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Where Are the Customers' Yachts? or A Good Hard Look at Wall Street

ISBN: 978-0-471-11979-1
256 pages
March 1995
Where Are the Customers


"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

This hilarious portrait of everyday Wall Street and its denizens rings as true today as it did when it was first published in 1940. Writing with a rare mixture of wry cynicism and bonhomie reminiscent of Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken, Fred Schwed, Jr., skewers everyone including himself in his brilliant send-ups of bankers, brokers, traders, investors, analysts, and hapless customers.

"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 President, Bloomberg, LP

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

"It's amazing how well Schwed's book is holding up after 55 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

"A delightful classic and reminder of excesses past and how little things change." -Bob Farrell, Senior Vice President, Merrill Lynch
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Table of Contents

Introduction xiii
Jason Zweig

Foreword to the 1995 Edition xxi
Michael Lewis

Introduction to the 1955 Bull Market Edition xxv

1 Introduction – “The Modest Cough of Minor Poet” 3

The Validity of Financial Predictions

The Passion for Prophecy

When the Bull jumped over the Moon

II Financiers and Seers 23

Big Banking – Nice work if you can get it

Some Assistant Tycoons

The Fruit on the Blossom of Thought

Wall Street Semantics


The Pay

The Difficulties of “Earning” Money

An Art Without a Muse

A Little Aptitude Test

III Customers – That Hardy Breed 49

Varieties of Customers

How to Get Customers

Margin What to Do When the Dam Bursts

Some Case Histories and a Diagnosis

Churning Money as a Career

IV Investment Trusts – Promises and Performance 67

Stop Making Your Own Mistakes

Where is the Catch?

The Hell-Paving Construction Company

The Trouble with the “Best” Securities

The $750,000 Bird

By Way of Apology

The Magical Investment Corporation

V The Short Seller – He of the Black Heart 87

For the Defense

A Different Defense

With and Without Bears

Bear Raiding

VI Puts, Call, Straddles, and Gabble 105

What Options are (More or Less)

In Defense of the Pure Gamble

The Catch

VII The “Good” Old Days and the “Great” Captains 117

The I.Q. of a Big Shot

Speculation on Speculation

A Brief Excursion into Probabilities

Down will Come Baby



A Bowl of Nickels

VIII Investment – Many Questions and a Few Answers 135

Headaches of the Wealthy

A Little Wonderful Advice

Price and Value – Our Special Market Letter

Cash as a Long-Term Investment

Your Way of Life and the Basis Book

IX Reform – Some Yeas and Nays 153

Was it Stolen or Did you Lose It?

Nobody Loves a Specialist

Horizons and Limits of Regulation


About the Author 171

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Author Information

Fred Schwed, Jr., was a professional trader who had the good sense to get out after losing a bundle (of mostly his own money) in the 1929 crash. Some years later, Schwed published a children's book titled Wacky, the Small Boy. Wacky became a bestseller, and Schwed went on to draw further on his experience in writing Where Are the Customers' Yachts? His publisher said of him, "Mr. Schwed has attended Lawrenceville and Princeton and has spent the last ten years on Wall Street. As a result, he knows everything there is to know about children."
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"wonderful book" (Evening Standard, 24 August 2001)
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