At just thirty years old, Sam Polk was a senior trader for one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street, on the verge of making it to the very top. When he was offered an annual bonus of $3.75 million, he grew angry because it was not enough. In that moment he knew he had lost himself in his obsessive pursuit of money. And he had come to loathe the culture--the shallowness, the sexism, the crude machismo--and Wall Street's use of wealth as the sole measure of a person's worth. He decided to walk away from it all.
For Polk, becoming a Wall Street trader was the fulfillment of his dreams. But in reality it was just the culmination of a life of addictive and self-destructive behaviors, from overeating, to bulimia, to alcohol and drug abuse. His obsessive pursuit of money papered over years of insecurity and emotional abuse. Making money was just the latest attempt to fill the void left by his narcisstic and emotionally unavailable father.
As in Liar's Poker, Polk brings readers into the rarefied world of Wall Street trading floors, capturing the modern frustrations of young graduates drawn to Wall Street. Raw, vivid, and immensely readable, For the Love of Money explores the birth of a young hedge fund trader, his disillusionment, and the radical new way he has come to define success.
- ISBN-13: 9781476785981
- ISBN-10: 1476785988
- Publisher: Scribner Book Company
- Publish Date: July 2016
- Page Count: 288
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.95 pounds
One’s 30s might seem a little early to write a memoir, but Sam Polk has done a lot of living in his 35 years. For the Love of Money opens with the moment in 2011 when Polk learned that his annual hedge-fund bonus would be $3.6 million—and he was furious that it wasn’t twice as much. He then backs up to describe the steps and missteps that brought him to that point.
Polk and his twin brother, Ben, grew up in a tumultuous household in Los Angeles where there was never enough money and their narcissistic dad held sway, often abusively. Overweight and socially unskilled, both brothers were bullied until they took up wrestling, a pursuit that led Polk to Columbia University. But at Columbia, Polk descended into binge drinking, drug use and bulimia. After breaking into a dormmate’s room and stealing pot, he was asked to leave the university.
Still, Polk was competitive and ambitious, and he managed to get hired as an analyst at Bank of America, where he traded bonds and credit default swaps (CDS), and then snagged a trader position at a premier hedge fund. He’d “made it”—still in his 20s, he had an enormous Manhattan loft and a beautiful girlfriend. But he slowly came to terms with ambition’s underside: his addiction to drugs, alcohol and porn, estrangement from Ben and crippling envy. With the help of a counselor and his first boss, now a mentor, Polk gained sobriety and repaired his relationships.
Polk’s redemptive one-step-forward, one-step-back story, along with his insider’s view of Wall Street and the larger issues of income inequality, make for a memoir that’s not only revealing but also timely.