The term "new money," also called nouveau riche, usually denotes a person who has recently gained an immense amount of wealth. This term is in direct opposition to the term "old money," which refers to a person who has had a large amount of wealth for many generations. The term can be used to separate one socioeconomic class from another, though it can also be used as a derogatory term.
Used in a derogatory manner, referring to a person as having "new money" is meant as an insult. The meaning behind this insult relates directly to the assumption that those with new money do not know how to spend this money wisely, while those with old money take greater care to invest funds.
Ancient Greeks often struggled with each other for a high rank in society. Many Ancient Greek texts refer to those with newly acquired money as being placed on the lower rungs of society, while those with old money were well-respected. Throughout the centuries, those with well-established wealth have often been far more respected than those with new wealth. This idea takes into consideration a person's upbringing or "breeding." Some believe that those who have not been brought up with money cannot truly become a part of the aristocratic class.
History has shown that, over time, many of the nouveau riche become old money. Once a certain degree of wealth has been obtained, many who have recently acquired this amount of wealth learn to invest it for future generations. Thus, those future generations are frequently considered part of the old money class. Some argue that there is no such thing as old money, since all people who currently have money were once considered new money.
Referring to someone as having new money occurs all over the world. While each part of the world has a different socioeconomic system, people who are assumed to have new money will always exist. The main difference is that some people who are considered old money in various countries may be considered new money in other countries — this is especially true for those people who are just gaining wealth in newly developed countries.