36

Given how old some of those blue blood wizarding families are, I'd expect many of them to run out of money unless they have income sources (ala Gaunts).

Since there seem to be no feudal sources of income, Lucius Malfoy must have had some income source.

What exactly was it? Did he hold a job? Selling Dark Artifacts to B&B doesn't seem like an income stream :)

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    Probably the same as most Old Money. Lots of investing in businesses and basically living off the interest it generates. – DampeS8N Jan 17 '12 at 19:22
  • Its not mentioned here, but there is a wiki that mentions they owned an Apothecary, a thousand-year old family firm selling several products, not to mention Superior Quality Red Wine. harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Malfoy_Apothecary – Manik Sethisuwan May 18 '12 at 18:22
  • @ManikSethisuwan - Wikia is known to not always contain correct information, unless it's clearly sourced there – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 18 '12 at 19:33
  • @b_jonas - if you have relevant canon quotes to support the claim... – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 14 '12 at 8:53
  • Sneer at those they don't consider to be 'pure' – Often Right Sep 26 '15 at 3:25
26

The Malfoys have generational wealth (i.e. they inherit). It's only in the movie Chamber of Secrets that Lucius is represented as having a job at the Ministry; this is not reflected in the book. He is on the Hogwarts Board of Governors for at least two years SS/PS and CoS, but I suspect that is an unpaid position.

According to Forbes, Lucius Malfoy is number 14 on the list of wealthiest fictional characters. (SOURCE) It seems to indicate that the Malfoys' money comes from inheritance rather than a profession.

In all fairness, the Forbes list is from 2007. Here is the current 2011 Forbes Fictional 15 List, which does not feature our dear Lucius, but can we get a shout-out for SMAUG?!?!

Edited to add 7.13.12 Pottermore came out with a fairly extensive background on the Malfoy family (see end of post if you can't access this link) and according to J.K. Rowling, the Malfoys are indeed independently wealthy and have no need to work.

In spite of their espousal of pure-blood values and their undoubtedly genuine belief in wizards' superiority over Muggles, the Malfoys have never been above ingratiating themselves with the non-magical community when it suits them. The result is that they are one of the richest wizarding families in Britain, and it has been rumoured for many years (though never proven) that over the centuries the family has dabbled successfully in Muggle currency and assets. Over hundreds of years, they have managed to add to their lands in Wiltshire by annexing those of neighbouring Muggles, and the favour they curried with royalty added Muggle treasures and works of art to an ever-expanding collection.

I thought this was interesting, the "suspicion" that the Malfoys dabble in Muggle currency. But here's the part about independent wealth:

It is often said of the Malfoy family that you will never find one at the scene of the crime, though their fingerprints might be all over the guilty wand. Independently wealthy, with no need to work for a living, they have generally preferred the role of power behind the throne, happy for others to do the donkey work and to take the responsibility for failure.

Since not everyone wants to sign up for Pottermore, I've put up screenshots here, here, and here.

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    Board members are usually paid nominal sums, but not nearly enough to count. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '12 at 19:29
  • But that's what I don't get. If you inherit money, and you spend a lot of it (which Malfoys certainly do), you are likely to not have a lot left after many generations. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '12 at 19:30
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    @DVK - It depends on the board. Board positions for private schools are rarely paid. Corporations are different. Compound interest goes a long way; I doubt Gringotts doesn't charge interest and some fees. Otherwise it wouldn't be profitable. :) – Slytherincess Jan 17 '12 at 19:40
  • @Dvk - Well, after researching for the question on interest, I have subsequently concluded that there is no definitive proof that Gringotts pays interest on money, so I retract my above comment about interest. :) – Slytherincess Jan 18 '12 at 6:30
24

Much like the British Royalty the Malfoys have "old money" which is apparently enough that the wealth can perpetuate their lifestyle (be it through dividends, bonds, interest, or other investments). Old families like this will often keep everything they've ever owned. Their house and estate will have already been paid for. They typically only have one son or daughter to inherit the estate (so that it doesn't get broken up). In this fashion they are able to perpetuate their wealth across many generations. When you are independently wealthy the wealth can sustain itself as long as you don't overspend.

Lucious Malfoy is also said to be a member of the Board of Trustees for Hogwarts. Although not specifically mentioned he is likely on other Boards, some which may pay. Most Boards don't pay much (either a small annual salary or some stock), but they also require basically no work.

