By Mick O'Reilly
Excuse me," Jim Rogers says, pulling a navy blue sock over his right foot. "I'm a little jet lagged."
A Nepalese house boy is making over the Khaleej suite at Emirates Palace Hotel, the television is tuned to CNN, his laptop is open and dinging occasional alerts for new emails, and two BlackBerrys are charging on his desk.
“ A lot of the problems we're facing today is that people have forgotten how to work hard. It's a generational thing. If you go to a fast food restaurant or a department store in the United States, you'll see senior citizens working behind the counter or greeting customers. They're doing it because they have a work ethic ”
Investor Jim Rogers
"I have a problem with jetlag," he says. "Do you have a cure?"
Melatonin, but it's illegal in the UAE and most of the Arab world
"Really? It's an over-the-counter medication in most of the world," he says. He should know, he's been around it twice. Once on a motorbike and once in a custom-made Mercedes-Benz.
But that's what retired people do: Travel.
This investment icon in dark pin-striped suit trousers, light blue pin-striped shirt and baby pink suspenders is retired. He's 69 now. Only he retired when he was 37.
So how did the New York-born and Demopolis, Alabama-raised, Yale and Oxford-educated and now resident of Singapore make it so big he could retire at 37?
As a five-year-old, he had an innate business sense. When the crowds left the baseball diamond, Rogers would go around, picking up the soda bottles and returning them for the deposits. And he literally worked for peanuts — selling bags of them at the baseball games.
A degree in history, another in philosophy, politics and economics, and a job on Wall Street.
Back in 1973, when he had $600 to his name, he and friend George Soros set up the Quantum Fund. It did well. While the Standard & Poor's index advanced 47 per cent over the next decade, the Rogers and Soros fund had returns of 4,200 per cent.
"Hard work pays dividends," Rogers says as he relaxes in an arm chair, his piecing blue eyes forever moving, thinking, never still.
"A lot of the problems we're facing today is that people have forgotten how to work hard. It's a generational thing. If you go to a fast food restaurant or a department store in the United States, you'll see senior citizens working behind the counter or greeting customers," he says. "They're doing it because they have a work ethic. They want to work, and they're doing jobs that young people don't want to do. Young people don't want to work because they will get benefits, can have a baby and not bother to work and that's going to affect the productivity and profitability of businesses. We live in a culture where people are used to support and handouts. And we can't afford to sustain them."
Is that why the US is in the mess it's in?
"Absolutely. That and Alan Greenspan."
Without prompting, Rogers is off to the races at a gallop on how the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve set the conditions in place for crippling US debt levels by printing too much money and failing to get a grip on banks, lending and fiscal policy.
"Money was too cheap and too plentiful," Rogers says. "He caused the stock market bubble and that led to the real estate bubble and the consumer debt bubble. Now those bubbles have burst and what is Ben Bernanke — the current Fed chairman — doing? He's printing more money. Bernanke couldn't get a job as a banker. He's just a printer. That's all he knows how to do. Print money. There isn't enough trees to print all of the money Bernanke wants."
You kind of get the impression that Rogers is slightly critical?
"Sure, when the next blow comes, and it will over the next 18 months, we have nothing left."
Back in 2006, Rogers saw the mess coming — that's why he shorted US financial institutions, home builders and mortgage lender Fannie Mae.
But isn't the guy earning $30,000 and living in Alexandria, Louisiana, entitled to a home and a big pickup truck?
"Sure he is, if he worked for it and paid for it with real money," Rogers says. "The problem is that everyone is entitled to a house and a pickup truck but no one wants to pay for it in real money. It's borrowed money. And Greenspan and Bernanke weren't watching the bankers and lenders because they were too busy printing more money."
The minibar beckons, an Italian sparkling water poured into a tumbler as Rogers takes several gulps, leaving the glass half full. Or half empty?
"It's only a matter of time before the next crisis comes," he says. "Maybe by the end of this year, probably by the end of next year."
So where's his money?
"I have only started to get back into stocks now, nothing serious," he answers. His money is tied up in anything to do with agriculture, currencies, silver.
"Here's an interesting statistic," Rogers offers, settling again into the armchair, resting easy. "The average age of farmers in Japan is 66. The average age of farmers in Australia and the UK is 58. The highest rate of suicides in Britain is with farmers.
"Nobody wants to farm any more. Yet there are more people than even now. Seven billion of us. What are we going to eat? Every year, the US has something like 225,000 graduates in public relations. I think there's 20,000 agriculture graduates in the US now. Have you ever tried to eat a press release?
"My advice to young people would be to get into agriculture. If you want to make money over the next 20 years, agriculture is the way to go. If you don't want to be a farmer, buy the Lamborghini dealership or a restaurant in Iowa. Why? Because the farmers in Iowa are going to be very wealthy. And they will be able to afford Lamborghinis. Fewer and fewer people are producing more and more food for more and more of us. That's only going to get worse over the next 20 or 30 years. So if you're smart, put your money into anything related to agriculture."
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