Sometimes you read a book then go see a movie (or vice versa) and it all seems to connect. That happened recently with The Wolf of Wall Street and Young Money — below I give you my random thoughts on the film and the book.
While I found The Wolf of Wall Street to be a movie full of despicable people, the acting is superb and there is a bit of a lesson: don’t do Quaaludes. But it also gives us a glimpse into the disgusting life of a (former) Wall Street guy that really liked to steal from the rich and give to himself. I feel Jordan Belfort didn’t learn any kind of lesson from his punishment other than how to stay rich by taking advantage of people legally now instead of illegally (people pay to see this guy speak). There are also some reports that claim he’s paid back only a fraction of what he took. Despite that, The Wolf of Wall Street is one glimpse into the financial sector that isn’t pretty to watch and the movie piqued my interest about the financial sector.
So now that I had viewed the ugly and glitzy, I discovered Young Money by Kevin Roose and decided to take a look at what it’s like 25 years later on Wall Street (and Finance/Economics happens to be what our Genre Study group is discussing in March). Belfort isn’t around, but since his “demise” there have still been plenty of shady activities on Wall Street and we all know what happened in 2008. This book is a look at the aftermath of that crisis and follows 8 newbies on Wall Street from 2010-2013.
The basics: Their lives suck, but they make great money.
I had no idea how young analysts and traders are/were recruited — 2 year contracts and then they either find a new job in the industry or move on. For those two years the banking analysts work 16 hour days (10 hours on weekends) and make a lot of fancy Excel spreadsheets (and pick up lots of skills that –apparently– will come in handy down the road while they figure out what they want to do forever). Well, that’s the simplistic explanation of what they do. The trading analysts seem to be more like what you see in movies — ringing phones, quick trades, and yelling. The book doesn’t go into great detail about what the finance industry does other than make/deal with money. Which makes sense…that’s really ALL they do.
I guess the good news is that fewer people are doing lines of coke off of a prostitute’s body these days (Jordan Belfort apparently did this). But then I got to the part about Fashion Meets Finance…and there were the douchebags. FMF is a dating mixer where the “rich” guys of Wall Street can mingle with the all the pretty models.
“But what if Wall Street doesn’t just attract preexisting douchebags, but actively draws normal people into an inescapable vortex of douchebaggery?” (pg 110)
Reading about the experiences of these young analysts definitely shows how someone could turn into a Jordan Belfort type ass. The long hours, little recognition, tons of stress, no social life outside of work, and bosses that just keep piling on the work can definitely lead to excessive drinking, drug use, and depression.
But by the end of the book, there’s definitely a little hope that Wall Street has changed its ways. In the Notes section, Roose does touch on drug use in the financial sector and says that it could still be happening in the higher ranks because they have more free time to do the above mentioned lines of coke, but that in most cases the drug use of the younger crowd is to help them do their job (caffeine pills, Adderall) and the occasional pot use.
The book reads quickly and while I would have liked a little more explanation of some of the job titles, acronyms, and the whats-its of finance, adding all of that would have slowed it down a lot. A good introduction to what it’s like now for new recruits. I’m looking forward to skimming and viewing a few of the books and movies listed below.
Bonus Viewing: Pair the above combo of The Wolf of Wall Street & Young Money with Blue Jasmine and you’ll get a variety of interesting looks at the many different sides of Wall Street. However, with Blue Jasmine you see the aftermath of a whole slew of bad choices
More to Read & Watch:
- Boiler Point — This movie is also inspired by Jordan Belfort and his company.
- Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin — Also adapted into a film by HBO. (I’ll probably watch the movie instead of read the book…)
- Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis — Semiautbiographical look at Lewis’ experiences on Wall Street in the 1980s (so just before Jordan Belfort’s days)
There are HUNDREDS of films and books about Wall Street and the financial sector, but those are the big three I picked up on while reading Kevin Roose’s book.