Owners and Custodians

I’m going to attempt to explain, in some very broad strokes, one of the key differences between those that are rich (new money) and those that are wealthy (old money). I like to separate these two groups. Though they both occupy the same 1%, the way they approach their abundance is radically different.

The rich are those for whom having a lot of money is relatively new. These are the folks who got the right breaks or worked hard enough and now they are firmly members of the haves. They think nothing of buying a lavish home, expensive clothes, a luxury car. They often have high salaries and powerful positions. They tend to spend more than they save or invest. And, after all, why shouldn’t they. This is America. They earned it. They own it.

The wealthy are those who inherited their riches through the generations. While some distant relative may have initially acquired that wealth through the same means and circumstances as the rich, they adopted the tactics of the wealthy to ensure their dependents were secure. Such abundance was then passed down through generations. These folks may live in a big house, but it often is one that has been in the family for a while. Sometimes their clothes are plain and their cars average. They often work hard despite not having to because it is what they believe is right. They likely invest at least as much as they spend (if not more). And, after all, why shouldn’t they. This abundance was granted by many before being just as careful. It is now their duty to do the same and ensure the security of future generations. They are not owners. They are custodians.

Now this is not to say that an owner can not adopt the values of the caretaker or vice versa. In fact, there are countless stories of the rich giving away their fortune for the greater good and teaching their children the lessons of wealth. There are at least as many stories of the child of inheritance blowing the family money on foolish expenditures and shady dealings. But the fact remains that the difference is not rooted in ways and means but in approach and values.

And, because it had nothing to do with the stuff but how it is treated, one in the 99% can learn and apply these same lessons (and, as this economy has taught, fail just as spectacularly). When we start to see ourselves as caretakers instead of owners of what meager abundance we have, we are far more likely to maintain it.

Instead of adopting endless cycles of replacement, we’ll put more upfront thought and investment into the final choices of things that will last. Perhaps, even things that will outlast us.

It does not matter what a house is worth relative to the mortgage if one plans to pass it on. Does it matter if your home is “underwater” as they say if you never plan to sell it or borrow against it? Homes that are well cared for can become those of our children and their children. What greater gift could you provide for your descendants then a home that is paid for a well maintained? The comfort and security this could provide them is the only measure that matters.

Abundance may seem to be antithetical to the idea of enough. But it is not in every case. It is only so when one is not doing enough with the abundance they have. When they are not allowing it to provide for others or being judicial custodians of the gifts they have.

Even most of those who feel they do not have enough generally have far more than they realize.