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

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reissue edition (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: #1,998,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All too often, we're content to find fault in the present and the recent past. Joe Nocera wrote the opening chapters of the 2007 - ??? financial crisis in 1994 citing names, financial institutions, and that irreplaceable contribution to doublespeak known to all as "innovation." You'll be taken back to the 1950's where it all began and you'll learn about the ambitions, the goals and the personalities of the first wave of financial engineers who set the dominoes in place prior to this book being written. You'll learn that this debacle was a bi-partisan effort from day one and follow the road to hell, often paved with good intentions, as well as the contrivances of the truly greedy.

All that's required after reading this primer are a few well researched and well-written accounts that span the mid-1990's all the way to the present day. There are numerous, excellent books that qualify nicely.

William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, is relevant in its memorable words, "What is past is prologue." And history does influence and set the dominant framework for the present and the future.

If you're a student of capitalism run amok who thinks with an open mind, your understanding will always be incomplete without "A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class."
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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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