1998 Business Tent

Laura Pedersen

Business Author and Lecturer

Laura Pedersen was 18 years old when she was hired for an entry-level job on the trading room floor of the American Stock Exchange. Within a year, she was a full-fledged options trader, and at 20 she became the youngest person in stock market history to ever to get a seat. At 21, she became a partner in a Wall Street firm, and at 22 she became a millionaire (all while taking night classes to earn her undergraduate degree at New York University).

Being an options trader in the explosive financial market of the 1980s gave Pedersen, a native of Buffalo, New York, a unique opportunity not just to observe, but also to participate in the real action. No peripheral player, she would, during a typical trading day, buy and sell $2,000,000 worth of securities. To do so, she engaged in virtual combat, emerging each day from the pit with torn and food-stained clothes, with cuts and bruises, barely able to speak after shouting orders all day long and deafened by the numbing roar of the trading floor.

Even so, it wasn't all work and no play. In her book, Play Money: My Brief But Brilliant Career on Wall Street, Pedersen offers the investing public a wryly sardonic and candid look at the way Wall Street really works, as seen from inside the AMEX trading pits. In many respects, her book is the flip side of the Liar's Poker and Barbarians at the Gate look at high finance. Play Money brings added dimension to the emerging literature on a decade of greed and excess, a decade unparalleled in history.

In October 1989. after the second crash, Pedersen took her assets and left the Exchange on the verge of burnout. "I had my mid-life crisis at 24," she explains. After spending some time working for Joan Rivers and then serving as a financial consultant, Pedersen has now written her second book, Street-Smart Career Guide, which provides practical advice on turning work into wealth. She also writes a financial advice column for The Sunday New York Times.

Pedersen is a frequent guest on the talk show circuit, appearing on such shows as Oprah, Primetime Live, Late Night with David Letterman, Good Morning America, and CNN, to name a few. Articles about Pedersen and her views on career selection, job-hunting, and finance have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and Investor's Daily.

She is also much in demand on the college and corporate lecture circuits. At colleges, she speaks on the topic of choosing and pursuing a successful career. "You don't have to be born with a silver spoon, have Mayflower family connections, or be an Ivy League graduate to succeed in business," she says. "If a small town kid can make it to the top through the back door, anyone can."


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