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Where Are the Customers' Yachts: or A Good Hard Look at Wall Street [Paperback]

Fred Schwed , Peter Arno , Jason Zweig
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 10 2006 Wiley Investment Classics (Book 32)
"Once I picked it up I did not put it down until I finished. . . . What Schwed has done is capture fully-in deceptively clean language-the lunacy at the heart of the investment business."
-- From the Foreword by Michael Lewis, Bestselling author of Liar's Poker

". . . one of the funniest books ever written about Wall Street."
-- Jane Bryant Quinn, The Washington Post

"How great to have a reissue of a hilarious classic that proves the more things change the more they stay the same. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."
-- Michael Bloomberg

"It's amazing how well Schwed's book is holding up after fifty-five years. About the only thing that's changed on Wall Street is that computers have replaced pencils and graph paper. Otherwise, the basics are the same. The investor's need to believe somebody is matched by the financial advisor's need to make a nice living. If one of them has to be disappointed, it's bound to be the former."
-- John Rothchild, Author, A Fool and His Money, Financial Columnist, Time magazine

Humorous and entertaining, this book exposes the folly and hypocrisy of Wall Street. The title refers to a story about a visitor to New York who admired the yachts of the bankers and brokers. Naively, he asked where all the customers' yachts were? Of course, none of the customers could afford yachts, even though they dutifully followed the advice of their bankers and brokers. Full of wise contrarian advice and offering a true look at the world of investing, in which brokers get rich while their customers go broke, this book continues to open the eyes of investors to the reality of Wall Street.


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Where Are the Customers' Yachts: or A Good Hard Look at Wall Street + The Intelligent Asset Allocator: How to Build Your Portfolio to Maximize Returns and Minimize Risk + The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio
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Review

"More than half a century on, Where Are the Customers’ Yachts? Remains a fascinating read" (Money Week, July 2006)

From the Back Cover

"Once I picked it up I did not put it down until I finished. . . . What Schwed has done is capture fully—in deceptively clean language—the lunacy at the heart of the investment business."
—From the Foreword by Michael Lewis, Bestselling author of Liar's Poker

". . . one of the funniest books ever written about Wall Street."
—Jane Bryant Quinn, The Washington Post

"How great to have a reissue of a hilarious classic that proves the more things change the more they stay the same. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."
—Michael Bloomberg

"It's amazing how well Schwed's book is holding up after fifty-five years. About the only thing that's changed on Wall Street is that computers have replaced pencils and graph paper. Otherwise, the basics are the same. The investor's need to believe somebody is matched by the financial advisor's need to make a nice living. If one of them has to be disappointed, it's bound to be the former."
—John Rothchild, Author, A Fool and His Money, Financial Columnist, Time magazine


