Though Jim Rogers — co-founder with George Soros of the Quantum Fund and author of numerous bestselling books — has circumnavigated the globe twice and holds multiple world records, parenting is where he aims to find his most rewarding success. That’s just part of the story you’ll read in Street Smarts: Adventures on the Road and in the Markets.
What I liked: How Rogers weaves autobiographical details with his views on the future of global economics. In a consistently engaging manner, he takes us from his upbringing in Alabama to Yale, then to Oxford, on to and back off Wall Street, across the U.S. and also around the world. If you enjoyed Investment Biker, Adventure Capitalist or any of his other books, you’ll appreciate the way he intersperses amusing stories with financial advice here as well.
What I loved: Street Smarts’ thesis that what’s now driving the global economy is no longer Wall Street, but instead those industries and countries that make actual things. Rogers asserts that agriculture and manufacturing are on an upswing and that we, the average investor/consumer, need to accept this new reality. “The Chinese are going around the globe and buying up all sorts of productive assets, oil fields, plantations, mines, everything they can find, because they see what I see, and that is a shortage of raw materials,” he says. It’s not just China that offers investment opportunities, either; he sees promise in unexpected places like Myanmar and North Korea, too.
What surprised me: That Rogers believes so strongly in Asia’s position as the dominant global economic mover of the 21st century, he actually relocated his family to Singapore in 2007. “I came to Singapore in response to the realization that the world is in the midst of a historic shift, a decline of U.S. leadership and a commensurate rise in Asia,” he explains. While much has already been written about the weakening influence of the U.S. and European Union, not many of us are likely to follow Rogers’ lead regardless of how we may feel about his predictions. (Not that he’s recommending we do, in any case.)
What makes Street Smarts worth your money: The sense that Rogers is really striving to leave a philosophical legacy not just to his young daughters (as he did in his book A Gift to My Children), but to any of us willing to pay attention. Whether that legacy takes the form of predicting the next trends so we can take advantage of them ourselves or counseling those of us in the U.S. and EU to prepare for future irrelevance, you’ll have to decide for yourself. (Me, I can’t help wondering if he’s hoping this book will also one day explain to his daughters just why he moved them to another continent.)
Read Street Smarts if: You, too, believe the Western world is no longer a leading economic force, but you’re not sure what comes next. “I mainly own commodities and currencies now,” Rogers says, “and gauging the political winds, I look for more turmoil in the currency markets.” Still, he thinks those markets hold the biggest opportunities for today’s smart investors, at least until the government adopts new exchange controls (something he believes is inevitable). And while Rogers says there may still be hope for a U.S. rebound, don’t get your hopes very far up: He’s fairly certain we won’t like the solution Street Smarts offers very much at all.