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DIALOGUE: The Money Mastermind
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An Interview with legendary investor, author and global adventurer Jim Rogers
 
altInvestment guru, economic genius and three-time Guinness world record holder are just some of the terms associated with Jim Rogers. Jim was born in Baltimore, USA in 1942. Since then he has led one of the most extraordinary lives imaginable. Although he is an accomplished Oxford University graduate, it wasn’t until Jim took a summer job on Wall Street that he began learning about the investment world. His fascination with finance and immense interest for what was happening around the globe made him incredibly successful in financial management. Jim co-founded the Quantum Fund with billionaire investment giant George Soros, and between 1970 and 1980 the fund grew in value by 4200%; ultimately allowing him to retire in 1980- just ten years after he started his investment career.
 
Jim has written many books about investing and his travel adventures. Some of them have been translated into Chinese. They are all fascinating reads. His most prolific works to date are: Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip, Hot Commodities: How Anyone Can Invest Profitably in the World's Best Market, A Bull in China: Investing Profitably in the World's Greatest Market and most recently, A Gift to My Children: A Father's Lessons For Life And Investing.
 
Now based in Singapore, he spends his time managing his own wealth through Rogers Holdings and Beeland interests Inc, enjoying family life, travelling around the world and appearing on popular TV shows. We were lucky enough to speak to Jim and get his thoughts about life, investment and the future of the global economy.
 
What have been the main reasons for your success and what advice would you give to others?
I would say my success is due to curiosity, independent thinking, scepticism and persistence. The main advice I give people is not to do anything unless you love it a great deal. Everybody should follow their own passion. Many people say “I’m getting into investing so I can make a lot of money”, but you won’t make money in investment unless you love it and are willing to spend a lot of time at it. It is very hard work, as many people are finding out.
 
You are a very busy man and being a father, investment manager and TV personality must be difficult. How do you balance your time between all of your obligations?
I spend as much time with my two daughters as I can. When I’m in Singapore, where my home is, I work out of my house. When I have meetings or TV appearances elsewhere in the world I always try to fit them around my family life.
 
You are well known for your belief that in the near future China will be the most economically important nation on the planet. What are the reasons for this?
 The 21st century will be the century of China. First of all, the largest creditor nations in the world are all in Asia now. The largest debtors are the US and Europe. Most of the assets are in Asia. When you look at what happened in the 1920s and 1930s, there was a big shift from Britain to the US. Most people didn’t notice it. It was exasperated by a financial crisis and mistakes by politicians. The same kind of shift is happening right now from the US to Asia. China has had a long history of great success, with some disasters along the way which they have learnt from. It was in decline for hundreds of years until 1978 when the door was opened for entrepreneurship and private enterprise. Furthermore, the Chinese generally save over 35% of their income and work from dawn to dusk. The conditions for dynamic economic growth are perfect.
 
What about other parts of Asia? Will the continent as a whole be tremendously prosperous in the future? 
The assets are in Asia right now; China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore. Indonesia also has a bright future. It has a lot of resources and I’m bullish in that sector. If I was investing in stocks, which at the moment I am not, Indonesia would be on my list. I am very optimistic about Myanmar (Burma). In 1962 it was the richest country in Asia, then they closed themselves off and now it is the poorest country in Asia. They are now opening themselves up again, just as China has done. It will present fantastic opportunities. They have 60 million people, energy, minerals and a superb geographic position.
 
So for the most part, Asia will be very prosperous. However, I am not so hopeful for India in the long-term. They have many problems but the major one is that they now have a debt to GDP ratio of over 90%. Studies have shown that when it gets to this level it is very difficult to grow dynamically because you are constantly paying off old debt.
 
So you clearly feel optimistic about Asia. What is your outlook for the US and Europe? 
In the US there is a currency crisis looming which is already happening but has a long way to go. Obviously there is a lot of debt in both parts of the world and eventually you run out of other people’s money. Europe is in for some tough years, but I don’t think it is going to fall into the sea. It will be around for a long time. Whether there is a collapse there or not, hopefully the crises will come to an end. When it does I may buy the Euro and assets in the European markets, but right now I am not doing anything there.
 
In terms of investments, what advice would you give people who are trying to protect and build their financial future?
There is no such thing as a safe haven in investing. Only invest in things you know a lot about. Don’t just invest in what you hear people like me talk about or what you read in the newspaper. Everybody knows something about something, and if they don’t then they should put their savings in the bank and earn a little bit of interest if nothing else.
 
Based on what you have said in recent interviews and during TV appearances, you have most of your money in commodities. Why do you think it is a safer investment opportunity than stocks, bonds or anything else?
I don’t like to use the word ‘safe’ when talking about commodities, but currently yes, I mainly own commodities and currencies. I have sold my stocks because I am not very optimistic about them going forward. The planet is running out of resources and countries like China have to buy commodities. As they grow they will have to purchase things like cotton and nickel. They don’t have much oil either. In terms of agricultural commodities, farming will be one of the most profitable professions in the 21st century. Global demand for food products is increasingly rapidly and there will be a severe shortage of farmers in the future.
 
altYou are also famously bullish on precious metals and have been for some time. Are you still sure that Gold and Silver are good investments?
I own gold and silver. I am not buying any more at the moment but if they fall by 20-30% then I hope I am smart enough to buy a lot more. If the US goes to war with Iran I will certainly buy gold at even higher prices. Gold will eventually end in a bubble but that is still a few years away. Go to the US and you will see shops saying “We will buy your gold”. You will know the bubble has burst when you see signs saying ‘We sell gold’! 
 
In terms of silver, if I had to buy one of the two today that is what I would invest in. On a historic basis silver is down almost 40% from its all time high. Comparatively, gold is only down about 10-15% from its historical peek. 
 
So finally, can you tell us a little bit about your latest book and what kind of projects you have lined for the future?
My most recent book is called A gift to my children: A father’s lessons for life and investing. I came to parenthood later in life. In the past I never wanted to be a parent because I used to think that having children was a total waste of time, energy and money. I couldn’t imagine ever doing something so foolish. Well, I was absolutely 100% wrong! My two young daughters are so much fun for me. Everyone reading this that has a chance to have children should go ahead and do so. They are the main influence behind this book. During my life I have made some mistakes and had a few successes. One day I thought that I should start writing some stuff down and eventually it turned into a book. It is aimed at adults but when my nine year old daughter is twenty-nine she will be able to read it and learn from it. That was my ultimate goal.
 
In terms of further projects, I am always busy doing meetings and giving talks. I am currently in the process of writing up my memoirs. Hopefully we will be publishing them in February next year. It will give me a chance to share my adventures on the road and in the markets.   It is called Street Smarts –Adventures on the Road and in the Markets.
 

By Josh Cooper 
 
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