Sunday, September 02, 2012

Silver and Gold: Insurance against Uncertain Outcomes

It was incredibly clear to me after a cookout this past summer that I was not nearly as diversified as I had thought I was previously. Let me back up a minute. Our household owns all sorts of various investments. This is not uncommon for people in their early thirties who have professional, white-collar jobs. People have retirement accounts in various mutual funds with different brokerage companies etc. This is not news.

However, it became clear to me this past summer that there was something wrong with this idea that all of my wealth was outside of my control. Namely, it was electronic. I found that this was somewhat disturbing to me when I began to consider all of the various changes that can happen so quickly in the financial markets and with the currency changes that are ongoing (There's talk of QE4 coming.)

Over the past several years I began to watch Consuelo Mack Wealthtrack and I find it to be a phenomenal show for people who are really interested in learning more about the markets and what makes investing work. One of her guests has said that gold is an insurance against uncertain/unexpected outcomes. So, as I began to think about my investments over the past 15 years, I began to realize that everything was electronic. And should the electronic-ness fail, then there are likely to be major losses of my investments and that would be it.

The whole enchilada. Everything that I have worked for my entire life, gone essentially in an instant. This is certainly an unlikely problem from my perspective. However, after 9/11, after the 2008 financial crisis, and after some personal events, I have grown to understand that risk is all around us all the time and we must grow comfortable with that. To that end, I have finally, despite my constant feelings that there are too many "goldbugs" out there, bought some metals.

Personally, I feel comfortable owning a little bit of this stuff. It is not an investment for me. It is insurance. And to that end, I hope I never need it. And I hope I die having never used it. Personally, I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-3% of total assets is the right amount. What is interesting about that percentage is that if the electronic money becomes worthless or, more likely, worth less....then the metals will become worth substantially more so that this somewhat compensates.

There are many companies out there that sell metals. I personally opted for three things:
1. Buy a small amount first.
2. Buy physical metal that can be stored easily/safely.
3. Opt for amounts that would be usable in an emergency.

I wanted to make sure that I had something that was useable and that there would be no problem where the "coin" denomination was so big. They sell various sizes of these down to 1/10 of an oz of gold.

What finally made me change my mind? In short, I don't know. Maybe it was my age. Maybe it was my net worth. Maybe it was the political climate. Do I think it is a perfect solution? Not really. I still think if things go to hell in a hand basket, everyone's pretty much in it together. Ultimately, I think that is a good thing; it keeps everyone's interests aligned.