In November 1906, Teddy Roosevelt found himself working the controls of a large steam shovel. Crowds of press members, natives and curious onlookers watched as flash bulbs went off, preserving the peculiar image for posterity.
Beneath the President's handshakes and famous toothy grin was a sense of worry. After all, his legacy was on the line. Nearly two years in, workers had little to show in the way of progress. The inhospitable jungles and swamps, combined with sweltering temperatures, snakes, mosquitoes, smallpox, yellow fever and malaria meant that the work was not only back-breaking, but treacherous.
Roosevelt was hoping his visit would boost morale. He was no stranger to hardship -- and he had insisted that "No single great material work which remains to be undertaken on this continent is as of such consequence to the American people."
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So workers continued to dig, moving an average of 200 trainloads of dirt each day -- and die by the handful. In the end, an estimated 262,000 cubic yards of earth would be moved, and 5,600 people would perish from the elements -- and it was all in the name of one of history's greatest investments.
Eventually, after 10 years of construction and $375 million, the Panama Canal was completed in 1914. Now all of this makes for a nice story. But there's an important investing lesson in all of this.
If you think about it, the Panama Canal is truly irreplaceable.
During its 101 years of operation, the economic benefits generated from the canal are quite literally incalculable.
The canal enabled movement of shipping between two oceans in a fraction of the time. This was a game-changer for global trade. It also enabled the U.S., which owned and operated the canal until 1999, to transfer much-needed naval assets between the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during WWII.
And according to the Panama Canal Authority, it still produces about $2 billion in revenue per year from global trade to this very day.
While that only skims the surface in terms of the payoff, it's safe to say this investment has paid for itself many, many times over.
What's more, the canal can't be easily replicated or undercut competitively. The Chinese are trying -- in the form of a canal in Nicaragua. But according to this article in the Wall Street Journal, the project could cost up to $60 billion and makes little sense economically (the Panama Canal is already in the final stages of an expansion project costing a mere $5 billion).
Of course, you can't just trot off and expect to invest in the Panama Canal directly. The best proxy would be to buy shares of CK Hutchison Holdings (OTC: CKHUY), the Hong Kong conglomerate that currently holds the contract to operate the canal.
But that's not my point. You simply have to understand what makes something like the Panama Canal irreplaceable to know the power of investing in these kinds of assets.
This is a theme that we've talked about here at StreetAuthority before -- and one my colleague Jimmy Butts has talked about frequently in his premium newsletter, Top Stock Advisor.
Most investors don't realize that there are dozens of irreplaceable assets around the world that they can invest in. And many of them are market-beating profit machines. I'm talking about things like buildings, railroads, airports, hydroelectric plants, toll roads, pipelines and more.
How To Invest Directly In Some Of The World's Most Irreplaceable Assets
You'll rarely hear the mainstream financial media talk about this sort of thing, but our research staff has been covering these types of investments for years.
We're convinced that they're one of the single greatest keys to long-term wealth generation.
That's why, in 2014, we created an Irreplaceable Assets Index to prove our point. It consists of 13 publicly-traded companies that own irreplaceable assets, like the ones I mentioned earlier, located in all corners of the globe. And over a ten-year backtesting period, this index outperformed the broader market by nearly 400 percentage points.
If you're a Top Stock Advisor subscriber, you've probably seen this chart before. Look at it again. We'll say it until we're blue in the face, but it's charts like this that have us absolutely convinced that the single best move individual investors can make for themselves is to buy shares of companies you can own "forever".
This is an exclusive label that we give to only a handful of the best stocks. It means they've beaten the market for decades, and are perfectly positioned to continue beating it for decades to come.
Think about it... if you're invested in a large company that, say, owns a large collection of railroads or ports across the U.S. and has a history of steadily rewarding shareholders with increasing dividends, then there will have to be something seriously wrong with the world for the company to be in deep trouble. And if that's the case, you've probably got bigger fish to fry anyway.
But whether it's trouble in China... unrest in the Middle East... interest rate hikes... no matter what's happened, these stocks have made shareholders rich. And it's for this reason we made irreplaceable assets as a key component for the stocks we selected in this year's Top 10 Stocks For 2017 report.
This report is one of the hallmarks of what we believe in as a company, so if you haven't checked it out yet, I urge you to do so now. I can't promise all of this year's Top 10 Stocks will be winners, but our previous picks have delivered gains of 53%, 101%, even 159% in a single year. To learn how to get this year's report, follow this link.