clever swindled their ancestral castle from House Casterly.
  • In The Heretic and The Savior, sequels to The General series, The Land is ruled by the First Families who own most of the farmland, industry and all the major trading houses. Some of them adopt more aristocratic trappings while others prefer to act as merchant princes. Few people even know that the First Families are actually descendants of barbarians who conquered The Land a few centuries ago. Since the planet is under a strictly enforced Medieval Stasis, there is very little room for New Money to arise through normal means. The books' hero is only First Family on his mother's side which puts a ceiling on how far he can advance in the nation's military.
  • Discworld:
    • Discussed in Making Money with the Lavishes, who are this. Moist is pretty snarky about the fact that a long-distant plundering ancestor becomes a Lovable Rogue and a license to look down on the Nouveau Riche, who probably got their money through some disgraceful method like honest work and inventiveness. He calls it out quite loudly near the end, naming their family founders as pirates and slavers.
    • Lady Sybil is very old money; she is in fact the richest woman in Ankh-Morpork. Through a combination of simple tastes and old stuff never wearing out, she also manages to never spend money on personal items. She is, however, very generous to various charities including a dragon sanctuary and a hospital. Shortly before meeting her for the first time in Guards! Guards!, Vimes reflects that Old Money is supposed to be better than New Money, but he's never seen enough money to tell the difference.
    • In Maskerade, Madame Downing, owner of an expensive dress shop, knows that old money is better than new money. But beneath the snobbery she's still an Ankh-Morpork merchant and knows the best money is the kind that's being given to her, wherever it came from.
  • The Palmers in Alice Adams. They live in a grand mansion and throw balls, and they hold grasping Social Climber Alice in contempt.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Bones Hodgens is a Conspiracy Theorist who believes the Old Money families secretly control the world. And he should know - he's the scion of one of the most monied Old Money families in the world. He ends up losing it all to a criminal who siphons all the money away. He has a chance to stop the process, but at the cost of not being able to trace the bad guy. He chooses justice over money.
  • On Royal Pains Hank operates a medical practice in the Hamptons and gets to treat various Old Money and Nouveau Riche patients. Boris, Hank's benefactor, is Old European Money and is a very nice and generous person who has to be Properly Paranoid due to his relatives' Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Later in the series Evan runs afoul of a woman who is a member of one of the oldest Old Money families in the Hamptons and she makes a lot of trouble for HankMed.
  • In a 2014 episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oliver argues that the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a rich elite coupled with fewer taxes on inheritance may lead to America developing a "landed gentry" reminiscent of the one that traditionally ruled Oliver's native England.
  • M*A*S*H: Charles is a Boston Blue Blood whose family's wealth goes back at least to his grandparents' generation, as his grandmother actually owns half of downtown Boston.
  • Gilmore Girls:
    • The Gilmore clan are considered Connecticut old money as they can date their ancestry and money back to the original pilgrims on The Mayflower, as Rory once mentioned that fact to her boyfriend, Logan (also old money guy).
    • Logan is society old money. His family, the Huntzbergers, are portrayed as even older money or actually wealthier and having more influence, owning several newspapers, and they considered the Gilmores to be below them.

    Radio 
  • In the radio adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jekyll inherited a fortune from his father, who made most of it on the stock exchange.

    Theater 
  • Tracy Lord of The Philadelphia Story (and the remake High Society) is part of an old money family (as was her real life inspiration, Helen Hope Montgomery Scott). When reporter Mike and photographer Liz show up, Tracy and her younger sister decide to troll the magazine people about what they think old money people are like.
  • In Kiss the Boys Good-bye by Clare Boothe, Cindy Lou Bethany is proud of belonging to a "very old Southern family," and freely boasts of having such fine old families among her relatives as the Albemarles, Covingtons and Culpepers. Her father is a Congressman, by the way.

    Video Games 
  • StarCraft, part of the backstory is that the Terran Conferacy's government was controlled by the Old Families, rich and powerful descendants from the original colonists that founded the Confederacy. When Arcturus Mengsk and the Sons of Korhal overthrow the Confederacy, the Old Families don't survive the power shift. Many of them also die prior to the "power shift", since the overthrow involves luring the Zerg to the Confederate capital world of Tarsonis.

    Western Animation 
  • Like his comics counterpart, Batman: The Animated Series' Bruce Wayne comes from old money and funds his nocturnal activities from the family fortune. He's known to hobnob with other old money types like Veronica Vreeland.
  • In the Beetlejuice cartoon, Beetlejuice's parents want to get into a club allowing on the "oldest and moldiest" of families. The episode is about Beetlejuice and Lydia finding proof his family belongs there.
  • Jay Sherman of The Critic was adopted by an old money family. His mother, Elenor, after persuading her biological daughter Margo to attend the debutante ball, tries to hook Margo up on a date with a guy who is so old money that he has actual blue blood.
    "He can only receive blood transplants from George Plimpton and Mrs. Walter Kronkite."
  • In DuckTales, Scrooge, a Self-Made Man, has had a few clashes with the old money of Duckburg, including one episode where he tries to make good with them by having a status symbol. It doesn't work out and he just throws the item away.


Alternative Title(s): Family Fortune

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OldMoney