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A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  170 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Now with a new introduction describing the fallout of America’s consumer credit boom, 1994’s wildly acclaimed bestseller A Piece of the Action tells the story of how millions of middle class Americans went from being savers to borrowers and investors through the invention of credit cards, mutual funds, and IRAs—resulting in profound societal change.Tracing the invention of ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 29th 1995 by Touchstone (first published October 1st 1994)
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Rahul Lingala
Apr 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
This a super-niche book with a lot of details on America's financial revolution history from the 1950s to 1990s.

If you are curious about below questions, go for the book. But would caution that the book has a lot of details which I felt are not necessary.

1) How were credit cards born? How did they work when there were no POS terminals? What were the initial challenges when banks were building credit card businesses? Who are ideal credit card customers for banks? How is interchange fee charged by
Pat Herndon
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully written book that I am reading nearly 20 years after it was written. It is timely and explains so much of where we are today...with our modern discussion of the Glass-Steagall Act and this book's works cited including a piece by Elizabeth Warren. I recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand financial markets. ...more
Tony Cavicchi
This fascinating book tells the story of the "Money Revolution"--the invention of mutual funds, credit cards, money market funds, and discount brokerages--and how it changed America.

Joe Nocera carefully traces the developments of each new technology, while in the meantime creating almost mini-biographies of the key players, such as Dee Hock of Visa, Charles Schwab of Charles Schwab, Don Regan of Merrill Lynch, and Ned Johnson and Peter Lynch of Fidelity. This book details how so many financial p
Ashby Hilsman
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book!

This should be required reading for anyone interested in the social and economic history of the past 50 years. Barry Ritholtz recommended it in his blog The Big Picture at Barry was spot on!
Alan Seigerman
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent review of the growth of personal finance industry as it embraced the middle class and compelling read of the innovators that made it happen.
Scott Loftesness
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great book about the evolution of consumer finance in the USA - including some fascinating history on Visa and Dee Hock.
Phuong Thanh
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
His column on Bloomberg is also a pleasure to read.
Reader Variety
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finance
Nocera explains how the middle class was given access to easier investing and the capital markets, and how they benefited.

The creation of the money market fund (and later check writing out of that fund) drew small savers in and made them investors.

Aug 17, 2008 rated it liked it
This book tells the history of middle class personal finance in America. At some point, investing was only for rich people -- Middle America put their money in a savings account in a bank. Slowly, laws and attitudes changed, and people started to take advantage of other opportunities: discount stock houses, credit cards, money market accounts, and on and on.

Most of the history is pretty interesting, and the book does a great job of telling it -- for the most part. Unfortunately, the book ends up
May 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Tightly woven across this century, Nocera details the birth and evolution of credit cards, mutual funds, discount brokerage, and the modern American financial culture. Credit cards began with a drop of 60,000 on Fresno, California, by Bank of America, whose eventual industry group evolved into Visa under the leadership of Dee Hock. Discount brokerage was made possible by "Mayday," 1 May 1975, when fixed commission laws were phased out. Similar tales regarding the beginning of mutual funds wrap-u ...more
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting and easy to understand account of the rapid development of financial services in the past decades. The subject is worth a long look back and a lot of thinking. Although written in the heyday of democratisation of the financial industry Nocera managed to remain rather restrained in the praise of it all. Thus the book remains a very good and informative read after so many years that were it a human being it could legally drive a car by now. Nonetheless, the reprinted edition ...more
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well-researched book. Anyone interested in the evolution over the last 100 years of financial products for the masses from stock market investing, credit cards, banking deregulation, mutual funds, etc would like this book. Learned a lot of interesting things. Even though it's out of date (1994 publishing) it's still good for the historical stuff and also it's somewhat interesting to get the out of date perspective without the knowledge of all the mayhem that happened since that time. only negati ...more
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was riveting and opened a whole new world of understanding for me on how the financial landscape has changed in America over time. An invaluable resource for anyone wanting a complete understanding of how we got in the financial mess we're in today. I would love to read an updated version that covers the world of finance through 2009. ...more
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, detailing the opening of the financial sector, through credit cards and consumer debt, to the American middle class. Highly readable, Nocera injects character and personality to what could have been a dry financial history, bringing the people and industry to life. Recommended.
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
20 years later, this book is still a must-read. An insightful history of modern financial services, it traces the history of financial products for the middle class from credit cards in the 1950s to mutual funds in the 1980s.
Drew Allen
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good account of the development of the financial services. Could be understood by both a lay person and someone who works in finance.
Eli Mernit
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful history of financial products created for middle class Americans in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s
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Joseph Nocera is an American business journalist and author. He has been a columnist for The New York Times since April 2005. Nocera is also a business commentator for NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon.

Prior to joining The New York Times, Nocera worked at Fortune from 1995 to 2005, in a variety of positions, finally as editorial director. Nocera was the "Profit Motive" columnist at GQ from 19

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114 likes · 42 comments
“As the number of credit card holders grew, and as inflation imposed its relentless logic, people began to gain a new awareness of the implications that came with certain credit card actions. In particular, they began to understand the meaning of the word 'float.' When a customer used a credit card to buy something at the beginning of the billing cycle, and then didn't pay the bill until the tail end of the 'grace period,' the bank had, in essence, 'floated' the customer a month-long interest-free loan. Once again, savvier customers figured out how to maximize this advantage, learning the precise moment to make big purchases so that the bill would not come due for forty-five or even sixty days.” 0 likes
“IRA funds became a form of play money for the middle class... Because the pool of capital that made up an IRA could not be withdrawn for twenty or thirty years, many people viewed their IRAs as containing money they could experiment with. They could use an IRA to buy their first stock or their first mutual fund. They could put in in a money market fund first, and then, as they got bolder - and the bull market became more irresistible - shift some of it into something a little riskier. IRAs gave people a way to try on the stock and bond markets for size, to see how they felt, and to become slowly comfortable with the idea of investing. The knowledge that the money couldn't easily be withdrawn acted as a psychological safety net, allowing investors to feel as though they could take a chance or two. If they made a mistake, they reasoned, there was still time to recoup - several decades, perhaps.Over time, many people came to believe that it as imperative to maximize the returns they were getting on their IRA account, even at the risk of taking a loss. How else would they ever have enough to retire on? This, surely, is the classic definition of investment capital.” 0 likes
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