  • 1
    Is there any evidence that Gringotts pays interest (them being the only bank around)? Hmmm... that's a good Q :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '12 at 19:30
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    There's a difference between sitting on a board of a company than a school. Sitting on the Board of Governors (or Trustees as it's usually called in the US) is, in all cases I've heard of, a volunteer position filled by individuals committed to the vision and prosperity of the private school in question. It's probably different if one is sitting on the board of Microsoft or whatever. As far as canon goes, I can only think of the Hogwarts Board of Governors for Lucius Malfoy; I don't think there's mention of him sitting on any other board, charity, or corporation. Correct me if I'm wrong. :) – Slytherincess Jan 17 '12 at 19:32
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  • Old money people don't count on interest. That's penny ante compared to wise investing. They count on dividends much more than interest. – Tango Jan 17 '12 at 19:47
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    @TangoOversway - some equity doesn't pay dividend *cough* Apple *cough* – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '12 at 20:41
3

Old muggle families who are stupidly rich have generally invested in property, which has done well for them. The Duke of Westminster, for example, happened to own a lot of land in an area called Mayfair, which was not particularly good quality land when his family first acquired it. Today it is some of the most expensive property in Europe, and he earns huge amounts for it. The Crown estates - who provide a lot of the money for the monarch - own Regent Street, and collect a tidy sum from that.

I would suggest that the Malfoys in generations past invested in land or property, and used their skills - wizarding and manipulating - to ensure some growth in the value of the land. It wouldn't surprise me if they owned Diagon Alley - it would fit and make sense.

If they had such a source of income, it would enable them to live the life they do without working. The pieces of work that Lucius does are then pin money.

2

Lucius Malfoy worked at the Ministry of Magic. However, that wasn't enough of a high paying job to provide the wealth in his family. (And just what his job is, I could not find in the wiki.)

While all wealth be lost, there are amounts that are so large that they last for generations and, if well invested, can grow, even without people working at a "real" job.

Forbes Magazine estimates his wealth at over $1 billion (I presume that's with converting it to American dollars). That's more than enough for a family to live for generations on just investments.

  • "there are amounts that are so large that they last for generations" - tell that to the Gaunts :))). Or many many old blood aristocracy IRL that had to marry into noveau riche :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '12 at 22:49
  • How exactly did Forbes arrive at 1.3Bn? Is there any canon info on his galleon goldings? The article didn't give any details :( – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '12 at 22:53
  • I don't know of info on his holdings, but I know the exchange rate is approximately 1 Galleon = £5.00. – Tango Jan 17 '12 at 23:08
  • @TangoOversway - There's a wizarding currency converter at the Lexicon: hp-lexicon.org/wizworld/galleons.html, which seems to convert 1.3B galleons to 2.6M pounds. I can't do ratios -- is that around 5 pounds to 1 galleon? Also, I think the HP Wiki is wrong -- I can't find a single instance in the books that states Lucius worked at the Ministry at any time. He is well-connected with Ministry officials, apparently lining a lot of pockets, but I don't believe he's ever held a Ministry position. It's only in the CoS movie that he says "See you at work" to Arthur Weasley. :) – Slytherincess Jan 18 '12 at 6:24
  • @Slytherincess: Perhaps the employment info is from JKR herself? I found several articles citing the exchange rate I mentioned, some given by JKR, and some getting something close to that with some calculations, which I think used the numbers you were working with. – Tango Jan 18 '12 at 7:07
0

Forget about deposit investments - I don't see the goblins at Gringotts offering any kind of interest return.

But there are plenty of other ways to make money earn more money - if the family owns a lot of property (land or buildings) then the returns on rent will provide a healthy income. In fact, this is actually where the crown and the church in England derive most of their income.

In addition - owning businesses will also return on investment - although the rent on land (no maintenance required for dirt) is still the best money earner for a family that is able to buy a lot of it.

  • But is there any canon info showing Malfoys earning rent money? Owning a business? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '12 at 22:48
  • there's no canon info on how they make any of their money - but i think property/land rental would be more suitable in the HP universe than interest from goblins... – HorusKol Jan 18 '12 at 0:38
-3

Land and property are the biggest earners, followed by more liquid investments and business ownership. Lastly, salaried income. It helps if your family already owns enough property that you never need to waste money on rent/mortgages, as most other people do. When I stopped paying rent/mortgages, my wealth began to grow faster than I could realistically spend it. I imagine the Malfoys all start life in this fortunate position.

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    That has been said by three answers now - do you have any new canon data to add? – Gallifreyan Jul 10 '17 at 8:42

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