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A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class Paperback – November 29, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0684804354 ISBN-10: 0684804352

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (November 29, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684804352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684804354
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,312,216 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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 13 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 11 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 10 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 5 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 8 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L.A. Little on July 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the late 60's and mainly the 1970's, a huge sea change took place in American financial history - a change so dramatic that it is still being felt today. Joseph Nocera takes a look at those dramatic changes an the figures behind them in A Piece of the Action. The book presents the story of how Americans financial future shifted from mostly employers to the individual and how government action trailed and, in some cases, badly lagged the fast moving financial landscape of the 70's.

The book reads well with each chapter a coming across as a somewhat tale of the many tales that occurred in tandem during the financial revolution that swept the country from the late 60's through the early 80's. It starts with The Drop, the great credit card drop in a quite California town where credit cards became a household item overnight and the kinks were worked out of a product that has become ubiquitous. Incredible changes occurred any man far flung enterprises which all had finance as a common denominator. Stories like the the emergence of Charles Schwab and Merrill Lynch and the rise of mutual funds. The sweeping away of Regulation Q and the inability for banks to pay going rates of interest by way of the competitive money market funds that came about and the push by individuals to get into them.

The book offers an accurate representation of the events that took place that gave individuals much more control over their financial future. The book is upbeat and treats all these events as being good for the average American. I cannot disagree that having more choices is a bad thing, but if the choices presented to people is accompanied by some sort of education about what the choices really mean, then what value are they? That was a problem then and continues to be a problem now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brian Kodi VINE VOICE on November 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
Two milestones in recent U.S. history profoundly impacted the lifestyle of the middle class: The 1929 depression that propagated frugality, and the double digit inflation of the late 1970s-early 1980s that instigated a reversal of the depression era trends and whet America's appetite for risk and propensity to take on debt.

In what Mr. Nocera terms as "the money revolution", consumption in the U.S. rose rapidly, facilitated in large part by the proliferation of credit cards and inflation scares. Investing was brought to the masses through discount brokerages and mutual funds. The money revolution, as the ever enthusiastic and upbeat Money Magazine editor, Marshall Loeb defined it, was about how the middle class was finally gaining access to all the financial tools that had previously been available only to the rich.

Mr. Nocera is a master story teller, and in "A Piece of the Action", he focuses on the eccentric and brilliant individuals who had an integral part in the money revolution; individuals such as Dee Hock, the inventor of Visa, Peter Lynch, the most successful mutual fund manager, Charles Schwab who popularized discount brokerages et al.

The "rapid conversion of income to possessions" that began in the late 1970s' double digit inflation era defined America's consumption and abysmally low savings for decades to follow. It will be interesting to see how the global financial melt down in 2008 will affect these deeply embedded behaviors in the American consumers' psyche. No matter what the outcome, one thing's for certain: You don't mess with the Zohan.
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