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"WALL street," reads the sinister old gag, "is a street with a river at one end and a graveyard at the other." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Original Motley Fool Jan. 8 2003
Format:Paperback
"The more things change, the more they stay the same." That's how Fred Schwed, Jr. introduces this gem, if my translation of the French is correct. The book is timely, even though it was first published in 1940. The author shares his observations of Wall Street with wit and humor.
"The chief concern of this book", he states, "will be with an examination of the nonsense ... ." One example is this excerpt from a paragraph he takes out of The Wall Street Journal: "the action of the market was regarded as in the nature of a technical recovery, with little thought of the imminence of dynamic action." Nonsense was apparently well articulated before the bull market of the '90s. Another example is his explanation of why people buy high and sell low when they go to the stock market. They mistakenly believe that once prices are rising (or falling), they'll continue to rise (or fall). "But it is not a fair thing to say of the stock market," he claims,"which, not being a physical thing, is not subject to Newton's laws of propulsion or inertia."
There's more than "an examination of the nonsense" here. Readers may take "A Little Aptitude Test" to see if finance is their calling and consider "A Little Wonderful Advice" on getting rich. If Schwed's advice doesn't make you rich, his hilarious insight will at least make you laugh.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom Wrapped in Whimsy Dec 9 2002
Format:Paperback
Put down that ugly brokerage statement from the busted, dot-gone Bear market. Skip that news report of the latest bankruptcy filing and spend a couple of whimsical hours with author Fred Schwed, Jr. WHERE ARE THE CUSTOMERS' YACHTS? is a rejoinder to Wall Street's inflated self-confidence that begins with that classic question. Schwed's conversational style makes this a quick read. His style is 'wry', 'dead-pan', 'droll' - a bit of Andy Rooney, maybe a bit of 18th Century novelist Lawrence Sterne. Schwed looks back to the 1920's (published 1940, republished 1955) as "one of the great universal delusions of history" a period of "supreme miscalculation". It was a kind of grand "nonsense" we can relate to in our own post-internet bubble period. Schwed is more humorist than moralist. Misdoings on Wall Street are "overrated" often a mix of "bad luck and bad brains". Advisors are "romantics" who genuinely believe that the market's movements can be predicted. Often they become victims of their own "confused sincerity". Technical analysts are "pathetic", persuading themselves of predictive patterns in stock charts and statistical data. In the end market activity may repeat itself, but often "ponderously, with an infinite number of variations." Schwed takes the side of short sellers, an unpopular bunch who weigh against the general herd to profit when the market declines. He notes that such professional cynicism is never tolerated in an un-free society. Years before the Wall Street Journal began 'testing' the efficient market theory (EMT) selecting stocks with darts, Schwed relates the apocryphal story of a bank trust officer's relative success selecting stocks from his pen's random ink spots. Read more ›
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Format:Paperback
In the current gloomy environment -- with scandals and investigations ("shocked, shocked, I say, to hear...") at every turn -- this book is a LOL reminder of the constancy of human behavior in the face of temptation.
As the other reviewers note, Schwed worked as a broker in the early 1920's. He then wrote this book -- the "Liar's Poker" of its time -- in the 1940's, with the wry perspective that only a crash and ten years of stagnation can bring. Ancient history? Au contraire. What makes this book such a must-read is two things.
First, the things that firms and brokers do to separate customers from their money haven't really changed. Touting low quality underwritings, cramming unwanted inventory down customers' throats at inflated prices, using fancy phrases to flog dogs were as prevalent then as now.
But this is not a one-sided bashing of the Street and its techniques. Schwed gives equal time to customers' susceptability, even eagerness, to play their part in the game. Schwed's fundamental point is that people -- clients and brokers alike -- are forever led astray by their wanting to earn outsized returns without having to take any risk.
But the thing that really sets the book apart is Schwed's lucid yet highly entertaining style. You'll walk away with fresh insights into industry practices and market structures that you can apply to today's events. And even when you realize the target is you -- the ever-hopeful investor -- you'll be laughing so hard you won't mind.
If you even mildly liked Liar's Poker, you'll love "Yachts."
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5.0 out of 5 stars 'Cos stocks (...) and all the bankers are crooks Oct. 9 2001
Format:Paperback
Where are the customers' yachts is the funniest send up of the stock broking industry that's ever been written - by miles. The thing that strikes you is how nothing has changed since he wrote his memoirs in the late 1930s. (Allegedly, he lost a packet in the 1929 crash and decided to call it a day - from where he went on to write childrens' books).
His writing style is so nimble, so comic, that you can't help reading this book from cover to cover in a single sitting. You've got to read it, just for his description of the (...) world of short selling and analyst reports. It's old fashioned prose of the very best kind. No bizno-speak or MBA twaddle. Just colourful characters and lots of laughs.
Schwed may have been a broker, but everyone is a target. Clients... rarely do their homework and are always impressed by analysts/sales telling them what will happen. One pitiful tale involves a client asked for $500 margin in a falling market. He runs around all day raising funds to try and head off the deadline. But in the end he comes up short by 15 dollars - after paying the broker 485...
Where are the customers' yachts is a fabulous book. Schwed has managed to heap ridicule on everyone and yet spell out, very clearly, why the only winners are the bankers and the brokers.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Laymen's Fun
Well, maybe this was a 2 star book, but to me it was hopeless from the start. "Fred Schwed", a jokester of a name to begin with talks about Wall St just as naively as anyone who... Read more
Published on Aug. 22 2003 by Scott D. Carl
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny!
If you think reading Investment books is a rather dry and serious affair, then you'll be pleasantly surprised by this one. Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2002 by kfer
3.0 out of 5 stars Laugh and Learn!
A friend of mine gave me this book to read to help me understand a bit about why the economy is in the dumps and why all my investments are in the toilet. Read more
Published on Nov. 22 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars the more they stay the same
although written in the 1940's this tells you many of the difficulties of investing today. His comparison of investing and speculating to love and passion is a classic explanation... Read more
Published on Nov. 21 2002 by Steven R. Becker
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic!
While you are wondering what to do with your money after the 2001/2002 stock market crash, Fred has some ideas...mostly how about cash? Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2002 by G. Powell
5.0 out of 5 stars Manage your own investments
Financial advisors, pundits and prognosticators abound, though not as much now that the bubble has burst. "Where Are All The Customers' Yachts? Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2001 by Adam F. Jewell
5.0 out of 5 stars An Investment Classic All Stock Investors Should Read!
This book clearly deserves more than five stars for exposing the folly of Wall Street in the most humorous possible terms. Read more
Published on March 4 2001 by Donald Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilariously funny, and bitingly true
Schwed's main thesis is that Wall Street's experts, advice-givers, and prognosticators are just making wild guesses -- guesses for which they'll charge you quite a tidy sum. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2000 by Yaumo Gaucho
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous!
Sixty years old, and as accurate as ever. For everyone who thinks that technical analysis is gospel, for everyone who thinks high mutual fund fees are worth it, for everyone who... Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2000 by John Rosevear
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