I expected much more from this book. I expected to learn something new. The book's misleading title suggests useful info to being "street smart." But instead of street smarts, the book is little more than a shallow account of Rogers' life. So, forget about any street smarts.
According to an interview with the Reuters, it took 70 years for Rogers to do the research for this book. But writing about past girlfriends and wives actually makes me actually loath the man. Although Rogers cares about morality and in business (he mentions why he left Soros), he does not seem to have much of morality and virtue in his personal life--a fact he lightly brushes aside by saying something to the effect that "I was never what one might call "good relationship material"".
Or, perhaps, I missed out that this was part of being street-smart...
Street-smarts? The author does not reveal any new secrets to being street smart, instead of constant boasting how others are wrong.
Adventures? Instead of featuring real, life-threatening adventures, such as being held hostage in Congo or buying fake diamonds (which Rogers briefly talked about during one interview) , the book is rife with low key adventures of how to choose your home, refurbish your decor, raise your children, make sure that one educates them properly.
If you follow Jim Rogers's writings closely--as I do--it seems that, while Rogers has perhaps a hundred stories to tell, he has told them all dozens of times in previous interviews. Most of the book is comprised of such recycled stories, often with the same oddities in style that leads one to suspect that this book was cribbed together by a ghost writer.
When Rogers isn't recycling old stories, he is repeating clichés. We have all heard that India is a basket case; that the stock market was a backwater when Rogers started on wall street; how so-called experts who never visited China suddenly began talking about China; how the US is the largest debtor in history; how agriculture will grow in importance over the next decade or two; how your children should learn Mandarin; etc. None of these are new or interesting any more. About the only new things I did learn were: the name of his second wife, how he bought a house, and how he made another Guinness world record.
Where Rogers does address something of interest, he utterly fails to give the details that would make it of value. Take, for example, this passage about what professor Rogers presents to his students:
"I am going to give you companies to analyze, and I will teach you how to do it...I told them how I went about analyzing companies. I gave them spreadsheets. I had the chairmen of a couple of large corporations come in, and in each case, I would sit and question the chairman as though I were a portfolio manager, an analyst...."
But he reveals nothing to the reader about how this is done. What are the questions that he asks investors? What did he ask the chairmen of large corporations? Merely telling us that he would "sit and question them" is useless.
Entirely too much of the book is such meaningless verbiage. Among the many examples I could choose is this paragraph:
"We took up residence in a serviced apartment in Shanghai, which is similar living in a hotel. It is a setup designed for temporary but extended stays: a complete apartment, furnished, fitted out with cutlery, glasses, plates, linens, and such, and provided with housekeeping service--a living arrangement used extensively by corporations for employees on foreign assignments. You can just walk in, turn on the lights, plug in your computer...."
Really? I didn't know: a serviced apartment with a housekeeping service.
Reinforcing the suspicion that this book is not only ghost written, but that Rogers himself failed to read it, are a few inconsistencies and even suggestions of conflict of interest. In the book, Rogers gives this assessment of Russia's economic prospects:
"Any uptick in Russia's fortunes derives from the same commodities bull market that is casting sunshine on Brazil, and it will be just as temporary. Russians are currently facing the worst of all worlds. With a very low birthrate, their demographic problem is quite serious........and it is hard to see how O'Neill's hypothesis is gained any traction. In my view, Russia, which is already something of a basket case, will continue to disintegrate."
Nevertheless, about six months ago, Rogers began promoting Russia for investments. I do not know whether this was related to him becoming agricultural advisor to Russia's VTB Capital or not. But Rogers has been known to have a track record in promoting his own interests (e.g., indexes and funds). In the book, he confesses:
"At the same time, I started appearing on television, talking up commodities, mentioning the funds and other funds based on the index. The funds started growing fairly rapidly. Within three years, benefiting from my return and, inl , and, in larger part, from Tom Price's leadership - he did a brilliant job of saving things--the company had a few hundred million dollars under management"
In the end, what am I to think? Is Russia a basket case? Or should I invest in whatever groups Rogers is employed by? Or should I just assume that something has changed since his first assessment was written, rendering the book out-of-date? Or perhaps I should just take anything Rogers says about Russia with a grain of salt, as he himself suggests when he writes: "I am certainly optimistic about the changed attitude of Moscow, but one must keep perspective"
In conclusion, I would say to anyone who has long followed and come to respect Rogers, that he or she should pass this book by; Rogers' earlier books were much better. Is there anything worthwhile in it? Not much, but I did enjoy a few parts: reading about, the flight of Americans, FATCA, Singapore savings tax, the cost of litigation and a few other parts. Overall, however, these hardly counterbalance my disappointment in the rest of the book.
Unfortunately in this book, Rogers simply does not live up to his name.