Gooveau riche: Signs that your Google friend is loaded

Google's now so rich that it might technically be a mutual fund, and everyone assumes its employees are rolling in it. But not everyone at Google is rich (yet), and it's hard to tell in this culture of inconspicuous consumption.

It would be rude, of course, to just ask your Google friend, "Can you buy our drinks from now on?" So we asked a few Googlers how to separate the rich from the poor. The following tips all come from employees at the Mountain View Googleplex.

  • "I'd say: 'Did you start before me?'" The rule of thumb, everyone agrees, is the start date. Pre-IPO employees made bank. But no one wants to reveal other magic dates. Just know that earlier is better.
  • They drive a crappy car. The usual nouveau-riche status symbol won't work with Googlers. (There's a subtler sign in a Googler's car choice — more on that later.)
  • Engineers are the real winners. No one's sure just how much richer the geeks are than the ad-sales wonks and other early Googlers, but there's definitely a class divide — not that anyone acts like it at the office.

Read on for the real secret to spotting a rich Googler in the parking lot.

  • Rich Googlers keep a home in San Francisco and another in Mountain View.
  • Their weekend plans involve airplanes and/or beaches and/or simulated zero gravity.
  • They purchase a second car simply because they're curious to run an experiment on hybrid efficiency.
  • They only go home to sleep, but they still employ a housecleaner and a gardener.
  • They retire at the age of 28 and say that they kept working those last two years because they loved the job.
  • "They hire a team of nannies. They have to hire a personal chef just to cook for the nannies." Okay, the cook was a joke, but this Googler was dead serious about the nannie squad.

The takeaway principle? It's all in the discreet expenses. Googlers "live like they're poor undergrads," says one of the company's newer hires. In other words, don't look for glam — look for conveniences and eco-friendly frivolity.