10 Famous Types of Rich People in Britain and America

Anderson Cooper. (Photo: Colin Young-Wolff /Invision/AP)

Anderson Cooper. (Photo: Colin Young-Wolff /Invision/AP)

Wealthy folk in the U.S. and back home in Blighty are a complicated bunch with a rich history and, no doubt, a loaded future. To help distinguish the old money from the new and the stinking rich from the merely whiffy, we’ve broken it down for you.

BRITAIN

1. Landed gentry and aristocracy
Who are they? Upper-class Brits, perhaps with some kind of title and/or inherited wodge of land and a Downton Abbey style house. They send their kids to posh schools and play polo.

Where do they live? Probably London, but the inherited family pile—if they’re lucky enough to have hung onto one—is in the countryside. To meet the insane costs of running a stately home and very often stave off bankruptcy, many owners have opened up their homes to the paying public.

Celebrity example: Socialite, reality TV star and all-round D-lister Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, whose parents own the 1,200-acre Dummer Grange estate near Basingstoke, Hampshire and are pals with Prince Charles.

American counterpart: New England/New York old money. While some of these American blue bloods might think of themselves as nobility, their British equivalents would sneer at the very idea.

2. Cotswold retirees
Who are they? Former generals, retired pharmaceutical bosses and the PM. They’re Telegraph readers whose hobbies include walking the Labrador, playing golf and pottering around antique shops.

Where do they live? Chocolate box cottages in quaint Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire towns and villages.

Celebrity example: The Camerons.

American counterpart: Cape cod retirees, though I suspect this set is a little more liberal than the Cotswold crew.

3. Footballers
Who are they? Premier League players who draw insane salaries, which they use to renovate their extravagant homes and extravagant WAGs.

Where do they live? The expensive parts of Essex and Cheshire.

Celebrity example: Wayne Rooney

American counterpart: The football, baseball and basketball players who date models and live in vast, mock-period properties. But what with America being so vast, wealthy sporting professionals don’t tend to cluster in a couple of easy-to-mock areas like they do back in the U.K.

4. British investment bankers and hedge fund managers
Who are they? The posh city boys and girls who come from money, but went to Eton then Oxford so they could go on to make pots more of it working for Morgan Stanley. They ferry their kids to school in a Range Rover but have never once driven off road.

Where do they live? All over west and southwest London, but the elite of the elite reside in Kensington and Chelsea.

Celebrity example: Hmm, none really. They’re too dull even for reality TV to touch. Only the corporate crooks tend to get media coverage in the U.K.

American counterpart: Their U.S. equivalents are living it up on the Upper East Side. The major difference? This lot prefer smaller dogs.

5. British new money
Who are they? The rich Brits from humble beginnings who made their millions setting up a business with a start-up fund consisting of a couple of buttons they found under the sofa.

Where do they live? The home counties. Predominantly Essex, Berkshire and Surrey. Or a wealthy suburb close—but not too close—to the city slum or mining village they grew up in.

Celebrity example: The Dragons’ Den cast.

American counterpart: Anyone with a massive house and a rags-to-riches tale. In the U.S., there’s less snobbery attached to making it big from nothing, so they’re possibly a prouder, less chippy bunch on this side of the Pond.

AMERICA

6. Silicon Valley billionaires
Who are they? The speccy kids who studied at (or dropped out of) Ivy League universities then went on to develop a social networking tool or app for something utterly indispensable. Like the gerbil that repeats back what you say in a squeaky voice.

Where do they live? Palo Alto, or Woodside, CA, also home to Buck’s Restaurant where all of the most important tech deals get inked.

Celebrity example: Mark Zuckerberg

British equivalent: Erm… Alan Sugar? (There’s also Britain’s own Sir Jonathan Ive, who has made a pretty penny designing Apple products.) Needless to say, your American tech entrepreneur is generally a cooler cat.

7. The Beverly Hill-Billi(onaires)
Who are they? Film stars, producers, directors, agents, plastic surgeons and entertainment lawyers.

Where do they live? L.A.’s super rich might reside in North Beverly Park. Reachable only via two manned checkpoints, the development is, allegedly, paparazzi proof. Tuscan-style monster mansions abound.

Celebrity example: Sylvester Stallone and British expat Rod Stewart have both been listed as North Beverly Park residents.

