Definition of Old Money Versus New Money

Updated April 17, 2017

"Old money" and "new money" are terms that describe two different classes of people who have money and--equally--the money that they possess. Old money usually refers to people who are part of long-established upper-class families and who have wealth that has been inherited over several generations. New money is that which has been made recently--often by business people, media or sports celebrities, or entrepreneurs.

Aquiring Money

Old money is inherited and may be in the form of property, trusts or other investments. As such it may be at greater risk of loss or dissipation due to the current holders' lack of financial acumen. New money has been acquired directly and recently by those who hold it who, depending upon their attitude and personality, may choose to spend or hoard it. Those who have made new money are often alluded to, somewhat disparagingly, by the term "nouveau riche."

Spending Style

Old money tends to be invested in grand, historically significant properties, antiques, art collections and classic cars and couture. Often those who have old money may be asset rich but cash poor, so they may buy few, if any, new possessions. Much of their available money may have to be spent on property maintenance and keeping up appearances. New money, by contrast, tends to be spent on the latest, luxury goods including lavish mansions, holiday properties, designer clothes, extravagant and showy jewelery, automobiles, boats and even personal planes.

Social Standing

Today, celebrities from the worlds of film, TV, music and fashion are some of the greatest examples of new money, together with those who have made large amounts from sport or international trade. These people may have high social standing and be in great demand due to their celebrity status. Old money has a much lower public profile, although individuals may be courted for their status and influence, and the network of connections they bring.


People who have old money are regarded as discreet, restrained and possessing impeccable taste. Their focus tends to be on education, elegance and etiquette. Those with new money are generally more ostentatious and often may be seen in the media throwing or attending lavish parties. Stereotypically, their behaviour is extravagant, showy and self-indulgent. F. Scott Fitzgerald's book "The Great Gatsby" is a well-known social commentary on the divide between new and old money in the ostensibly carefree days of the 1920s.

Historical Significance

Throughout many societies in the world, the concept of new money and old money is closely linked to historical status. Those with old money may be able to trace royal or aristocratic connections that go back many generations. Even in countries such as the U.S. or France, which have no aristocratic class, this aspect still seems to be highly prized and respected.

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About the Author

Dianne Bown-Wilson is a highly experienced writer, speaker, management consultant, executive coach and trainer. A professional writer since 1973, Bown-Wilson has written for numerous print and online publications. She is currently completing Ph.D. research in age management at Cranfield University, and she has co-authored two books: "Marketing, Management and Motivation," and "Primetastic!"