It’s hard for people to accept that gold is not a good investment. Thousands of years of human culture certifies gold as wealth, as a currency that survives all the vicissitudes of history and economics, and not without reason. Gold is a kind of social construct— it has value because everyone thinks it has value. Pointing out that such a belief is irrational or that its rate of return is poor is not going to make a big dent in such beliefs. Still, it’s something worth being aware of, and hopefully thinking about.
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From gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to gold stocks and buying physical gold, investors now have several different options when it comes to investing in the royal metal. But what exactly is the purpose of gold? And why should investors even bother investing in the gold market? Indeed, these two questions have divided gold investors for the last several decades. One school of thought argues that gold is simply a barbaric relic that no longer holds the monetary qualities of the past. In a modern economic environment, where paper currency is the money of choice, gold's only benefit is the fact that it is a material that is used in jewelry.
Gold is the most popular of the investment precious metals, opposed to silver, platinum and palladium. However, when priced in dollars, it can appear volatile, although not usually as much as silver. From 2005 to 2011, both gold and silver increased dramatically in value, even more rapidly than the dollar’s purchasing power fell. In addition, its historic role as money, silver is essential in many industries, means there is always a need for it. Conversely, gold has limited industrial use and – other than its role as a core investment asset – it is associated with luxury purchases, such as jewelry.
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Today’s market conditions are perfectly conducive to maximizing that rule. As long as you own physical precious metals, you’re protecting your other assets, because whether you hold bullion or coins precious metals have universal value. A silver dollar isn’t just worth a dollar any more. Regardless of numismatic value, coins are always worth their weight in precious metal. With lower premiums, bars are a great value, but the premium on coins and proofs isn’t just an additional expense, like a commission or bid-ask price, a premium is a second investment that also pays dividends.
A. Self-directed trustees do not render investment advice. They simply provide the administrative and reporting services, and work with various vendors, like USAGOLD, that offer specific, permitted precious metals investments (listed here) under the Internal Revenue code. Of course, the trustees charge fees for their services and those charges are generally listed on their websites. As a result, the client planning for retirement can get a sense of what the costs will be before making a commitment.
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This is an extension of the ‘bad times’ reason for keeping gold. In the last 100 years, many parts of the world have undergone some kind of an upheaval that has led to a breakdown of society and institutions. In these circumstances, physical gold is a currency that can survive when paper currencies do not. It’s essentially a currency which is somewhat better, in some ways, than actual currencies. Of course, in India physical gold has served yet another purpose, that of keeping wealth away from taxation.
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Options on futures are an alternative to buying a futures contract outright. These give the owner of the option the right to buy the futures contract within a certain time frame, at a preset price. One benefit of an option is that it both leverages your original investment and limits losses to the price paid. A futures contract bought on margin can require more capital than originally invested if losses mount quickly. Unlike with a futures investment, which is based on the current value of gold, the downside to an option is that the investor must pay a premium to the underlying value of the gold to own the option. Because of the volatile nature of futures and options, they may be unsuitable for many investors. Even so, futures remain the cheapest (commissions + interest expense) way to buy or sell gold when investing large sums.
That's not to say that there aren't any good gold-related investments to consider, and the precious metal, along with companies heavily tied to it, can offer exposure to a different asset class. So we reached out to three regular Motley Fool contributors for an alternative perspective on some gold stocks worth watching right now, and they came back with Barrick Gold Corp (USA) (NYSE:ABX), mining equipment giant Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT), and gold streamer Royal Gold, Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:RGLD).