British equivalent: Elmbridge, Surrey. A leafy 37 square miles, home to everyone from Elton John to Chris Tarrant. Our British version of Beverly Hills is leafier but a lot less glamorous.

8. Texan oil barons
Who are they? Tycoons who wear cowboy hats and boots to the office and sit with their feet up and crossed on their burr walnut desks. This is a pretty accurate depiction, right? Or is it possible that I’ve been watching too much Dallas?

Where do they live? Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth.

Celebrity example: JR Ewing. Gone but not forgotten. (H.L. Hunt, the late real-life inspiration for the dastardly Dallas oilman, headed up a family that continues to make a fortune on Texas tea.)

British equivalent: That world-famous and extremely glamorous coal-mining dynasty. You know the one. It’s on the tip of my tongue… In truth, British-based tycoons and barons tend to be Russian.

9. American old money
Who are they? WASPs, whose “nouveau riche” ancestors made millions (back when mere millions meant you were mega rich) as industrialists, bankers and builders in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Where do they live? You’ll find pockets of old money all over the U.S., but they’re perhaps best known for inhabiting parts of New England (particularly Maine) and New York City’s Upper East Side.

Celebrity example: Anderson Cooper, the CNN host who’s a member of the Vanderbilt family.

British equivalent: The landed gentry. Curiously, if you compared the bank balances of British and American “nobility,” the Brits would seem hard up. Our lot tend to be asset rich but cash poor.

10. American investment bankers and hedge fund managers
Who are they? Ivy Leaguers who set out to make big corporate cash in the Big Apple working for the big boys. Think Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase.

Where do they live? The Upper East Side, with a second home in the Hamptons.

Celebrity example: George Soros, an extremely rich hedge fund manager who topped the Forbes’ list of highest-earning hedge fund managers and traders in 2013.

British equivalent: Our own city slickers, whose Labradors would eat the Upper East Siders’ Chihuahuas for breakfast.

What are the rules and attitudes about wealth and money in America vs. Britain? Join @MindTheGap_BBCA and etiquette expert Debby Mayne (@DebbyMayne) to discuss using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win a Doctor Who Season 7 DVD!

See more:
Editorial: Is Tipping in America Excessive? An Englishman’s Take
Eight Reasons Brits Move to America
9 Ways for Brits to Style Their Homes Like Americans

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis
  • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

    Would love to understand why Brits are generally so mean about people who have made a lot of their own money. People from all walks of life, in many different fields, are sneered at whether they flaunt their money or not. Contrast with the US where most people are generally pleased for others who do well, and certainly don’t try to bring them down. Thoughts?

    • Mr Torch

      Thousands of years of experience and skepticism probably.

      “Scepticism is the first step towards truth.” Denis Diderot

      “I always said that if I wasn’t studying psychopaths in prison, I’d do it at the stock exchange.” Robert Hare.

      “In war, the strong make slaves of the weak, and in peace the rich makes slaves of the poor.” Oscar Wilde

      “None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.” Johann von Goethe

      “But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.”
      Karl Marx

      “Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is Poverty what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.” George Bernard Shaw

      “Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won’t all be poor.” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

    • tor

      speak for yourself. the one percent, people who have money in the US, have either inherited it, walked over others to get it, or cashed in on a talent to stockpile it. i don’t mind people being rich, i do mind if they use that wealth frivolously or look down on others as lazy. using said wealth to live like a prince while ignoring others who struggle is despicable. case in point the Waltons. Doing well is just a euphemism for playing the game with corporate america rather than stand against the greed and power that is ruling the nation. I should be pleased that people like this are venerated in my country? I think not. don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of rich people who use their wealth for good; ie Bill Gates. its just the majority of them dont give a crap about the rest of us. I assume, given their history, the Brits learned this lesson long ago.

      • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

        I wasn’t talking about the one per cent, because they are well, just one percent and not at all representative of the country. Not sure if you’ve ever lived in the UK; if not, you wouldn’t know what I mean anyway. And btw, you won’t get any argument from me about the Waltons.

    • mary

      I have two words for you, Toni: class system. In days gone by it really was only the landed nobility that had the money and power. Before the reign of James I, you couldn’t even aspire to dress a certain way (no accident that ermine was for royalty only) When the Industrial Revolution happened, there were more self made men, yes, but the nobility was still the governing caste: they had enclosed most of England by that point and forced people to either emigrate or into crowded coal belching factories (and taxing the businesses was not at the top of Victoria’s agenda.) By the early 20th century you had to be the right sort to even attend University with the right connections or you were mud. All in all such a caste system continued for a very long time in the UK with incredible walls to advancement and the sneering mockery of anyone who wanted better for himself, from the people threatened by it from above and the laughing of your friends who sat with you, because far more failed than ever succeeded.

