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A Piece of the Action : How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class Hardcover – October 1, 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671667564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671667566
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,761,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an entertaining and edifying history of personal finance, GQ columnist Nocera charts the transformation of the habits of middle-class Americans. The raging inflation of the late 1970s and early '80s, he argues, led many people to abandon thrift and their aversion to risk, attitudes acquired during the Depression. Faced with double-digit inflation, wildly gyrating interest rates and a sinking standard of living, consumers displayed a great willingness to take on debt. The emergence of two-income couples, adjustable-rate mortgages, credit cards and the middle class's growing participation in stocks, mutual funds and money-market accounts define what the author terms the "money revolution" of the past two decades. Nocera, who believes credit overall has been a force for good in American life, fleshes out this colorful chronicle with profiles of finance wizards Charles Merrill of Merrill Lynch; Dee Hock, creator of Visa; and investment broker Charles Schwab. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The business writer of "The Profit Motive" column for GQ magazine, Nocera presents a fascinating and comprehensive history of the evolution of the personal financial products accessible to most Americans today. His story begins with the birth of the credit card 35 years ago and documents the rise of NOW accounts, mutual funds, cut-rate commissions on stock purchases, IRAs, and ATMs. Drawing upon interviews and business news reports, Nocera also includes the stories of the entrepreneurs behind these products-Giannini, founder of Bank of America; Hock, creator of Visa; Kahr, creator of Cash Management Accounts; Merrill, founder of Merrill Lynch; discount broker Schwab; and fund manager Lynch. This book is also a social history of changing American attitudes about money, investing, and the use of credit. Highly recommended for business collections.
Jane M. Kathman, Coll. of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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How Dee Hock the creator of VISA should be honored as perhaps the most innovative inventor in the credit card industry.
Richad of Connecticut
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the development of products such as mutual funds, credit cards, and discount brokerage accounts.
R. Lee
It is both a great primer for how we got into the current credit mess, and a good read with lots of fine, nuanced stories.
ZapMonkey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Strong on January 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you work in personal finance or want to know how the business came to be, I highly recommend this book. It has one instance after another of "a-ha" moments where the light goes on in your head as to why things in our industry are the way they are. Nocera does a great job of tracing each of the innovations that made Wall Street more and more accessible to the average American, benefiting the investor and the companies that got financing.

The other very instructive point this book makes is about the mind, and methodology of the people who drive innovations. For anyone looking to build the better mousetrap, here is a book about person after person who did exactly that in the arena of personal finance.

Highly recommended.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul Sas on December 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
What a thriller! Nocera describes the way Am. attitudes toward debt, investment, savings, and inflation have been transformed since 1958 (the day 60,000 credit cards got mail-dropped in Fresno). Every chapter revealed another fascinating aspect of our changing relationship to $: Credit cards, money market funds, the discount brokerage boom and Charles Schwab's relationship to that force, the superstart fund managers and the personal stories of Peter Lynch and Fidelity, as well as the second wave of credit card design, which focused on poaching upon those most prone to run up debt. This book can give you a deeper understanding of your own attitudes toward finance, while also offering many insights into America's ambivalent relationship toward the dollar and debt.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Lee on May 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Nocera has done a phenomonal job of putting the entire evolution of consumer financial products into an easy-to-read story. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the development of products such as mutual funds, credit cards, and discount brokerage accounts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Anybody who wants to understand the world of finance has to read this book. Nocera has maintained a very high level of narrative power throughout this amazing book.

The description of the events that led to the famous stock-market crash of 1987 is fantastic. That, in my opinion, is the most fascinating chapter of the entire book. Those who were not following the US stockmarkets at that time will find it very exciting to get an "action replay" of the events of those days.

As I read the book, I could not help but draw parallels with the thriller "Moneychangers" written by Arthur Hailey. Well, Nocera is the better of the two! But then, we have to keep in mind that Hailey was at a definite disadvantage -- he was writing fiction...
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 1996
Format: Paperback
"A Piece of the Action" describes the mass-market revolution in personal finance. The story starts with the first credit cards and continues through the development of mutual funds, discount brokerage houses, and money market accounts. Along the way you will meet characters such as Peter Lynch, Dee Hock, and my personal favorite, Andrew Kahr. None of the products these people developed were available prior to 1960.

The book offers no tips and it may not help you manage your own personal fianances, but by understanding the history of mass-market personal finance, you may be better prepared for the future.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A child born today will accept the Internet, iPods, cell phones, and digital cameras as easily as we accepted television in the 1950's. It is in this spirit that you should view this book. There was a time not so long ago when people traveled, they carried cash to pay their hotel bill, for there were no credit cards. They ate in diners because McDonald's and Burger King did not exist. Very few people called long distance because it was prohibitively expensive.

That was life before the financial revolution that began in the 1950's, and Joseph Nocera in this wonderfully written biography of the revolution takes us through it step by step. There were two huge steps in the MONEY REVOLUTION. They were the CREDIT CARD and the MUTUAL FUND.

The two steps would transform the middle class into the money class and nothing would ever be the same. Where we came from and how we got here is the subject of this book, and it is told better than it is told anywhere else.
It is a story that begins with a notion, that notion is that banks are snobs who only want to deal with big corporations, that they look down on the middle class. There would come a time when that notion would be challenged by one man and one bank.

A.P. Giannini, the founder of the Bank of Italy that in the 1940's would become Bank of America turned banking on its head. California had statewide banking which means that a bank in California could open branches anywhere in the state. Only California permitted this. In New York you were limited to cities. In places like Texas you were restricted even more to towns and villages only.

Giannini wanted to service the middle class and that's what he did. After his death, Bank of America would create the credit card, and call it BankAmericard.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Don McNay on August 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
I reviewed this book for the Lexington Herald Leader when it was first published and have purchased over 200 copies for friends, clients and employees over the years. If you don't just want to understand personal finance but understand American socialogy in general, this is the book to read.
Don McNay don@mcnay.com
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