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How to use the world’s tallest skyscrapers to find your safe haven

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Dateline: Mexico City, Mexico

Spend one day walking around the Reforma district of Mexico City and you’ll wonder what the heck the US news media has been squawking about all of these years. Brimming with wide, tree-lined avenues, quirky cafes, and quaint historical shops selling everything from old Mexican stock certificates to 1950s Tudor watches and you’d ask yourself if this is the version of Mexico that some Americans seem keen to insult as “third world”. Paseo de Reforma is a tree-lined street modeled after Europe’s grand boulevards, such as the Champs-Élysées in Paris. In addition to the striking Angel of Independence, Paseo de Reforma is also home to one of the tallest buildings in the Americas: Torre Mayor. If you think emerging countries like Mexico are any less safe, Torre Mayor is a perfect example of why you are wrong. Torre Mayor is the best constructed building for protection against earthquakes; better than the tallest skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles. And Torre Mayor is just one of many skyscrapers recently built or being built around the world that serve as a symbol of their country’s renaissance on the global stage. We frequently discuss the idea of finding your own “new safe havens”. The “nomad” in Nomad Capitalist means always staying up to date with where you and your money are treated best, and many of the safe havens of old are no longer very safe. Instead, it is often the places you would least expect that serve as a great place to live, do business, park your money, and invest. Mexico does not tick all of those boxes, but it is moving in the right direction. And Torre Mayor is one of the most visible examples of Mexico’s ongoing emergence. For centuries, citizens have built tall structures as a symbol of prominence. Before the modern skyscraper area, the local citizenry erected magnificent churches that reached to the heavens. In fact, the longest-running tallest building in the world was the Lincoln Cathedral in the East Midlands of England. From its completion in 1300 until being topped by another church in 1549, it was the tallest structure on earth. Seven centuries have passed and not much has changed. In the skyscraper era, cities are proud to see tall buildings rise from the ground as a symbol of their city’s prosperity. New York has been the home of the world’s tallest building, starting with the Equitable Life Building, for 87 years. Chicago held the title for 30 years. However, these days things have changed. While New York City alone held a majority of the world’s 100 tallest buildings in 1930, they now control a small fraction of that. Today, sixty percent of the world’s tallest buildings are in Asia and the Middle East. In fact, the United States and Europe combined hold only one spot on the top 10 tallest buildings list: the new One World Trade Center. Here’s why this is important: throughout history, the economic “center of the world” has shifted, from the Middle East, to Asia, to Europe, and more recently to the Americas. Today, that center is shifting back to the east. Savvy international investors know this and accept it. Jim Rogers, whose internationally focused Quantum Fund achieved astronomical gains in the 1970s, has said that a wise man in 1800 moved to London, in 1900 moved to New York, and in 2000 moved to Singapore. Just as New York is no longer home to most of the world’s tall buildings, it is also no longer an all-important, can’t-be-overlooked hub in the global economy. Important, sure, but not very investable on a small level, and quickly being overshadowed by a host of new financial centers in Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. The skyscraper race is just one way up-and-coming countries are working to put themselves on the map. In a rapidly emerging world, countries of all sizes are stepping up to grab their piece of the pie, no longer content to watch New York have all the fun. Malaysia was among the first countries to do this with the construction of the glistening Petronas Towers. In the 17 years since the twin towers opened, cities from Shanghai to Taipei to Dubai have built towers that surpass them. Currently, the world’s future tallest building – Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – is under construction and set to reach a chart-topping height of one kilometer (3,250 feet). While Saudi Arabia might not be the safe haven for you, I would suggest that you keep an open mind if you are to achieve total financial freedom and discover the world’s best investments. After all, one of the world’s most attractive investment yield markets in real estate is Amman, Jordan, where rents are often paid in advance. Jordan isn’t on most westerners’ radar, but those who consider Middle Eastern countries for investment may find excellent opportunities. China also has several record-setting skyscrapers under construction. However, these towers will not be located in widely-known cities like Beijing or Shanghai, but instead in cities most people outside of China have never heard of. 27 of the 50 future tallest buildings will be in China compared to five in the United States. Unlike in the United States, where skyscrapers under construction are mostly luxury residential buildings for the influx of hot money from offshore, China’s towers are in growing cities like Shenyang, Suzhou, Dalian, Wuhan, and Chongqing. Chengdu in western China is famous for its pandas and as the capital of the Sichuan province that is known for some of the spiciest food in the world. What Chengdu is not known for is the Chengdu Greenland Tower currently under construction, which will reach nearly as high as the once-tallest Taipei 101. Cities like Chengdu are attracting a lot of Fortune 500 companies tired of high costs on China’s eastern seaboard. In fact, more than half of the world’s largest companies already have a presence in Chengdu. The growth is so palpable that the cities of Chengdu and Chonging – some 200 miles apart – are already projected to be part of a 100-million person megapolis called the “Sichuan Basin”. Places like Chongqing exist all around the world. Everyone knows Beijing, but the best opportunities in China don’t exist in Beijing. Following the world’s up-and-coming skyscrapers is just one way to determine which places are eager to “get on the map”, and which places have the level of investment to justify such an undertaking. That doesn’t mean all of those cities will be safe havens, but it does mean that someone, somewhere believes in their potential as an up-and-coming investment. Those who know stuff like this will be ahead of the curve as global investment moves to the east. Those that don’t will be stuck with the same underperforming assets classes like US real estate, where no real growth is occurring.


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