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From ancient civilizations to today, gold has been one of the most in-demand assets known to man. With today’s volatile financial markets, elevated inflation, high interest rates and economic uncertainty, many investors are turning to gold as they seek a safe haven to protect their wealth. There are many different ways to add gold to an investment portfolio. As an investor, you need to determine if investing in gold is right for you and, if so, what type of gold will be the best fit for your unique financial situation.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to invest in physical bullion — or gold bars — and coins, gold-mining company stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds that hold gold-backed assets, and individual retirement accounts (IRAs), as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each. You’ll also gain insight into gold prices and how to choose an appropriate investment strategy tailored to your needs.
What is the best way to invest in gold?
There are many ways to invest in gold, each of which has unique advantages and disadvantages. Carefully considering your goals and objectives before determining which option is best for your personal finances is crucial. Consider your timeline to retirement, anticipated income needs — keeping in mind that gold does not generate income until you sell it — and your risk tolerance. Gold performs best in a portfolio when it is held as a long-term investment.
Physical gold bullion, gold coins or gold jewelry
Physical gold assets include anything from bullion — which is investment-quality gold with a purity of 99.5% (995) in the shape of bars or rounds — and coins to jewelry and other collectibles.
One advantage to investing in pure gold is that there is robust global demand and transparent pricing. The spot price of gold is the current price at which gold trades internationally, making it easy for investors to know how much their gold is worth in real time. Owning physical gold allows you to hold your asset in your hands and even trade it face-to-face, which can be appealing to some investors.
On the other hand, purchasing physical gold has certain risks and drawbacks. For one, verifying the purity of the precious metal can be difficult, so it’s crucial to ensure you buy from reputable dealers or sources, whether you buy bullion coins or other forms of gold in person or from an online metals broker. Physical gold can be a hassle to store and transport, since it is bulky and needs to be protected from and insured against theft. Physical gold purchases may be subject to sales tax depending on your jurisdiction, and you may have to pay other types of fees such as transaction and processing fees, which could reduce your overall return on investment.
Gold mining stocks
Gold mining stocks are another option for investors who want to invest in gold without buying physical assets. These stocks are shares of companies that extract gold through mining or finance gold production.
Although all of these companies should theoretically benefit from an increase in gold prices, some are better positioned to take advantage of higher prices, while others may weather downturns in gold prices more effectively.
As for the disadvantages, investing in gold mining stocks has greater volatility than physical assets, and investments may be subject to significant price fluctuations.
Unlike physical gold assets that always retain some level of value, there is a non-zero possibility that an investment in a gold mining company could become worthless if the company goes bankrupt or its mine ceases production. It’s crucial to conduct thorough research by looking into each company’s financial strength and understanding the potential risks of investing in any particular gold mining stock.
Gold mining ETFs and mutual funds
For investors that don’t feel comfortable picking individual stocks, gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds provide a way to invest in the gold mining industry with greater diversification than you could get by investing in individual gold stocks. These funds hold stock in gold mining companies or, in some cases, physical gold bullion.
This gives you the advantage of investing in several companies with just one purchase. The funds’ prices are partially influenced by the spot price of gold but are also heavily dependent on how the companies in the fund perform.
Compared to buying individual gold mining stocks, gold ETFs and mutual funds are generally less volatile and can help you add liquidity and diversify your portfolio without the risk associated with investing in a single gold mining company. Mutual funds and ETFs can be actively or passively managed. Actively managed funds carry higher expense ratios. When choosing a gold mutual fund or ETF, consider costs as well as performance.
Gold futures and options contracts
Investing in gold futures and options contracts holds high potential risks but comes with the possibility of significant returns. Most people are unfamiliar with these types of investments, as they are typically used by larger investors and institutions.
In a gold futures contract, you agree to buy or sell a specific amount of gold at an agreed-upon price on a future date, while an options contract gives you the opportunity but doesn’t require you to buy or sell gold at an agreed-upon price on or before a specific date.
In reality, most people buying and selling these contracts are not interested in physical delivery of the gold but are trying to speculate on the future price movements of gold. These contracts are highly leveraged, so small movements in the price of gold are magnified — which is why these instruments can be both potentially lucrative and very risky. Compared to investing in gold companies or ETFs, this method of investing in gold is much more closely related to price movements and expectations of future price movements for gold rather than the operational performance of a mining company.
Futures and options contracts can be challenging for everyday investors and are not recommended for beginners. The professional investors who typically trade these contracts generally do so through an online brokerage account or exchange, like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group’s COMEX.
A gold IRA is a special type of retirement account that allows investors to hold physical gold (and other precious metals). These self-directed IRAs, as the IRS classifies them, let people hold alternative assets like gold, cryptocurrency or real estate in a retirement account.
Similar to a traditional IRA, a gold IRA allows investors to make pre-tax contributions up to a certain amount each year. Growth is tax-deferred, and you pay taxes when you take distributions. There are also Roth versions of gold IRAs that allow investors to make post-tax contributions and make tax-free withdrawals at any point. Additionally, SEP gold IRAs are available for self-employed individuals.
