March 22, 2009

me & my money

Family's my best investment

Investors' guru is hot on commodities but he wants to spend more time with his kids

By Lorna Tan, Finance Correspondent

Mr Jim Rogers, with his wife Paige and daughters Happy and Bee, says he leads a simple life, doesn't own a car and rarely spends on clothes. 'What I spend money on are my family and kids,'' he adds. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Renowned American investment guru and author Jim Rogers is famous for his bullish views on commodities.

Mr Rogers, 66, has for some time been advising investors to add agricultural commodities such as wheat, sugar, cotton and soya beans to their portfolios.

He believes the supply will not keep up with demand, so he feels an uptrend in commodity prices could be on the way.

He strongly believes too that China will become the great power of this century.

He was so sure of this that he sold his New York mansion for US$16 million in December 2007 and moved to Singapore because it is a Mandarin-speaking city. He even hired a Chinese nanny for his young daughter so he could give her an early start in the language.

He and his wife Paige Parker, 40, became permanent residents in early 2006.

Mr Rogers rose to fame after he co-founded the Quantum Fund in 1970 with billionaire investor George Soros. The hedge fund later became highly successful. Ten years later, in 1980, Mr Rogers retired a multimillionaire at age 38.

He has degrees from both Yale and Oxford and is the author of many popular books including Adventure Capitalist and Hot Commodities.Thrice married, he has two children, Happy, nearly six, and Bee, one.

Q: Are you a spender or saver?

I'm more likely a saver.

My wife has a Mercedes-Benz convertible, but I don't own a car. I would rather take a taxi.

I have a very simple lifestyle, so I rarely buy new clothes.

I don't need a lot to be happy. What I spend money on are my family and kids.

In my younger days, I saved as much as I could because I was trying to invest.

I married young, in my 20s. I told my first wife then, whenever she wanted to buy a TV set or a new sofa, that if we could save and invest well, we could have 10 sofas.

Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?

I don't know how much my credit card bills come to, but I always pay them off every month. Every week or fortnight, I withdraw $500 to $600 in cash from the ATM.

Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?

My investments are spread out in commodities, currencies, stocks and bonds all over the world.

Right now, I'm more invested in currencies, partly because of the commodities I buy. Recently, I put money in the yen as I believe it will appreciate.

I'm into agricultural commodities, such as cotton, which I invest in through the Rogers International Commodity Index.

For stocks, I invest in Chinese companies listed here and in Hong Kong. The returns pay my bills and make money.

I have life insurance and the money will go to the family when I die. I have a few million dollars in life coverage.

Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?

I am the oldest of five sons. My dad managed a chemical firm and my mother was a homemaker. My parents taught me to work hard, that money is not easy to get, and to save for the future. Maybe that's why I'm not much of a spender.

Q: How did you get into investing?

I knew zilch about it until I got a research job on Wall Street for the summer after graduating from Yale in 1964. It paid me a lot to know what was happening in the world and what would happen next.

I thought it was wonderful and decided to go into the investing business.

Q: What property do you own?

I am a very simple person. I don't own any property currently. I'm looking for one in Singapore. We're searching for the perfect place but we haven't found it yet. I expect prices to continue to drop.

Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?

Paige's engagement ring, which I bought in 1998. I paid a six-digit figure for it. We were married on Jan 1, 2000.

Q: You retired in 1980. What takes up your time now?

My family and children occupy a lot of my time.

I make speeches - about everything from travel and politics to investing - around the world. Last year, I had speaking engagements at least once a week. I hope there are fewer this year. I want to spend more time with my kids.

Q: What about giving money to charity?

I give to various causes, some in Singapore, but I do so anonymously. Most are for education. In my will, I've set up grants and scholarships for students.

Q: Home is now...?

I just moved into a 6,400 sq ft bungalow in Bukit Timah.

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Q: What's your worst investment to date?

My first wife. This was back in the 1960s and we divorced after three years.

It didn't work out mainly because I was extremely hard-working and she was a different kind of person. We didn't know much about each other.

She didn't understand my needs or my desire to work hard and get ahead. She was a very smart woman, with a PhD, but she just didn't have the drive I did and I was just starting out in my career.

Q: And your single best investment?

My wife and two little girls, Happy and Bee.