Betting on the Shanghai Boom

The dumbest investment I ever made was to buy an apartment in Manhattan in the late '80s. Prices were soaring and it seemed like an effortless way to get rich, so my brother and I pooled our money and bought a place for $327,000. Within 18 months, the market had tanked and the apartment's value had plunged by a third. By then, our tenant—who turned out to be a coke-snorting stripper—had stopped paying rent. When I threatened to change the locks, she whacked me on the head with her handbag and warned: "I know people in this town, and you're going...

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