A gold IRA lets you add physical gold and other precious metals to a retirement account. However, it’s critical to only consider the best gold IRA companies when investing in gold through an IRA, as the quality of service and products varies among companies.
Is gold a good investment?
Determining whether gold is a good investment or not will depend on your broader investment goals.
For some investors, gold may make sense as a hedge against stock market volatility or as a way to diversify a portfolio. For others, gold’s lack of income generation or unsuitability as a short-term investment might be dealbreakers.
The following sections will explore some of the main advantages and disadvantages of investing in gold.
The advantages of investing in gold
There are several potential benefits of gold investing:
- Gold is a tangible asset that cannot be defaulted on or printed out of thin air. It has intrinsic value and scarcity relative to demand, making it a preferred store of value for some investors.
- Gold has historically been considered a safe haven asset, meaning that its price tends to increase when other markets are volatile or in decline, such as during recessions, wars or other periods of economic or geopolitical instability.
- Gold can diversify a portfolio and mitigate the risk of loss during economic downturns, as it tends to move differently than stocks and bonds.
- You can buy and sell gold in many different forms, including coins, bars, ETFs and derivatives.
The disadvantages of investing in gold
There are also some drawbacks to investing in gold investors will want to consider before making a purchase:
- Investments in gold have been greatly outperformed by stocks and other asset classes over the past several decades. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), for instance, more than doubled from 1990 to 2000. Conversely, the price of gold remained relatively stable until around 2005, when it grew around 360% until 2020 (roughly the same as it had between 1990-2005).
- Although its price has been reasonably stable over longer time frames, gold can be highly volatile in the short term. This means that investors need to be prepared to hold their gold for a number of years, or risk having to sell at a loss.
- Precious metals brokers charge markups, and investing in physical gold can also be expensive due to storage and insurance costs.
- Gold does not provide income or dividend payments. You only make money from your gold when you sell it.
Tips for making gold investments
The following gold investment advice will help you get the most out of your gold assets while avoiding pitfalls that can cost you money.
Verify the purity of physical gold before purchasing it
When considering how to buy gold, verify that physical gold is of the proper purity and weight before you buy it. Checking gold content or fineness is especially important when buying gold bullion, coins or jewelry. This is why it’s very important to buy precious metals from a reputable dealer such as American Precious Metals Exchange (APMEX) or JMBullion. In other cases, you may want to have an independent third party, such as a precious metals testing service, assess the purity of the gold.
Understand how gold prices work
Having a working knowledge of the various factors that can influence gold prices before investing is essential. Events or circumstances that can affect the spot price of gold include economic and geopolitical volatility, central bank policies, demand from industrial and investment markets and supply fluctuations. Doing your research before you buy can help you make informed investment decisions about the best times to buy or sell gold.
Choose an investment strategy
Before purchasing any gold-related investments, decide on an investment strategy. Figure out your time horizon, risk tolerance and whether you want to invest directly in physical gold or through other instruments such as ETFs. If you need assistance, you can get investment advice from a financial advisor.
Note that any profits on gold investments are subject to capital gains tax, which can reduce overall returns. You owe capital gains tax when you sell an investment and make a profit. Short-term capital gains apply to profits realized on investments held for one year or less. These are taxed as ordinary income, up to a maximum marginal tax rate of 37%. Long-term capital gains tax applies if you hold an investment for more than a year and sell it for a profit. These gains are taxed at either 0%, 15% or 20% (depending on your income).
If you choose to invest in physical gold, you’ll pay a higher long-term capital gains tax rate because gold is considered a collectible by the IRS. When you sell physical gold, your capital gains will be taxed at your marginal tax rate up to a maximum of 28%.
Thoroughly research gold mining companies
Conduct thorough research to make an informed decision before investing in gold mining companies. This includes reviewing the company’s financial statements and filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory bodies, researching their management team, history and past performance. Additionally, assessing any political or environmental risks related to their operations is vital, which can be as simple to begin with as researching a list of gold mining stocks and looking into where their mines are located.
Summary of How to Invest in Gold
- Gold has long been seen as a valuable asset due to its relative long-term stability and potential to gain value during times of economic or geopolitical uncertainty.
- Risks of investing in gold include short-term volatility, a lack of income generation and the high cost to store and insure physical gold.
- There are many ways to invest in gold, from buying physical gold to purchasing gold company stocks or funds, such as mutual funds and ETFs, that hold gold-backed assets. Options and futures contracts let sophisticated investors trade gold but these derivatives carry a high risk of loss and aren’t suitable for most retail investors.
- To determine what type of gold investments are right for you, consider the purpose of your investment, your risk tolerance and how much of your portfolio you want to allocate to gold. (Most financial advisors suggest 5% to 10%.) .
- Some people prefer to own gold for peace of mind or because they believe it is more secure. Investing in gold mining company stocks or funds that hold those assets is a way to add gold exposure to your portfolio without the expense of holding physical gold.
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