NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Jim Rogers, the "Indiana Jones of Finance," is known throughout Wall Street for his independent, contrarian investing style and his association with George Soros and the Quantum Fund. Though he has since retired, he continues to be a presence with his world travels and bold economic commentary. His work with commodities, in particular, has helped to influence the way the average investor looks at personal finance today. Rogers was born in 1942. As a child in Alabama, Rogers wasted no time getting into the business world. At the age of five, he was already making money collecting bottles and selling peanuts to fans at baseball games. Rogers received a bachelor's degree from Yale and Oxford. Upon graduation, he served in the U.S. military for a few years before he headed to Wall Street to work for Arnhold & S. Bliechroder, where he was a research analyst for a hedge fund managed by George Soros. In 1970 the two men joined to establish what would become the Quantum Fund. With Soros as the trader and Rogers as the analyst, the fund grew from $12 million to more than $250 million. Soros attributed a considerable amount of Quantum's success to Rogers' hard work. In his book, Soros on Soros, the investor said Rogers handled the work of six men. Unfortunately, as the fund grew, so did the stress of managing it. While Soros saw a desperate need to add analysts, Rogers found it difficult to work with outsiders. In 1979, at the age of 37, Rogers decided that he had earned enough and "retired" from the industry.
Since his retirement, he has traveled around the world numerous times, written a number of best-selling books, taught at world renowned institutions, and worked as commentator for CNBC. All the while he has made interesting and against-the-grain investments that have earned him comfortable returns. In 2007, seeing Asia as the next great investing frontier, Rogers packed up his things, sold his New York mansion, and moved to Singapore, where he currently resides with his family. Rogers has long been bullish on commodities. In the late 1990s, when everyone was focused on the Internet, Rogers was looking at commodities such as zinc, oil and copper. Although they lacked the bells and whistles of the dot-com IPOs that were making headlines, Rogers was insistent that there was something to them. To prove his point, he began studying the long-term charts and trends of these goods and concluded the prices of raw materials were at historic lows. He enthusiastically searched for a commodities index fund to test his theory. Dissatisfied with what he found, he put together his own weighted index of 36 commodities that is quoted in four currencies across 11 international exchanges. It became known as the Rogers International Commodities Index. The futures contracts making up the RICI track commodities include oil, aluminum, zinc and orange juice. Since its debut in 1998 to August 2009, the index is up more than 193%.
The success of the RICI has not gone unnoticed in the ETF and ETN realm. In 2007, Rogers lent his name to a company called Elements who put together four ETNs to track slices of the commodity sector. The ETNs are Elements Linked to Rogers International Commodity Index Total Return ( RJI), Elements Linked to Rogers International Commodity Index Agriculture Total Return ( RJA), Elements Linked to Rogers International Commodity Index Energy Total Return ( RJN) and Elements Linked to Rogers International Commodity Index Metals Total Return ( RJZ). This summer Van Eck released the Market Vectors-RVE Hard Assets Producers ETF ( HAP). HAP's index, The Rogers-Van Eck Hard Assets Producers Index, was designed in concert with the investor and is structured to act as a one-stop shopping center for the global hard- asset industry. Today, Rogers would have no problem finding a commodities index fund to invest in. In fact, with instruments such as United States Natural Gas ( UNG), United States Oil Fund ( USO), Dow Jones-AIG Livestock Total Return ETN ( COW), PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund ( DBA) and many others, holding commodities has quickly become as commonplace to portfolio development as stocks, bonds and cash. Although a number of the funds continue face substantial public scrutiny, it has become apparent that, thanks in part to Rogers and RICI, commodity investing is here to stay. -- Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.