screenshot166Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple was the very first book I reviewed when I started TheBookFetishBlog.  I liked his style and so was glad to pick up Young Money when it was released just a few weeks ago.

From the book description:

Becoming a young Wall Street banker is like pledging the world’s most lucrative and soul-crushing fraternity. Every year, thousands of eager college graduates are hired by the world’s financial giants, where they’re taught the secrets of making obscene amounts of money– as well as how to dress, talk, date, drink, and schmooze like real financiers.

Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits

YOUNG MONEY is the inside story of this well-guarded world. Kevin Roose, New York magazine business writer and author of the critically acclaimed The Unlikely Disciple, spent more than three years shadowing eight entry-level workers at Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and other leading investment firms. Roose chronicled their triumphs and disappointments, their million-dollar trades and runaway Excel spreadsheets, and got an unprecedented (and unauthorized) glimpse of the financial world’s initiation process.

Roose’s young bankers are exposed to the exhausting workloads, huge bonuses, and recreational drugs that have always characterized Wall Street life. But they experience something new, too: an industry forever changed by the massive financial collapse of 2008. And as they get their Wall Street educations, they face hard questions about morality, prestige, and the value of their work.

YOUNG MONEY is more than an exposé of excess; it’s the story of how the financial crisis changed a generation-and remade Wall Street from the bottom up.

When I started reading Young Money, I got the same feeling as I did the first (and only) time I watched the movie “Up In The Air”: my chest tightened, my shoulders hunched, and my breathing shallowed. In other words, it stressed me out.  The first years of a Wall Street Analyst sound eerily familiar to my days as a road warrior for a Big Five (at the time) consulting company.

Fortunately, I was able to take a few deep breaths and get some perspective. That world is long behind me now, thankfully.  But Roose provides some real food for thought as he delves into the work and personal lives of these analysts.  Young Money starts just after the bailouts of 2008, when Wall Street was reeling, and people were spewing vitriol about the Street and all it stands far. Some of these kids took  jobs in finance to set the foundation for a potentially lucrative career. Others took it solely as a stepping stone, a temporary detour from what they really want to do. Two years on the Street at the right investment bank and they can write their ticket. None realized how soul-sucking the work could be. And while they may have thrived temporarily on the adrenaline, most of them paid big tolls in their personal lives, and  with potentially devastating impacts to their mental and physical health.

At the same time, some of them struggled with the ethics of the high finance world- is making money truly the most important thing, or do these companies bear some ethical responsibility to actually help people? Or, at a minimum, understand how their actions impact others? Some were able to see the benefits of working on Wall Street. Others decided that with the deflated payoffs of working on Wall Street that sacrifices- excruciatingly long workdays; the lack of weekends, holidays, and vacations; the broken relationships- just weren’t worth it.

While it may problem most prevalent on Wall Street, I think many people just starting out in their careers question what they are doing. And it was this self analysis and instinct for self- preservation in the analysts that made the biggest impact in the book.  Roose shows not only the dark side of this world,  but also the introspection of the people who allowed him into their lives. And he does it in a compassionate way, clearly concerned about whether or not they will all survive the two year hell period no worse for the wear.

Aside from the looks into the lives of the analysts, Roose also details his night crashing a dinner of the Wall Street elite.  Reading it is cringe-inducing. Not because of the writing, but because of the mentality, actions, and words of the dinner attendees.  It exposes a truly seedy underbelly of the Wall Street World and should cause every attendee to think twice.

While Roose’s writing is seen more frequently in New York magazine and on Daily Intelligencer, it’s good to see a second book from him.  I’m looking forward to number three.