      America has never had a true nobility, that is, where the wealth is inherited and title guaranteed, but right now is dangerously close to that reality.

    • mary

      Sorry, have to continue form first post, am on a stubborn iPad….

      America is dangerously close to having a nobility where inherited wealth is a guarantor of success, not merit. (Ironically this goes against what the Founders wanted-they severed all ties with Britain to get away from land hungry power mongers like Lord Fairfax, for example.) In the earlier part of the last century the WASPs that held so much power saw that power diminish because of well placed checks and balances on businesses and income tax, something that the new robber barons are trying to avoid tooth nail and claw, and in private places these Lex Luthor lookalikes have been trying to usurp the power of Federal Government. Americans do not want to have a Downton Abbey society even if the show is popular, since the latter speaks more to a wish for fancy things sorely lacking in the working American’s life and the resentment thereof at the George Soroses, Elon Musks, and even the Hollywood stars that get paraded around as some greater good when most of them haven’t even graduated high school and have very narrow horizons. We celebrate success, yes, but lately, despise the kind that has come at a very dear price, our expense.

      • http://tonisummershargis.com/ Toni Hargis

        I hear you and respect your comment. However, wouldn’t you think that the working class (in the UK) would laud the lads and lasses who broke the mold and made it big? I understand the “fear of failure” thing and I recognize it, but I still wonder at it. But thank you for your comments. I don’t disagree with you, at all, I’m just flummoxed.

        • mary

          I thought I made that clear: historically, in fact for a majority of British history, the odds of somebody escaping to the upper echelons of society were small. From above, where the often noble sat, anybody who tried to make something of himself was a threat to their power. From below, anyone who wanted more than what they had was implying that what was wasn’t good enough, and anyone who tried often got knocked on their rhymes-with-grass, not to mention magnified the inadequacies of living in the caste they were originally confined to for all that lived in it. Historical case in point: one of the oddest features of British history is that its most famous favorite son was himself the son of a glove maker whose father fell on hard times & this man probably had an enormous load of responsibility dumped on him at eighteen with a pregnant girlfriend, plus a mother caring for three kids under 17. Sound like the biography of a cast member of East Enders?-it isn’t. It is the

        • mary

          Dammit! I hate this iPad!!

          As I was saying, it is the biography of William Shakespeare. Even back then people had a nasty case of tall poppy syndrome, since here was this guy who kept galumphing back to London from what to Londoners back then was the boondocks every fortnight or so with a huge stack of parchment and an accent that sounded a little like Birmingham and Irish had a bizarre lovechild. He had no university education but could write most of them under the table and for his troubles they called him an upstart crow. We all know that from the revenues of his writing he saved his family, dumped huge amounts of money on his wife and kids, and died a champ, but I suspect he never got what was due him while alive because nobody wanted to recognize some lowbrow lowborn as possibly being the Muhammed Ali of the written word.

        • mary

          As in Shakespeare’s day nothing has changed. It is pretty much hardwired in the British psyche-this is not a country where talking or sensitivity to others feelings is celebrated or encouraged. It is less about fear of failure, but greater fear of loss of face in the eyes of others if you do. People laud a man like Shakespeare TODAY, but I would be willing to bet that the minute he opened his mouth to read the Band of Brothers speech from Henry V people started laughing so hard they peed themselves because of his accent and the belief that such a little nothing could be anything more. People still do that today with a hip hop artist from Brixton and completely ignore the substance of his words and their artistic value, and those nearest him worried he could make it.

  • Butch Knouse

    We have others who think of themselves as nobility. Like most of the people I have ever encountered from New York City, or even people who’ve been there once.

  • bob

    Dear Ruth (not implying I believe you to be expensive, in fact, quite the contrary),

    These Brit/Yank comparisons are becoming a bit long-in-the-tooth (not implying I believe you to have grossly oversized canine teeth). Of course, like most ‘mericans, I’m willing to give you a pass, as living in Brooklyn is bound to skew one’s view of the world.

    But, if you must, I think bathroom humor has endless possibilities, I know the word “loo” often makes me giggle.

    -keep ‘em coming