For most people there is no such thing as Old Money. New money comes in the front door. It waits politely in the entry. It is quickly sent on its appointed rounds.
And it never comes back.
What’s leftover is just that, leftover. It never gets to be Old Money. It ages quickly. It wizens. It departs through the back door, without our knowledge.
For most of us, money is always new. We may have a lot of it, but it only comes in one style. Contemporary. Our homely cash seldom gets to be Traditional, let alone Antique.
There are some people, however, who actually have--- or might have had--- Old Money. During the seventies I knew a book editor in Boston. He worked in the genteel shabbiness of a Beacon Street office. He worried about Big Things--- like whether the removal of the hanging loop from the back of Brooks Brothers shirts signified the decline of Western Civilization. He also let his visiting scribblers know that if his great grandfather had squandered less money building Americas’ Cup yachts his deserving great grandson might have avoided the indignity of work.
In fact, Old Money is coming to have a new meaning. I learned this a few months ago while experimenting with a life expectancy calculator on the MS Money Central website. The calculator asked me a series of questions. It asked about my parents and grandparents, my weight, my driving habits, how much I drank, and how much exercise I did.
Then it told me how long I could expect to live. It was longer than I thought.
The surprise came when I answered the same questions for my lovely wife.
She, the Microsoft oracle told me, was going to live to be 102. It’s written in her genes. It helps that her arteries have never been sullied by plaque.
This is wonderful news until you think about the children. If our vast fortune isn’t distributed until she is 102--- which is 44 years from now--- our oldest child will be 82 and our youngest will be 75. They will be inheriting money in time to gold plate their walkers, not a pleasant thought.
Grandchildren, on the other hand, will be in their fifties. Great-grandchildren will be in their twenties or thirties. Great great grandchildren will be on the way. While the last century was virtually doubling life expectancy it was also turning every contemporary parent into Old Money.
So think of yourself in a new way: Old Money Incarnate.
How much Old Money?
Lots. Hide away as little as $100,000 today and it will grow to $6.6 million in 44 years, assuming 10 percent annual (and tax efficient) growth. Keep a half million growing on the side and it will be $33 million in 44 years. Then again, a 30-year old new mom could invest a mere $1,000 at the birth of a child and expect it to become a $1 million inheritance 70 years later.
Should we want to be Old Money?
Maybe, maybe not. The greatest gift is generosity, day by day.
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