Saturday July 31, 2010
Up close and personal with Jim Rogers
By HANIM ADNAN
SELF-MADE billionaire Jim Rogers is known by many names.
He has worn so many hats in his lifetime; from a peanut seller at a tender age of 5 to what the world today has known him as ... a successful international investor, a legendary commodity trader, an author and a financial commentator. He has even entered the Guinness Book of World Records for making the longest motorbike journey of 161,000 km across the world.
Rogers, who will turn 68 this October, is now set on wearing his most important and all-time favourite “hat” ... that is to be a successful father to his two young daughters nicknamed Happy, aged 7 and Baby Bee, aged 2.
While this writer is trying her best to extract sound tips from the billionaire on his top investment picks for 2010 and a safe place to park your hard-earned cash (in equities or commodities), Rogers seems to be more inclined to talk about the antics of his two daughters, their favourite bedtime stories and the no-TV policy at home.
“Seriously, I’m spending much less time doing anything else. This could be partly because I came into parenthood much later in life. I simply do not want to miss out being a father.
“Maybe if I am 20 years old (when it is a mistake to have children), I might have some 70 years ahead of me. But there is not much time to do anything else but to make sure my girls grow up happy, educated and hopefully successful,” says Rogers.
Whenever Rogers is free from appointments or not presenting financial investment talks overseas, he is happy to be with his daughters in Singapore, which has been his corporate base and home for the past three years.
“Since we do not own a TV at home, I spend time reading children books, including almost all of Disney’s fairy tales, to my daughters. In return, my eldest who is fluent in talking, will be reading Chinese story books to my wife and me.
“(Not owning a TV) It’s like a family joke. I told my daughters we simply cannot afford it, so we are saving up. When we have enough money, we will buy one!
“Unfortunately, when we go on holidays and stay in hotels, Happy won’t do anything else but stay in the room and watch TV,” adds Rogers.
Other favourite past-times in Singapore include bicycle rides, hiking, visiting the zoo and the nature reserves. In fact, Rogers will make it a point to cycle with his eldest to and from school, which is one km away, whenever he is free from any overseas obligations.
“Every now and then, the whole family will go to this Italian restaurant at a shopping mall because Happy simply loves its spaghetti and bolognaise sauce. She can eat spaghetti and noodles, particularly udon, every day!
“Don’t ask me why because my wife (Paige Parker) and I don’t have any Italian blood in us. The noodles, however, you can blame it on our Chinese governess who cooks for them,” says Rogers.
As for his family’s favourite holiday destinations, Roger replies: “We are not into resorts. But these days, we have been going a lot to China.
“Last summer we went to Hainan island. My wife loves Shanghai and my favourite place is Dalian (not just because he is currently the senior advisor to the Dalian Commodity Exchange).
“This summer, it will be a beach holiday in North Carolina where Paige (wife) has one of her fondest memories, and this time with the children,” adds Rogers.
Often asked by journalists or friends on his decision to move to Singapore after he had sold off his New York mansion for US$16mil in 2007, Rogers will recite the same quote: “If you were smart in 1807 you moved to London, if you were smart in 1907 you moved to New York City, and if you were smart in 2007 you move to Asia.”
But who would dare to question Rogers who has become a legend, with an uncanny ability to predict long-term trends in major markets?
Till today, he actively trades and tracks commodities, stocks, futures and interest rates globally.
So, how does this financial investment maverick keep track of his vast business portfolio when he admits to having no TV; not even a Bloomberg machine to sit and watch the minute-to-minute or day-to-day fluctuations in world markets?
Says Rogers: “Basically I handle my business portfolio myself. I certainly hope that I have enough experience to handle it.
“Since I have been doing it long enough, I believe I know more or less how it (the market) works. I’m not an active trader though (not even a very good one at that) but I’m a proponent of long-term investments. In fact, I will always buy low and sell high,” adds Rogers.
Rogers, who predicted the start of the commodities rally in 1999, says he is still bullish about commodities like silver, sugar and gold.
“Now the place to be is to put your money in the right commodities. The fundamentals for selected commodities, particularly agricultural and natural resource-based commodities like rice, wheat, gold silver, platinum and palladium, are looking good given the lack of discoveries in new oilfields and mining areas, poor crop yields and depleting mineral resources.
“In fact, over the next 30 years, I believe farmers are expected to be driving Lamborghinis while stock brokers and traders will be driving taxis,” quips Rogers.
Rogers admits that he is getting interested in Malaysia for the first time after a long while.
“I’m seeing positive changes in Malaysia under the new leadership. The Government is making a strong effort to boost foreign direct investments.
“My view is that Malaysia has the fundamentals, resources and strategic location within South East Asia (SEA), but there needs to be a fair playing field in order to attract more foreigners who are previously gun-shy due to changes in the policies, for example the previous pegging of the ringgit to the US currency.
”Stop the mistakes of the past and move forward,” says Rogers.
In fact, one of the reasons why Rogers moved to SEA is that he sees great possibilities i.e. the great population, expertise and resources and prosperity.
“I buy commodities, stocks and currencies. One thing for sure, whenever there is a period of economic turmoil, the surprise that comes out of it will be an improvement in fundamentals, thus leading to a better market,” adds Rogers.