For The Love Of Money: A Memoir by Sam Polk – Book Review

For the Love of Money by Sam PolkFor The Love of Money: A Memoir” by Sam Polk is a brand new book telling the behind the scenes story of a Wall Street trader, focusing on credit default swaps, distressed assets, and all of the shenanigans that captured America’s attention during the 2008 financial crisis.

How much money is too much? How large of a salary are you willing to walk away from because of your core beliefs? Sam Polk was put to the test on Wall Street, and his book paints an incredible picture of what it takes to be a stock and bond trader.

“For The Love Of Money” by Sam Polk

In 2014, a former hedge fund trader’s New York Times Sunday Review front page article about wealth addiction instantly went viral. This is his unflinching memoir a coming of age story about Sam Polk’s life on Wall Street. The memoir is telling and focuses on his fight to overcome his addictions (drugs, alcohol, women, etc.) and find a new way to define success based on his deep core values and beliefs.

At just thirty years old, Sam Polk was a senior trader for one of the biggest hedge funds on Wall Street. He was on the verge of making it to the very top of the Wall Street ladder and earning hundreds of millions of dollars.

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.  He came to despise the Wall Street culture that he had grown up in with its shallowness, sexism, crude machismo, and the use of wealth as the sole measure of a person’s worth.

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Despite making millions each year as a young man and the very real possibility of earning much more, Sam Polk decided to walk away from Wall Street and his life. 

For Sam Polk, becoming a Wall Street trader was the fulfillment of his life-long dream. But, in reality, it was just the culmination of a life of addictive and self-destructive behaviors, overeating, bulimia, and alcohol and drug abuse. 

Like “Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis and “Barbarians at the Gate” by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar (both books are also Honorable Mentions in my Top 10 Personal Finance Books list that you should read),  Sam Polk brings readers into the rarefied world of Wall Street trading floors in “For The Love of Money: A Memoir“. 

Sam Polk captures the frustrations of young college graduates who are drawn to Wall Street in the lure of fast riches. The book explores the creation of a young hedge fund trader, his disillusionment with life on Wall Street, and the radical new way he has come to define success.

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Key Insights from “For The Love Of Money”

“Wall Street wasn’t a talent-based meritocracy; it was more like an addiction,” said Polk. “Doing whatever you had to do—rationalizing, lying—to get the money to fill that empty hole inside.”

One of the book’s central themes is that there is more to life than money or the pursuit of money. Of course it takes the author a while to come to the realization.

Eventually, Sam Polk found that he wanted to truly make a difference in the world. He didn’t want to move money around, buying and selling assets, to get rich off of the sheer movement of those purchases and sales. 

“I realized how gravely I’d miscalculated,” said Polk. “I didn’t want what Peter had… respected for the size of my wallet, or the name of the firm on my business card. I wanted to be respected for my character, for some real contribution.”

Follow Your Passion Instead of Money

Eventually, Sam Polk made a realization like what Jon Acuff talks about in his wildly popular books, “Quitter“, “Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters“, and “Do Over“. You have to make yourself happy in life. You should do work that you’re passionate about. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to follow your heart with respect to your career.

“Freedom wasn’t about the money. It was a state of mind. Yes, a million dollars in the bank helps. A lot. But there are plenty of people with much more who are prisoners in their own lives. All my life I’d felt handcuffed to a treadmill, sure that the next achievement or bonus would allow me to stop running. Now I realized the keys to the handcuffs had been in my pocket, not Peter’s, the whole time.”

“There was something disconnected about having millions in the bank and going to work every day with the sole purpose of accumulating more,” said Polk.

Final Thoughts on “For The Love Of Money”

Have you ever been stuck in a job that you hated just because of the financial benefits or the security it provided you and your family? What does it take to finally make that leap and say “enough is enough”?

It’s a hard thing to do for sure. That’s why books like “For The Love of Money” and “Quitter” are so popular.

Now Sam Polk is the cofounder and CEO of Everytable, a social enterprise that sells fresh, delicious meals at prices everyone can afford, and the founder and Executive Director of Groceryships, a nonprofit that helps low-income families struggling with food-related illnesses like obesity and diabetes.

How much money is too much? How large of a salary would you walk away from for your beliefs? Would you walk away from $3.7 million like Sam Polk in “For The Love of Money”?

Check out “For The Love of Money: A Memoir” by Sam Polk on Amazon (affiliate link) and at other retails. The book is out on shelves on July 19th.

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