In the past, I have never been a big fan of holding gold. Obviously it cannot provide an income so that was one reason back when I needed dividend income to bridge the gap after taking early retirement in 2008. But that doesn't mean there is no return...in fact I was surprised to learn that over the past 15 years or so, gold bullion has generated a capital appreciation of 11% p.a. on average.
At the time of moving to retirement we had the financial crisis and the slump in interest rates on cash deposits. In 2007, it was common to get 5% or 6% annual interest on cash deposits but over the past 12 years, returns have been dire and provided an average return of just 6% over the whole period. Over the same time frame inflation as measure by RPI has risen by 39%...therefore a real negative return of -24% for savers. Cash deposits are likely to remain at low levels for the foreseeable future.
The Gold Standard
Back in the day we had a thing called the gold standard which provided stability for the major currencies such as the US $ and the British pound. The Bretton Woods agreement of 1944 established a system through which a fixed currency exchange rate could be guaranteed using gold as a universal standard.
Of course, under this system it was not possible to create more money during a crisis and after the Vietnam War and the oil crisis of the early 1970s, President Nixon 'suspended' the conversion of the dollar into gold - effectively creating fiat currency and the ability for governments to print money to protect the financial system...in other words, a magic money tree!
Currencies are therefore becoming lass stable and only continue so long as there continues a collective belief in the monetary system. Gold can therefore be regarded as insurance against a fall in the purchasing power of modern currencies. Maybe crypto currencies such as Bitcoin can be regarded in a similar vein as we transform towards a digital world.
It's always possible to buy gold coins and store them at home but for most this is not very practical. The easiest method is to hold physical gold via an exchange traded fund in your pension or ISA.
|SGLN price past 3 years|
I decided to go with the largest fund which is iShares Physical Gold (SGLN) which has been around since April 2011 and with low annual charges of 0.15%. The fund has assets of $12.8 trillion.
Other options could be a fund such as Blackrock Gold & General or LF Ruffer Gold for example but as my platform charges are capped for shares and ETFs with AJ Bell, the iShares option is the better one for me.
Apart from the Covid dip last year, the bull run in equities has continued for quite some time. The US markets are close to their all time high point...maybe there's more to come - who knows? But for me, it seems prudent to bank some of the gains made over this period and squirrel them away into the 'safe' for the time being.
|S&P 500 Index past 5 years|
We have the COP 26 conference coming to Glasgow in November and an opportunity for world 'leaders' to actually do what they all know needs to be done. However, given their collective track record so far, I am not overly confident in the ability of governments to get to grips with the climate crisis. I think the worsening climate situation could well become the biggest threat to the stability of global markets. We have the 'Code Red' warning last month from the IPCC and now the latest report from the UN says that emissions will be 16% higher by 2030 whereas they need to have fallen by at least 45% by this date to be on track for net zero by 2050. Actions or lack thereof over the coming year or two should give us a better indication on whether our politicians and world leaders are up to the job.
|Sept 2021 (click to enlarge)|
For now I will continue to hedge my bets with gold, precious metals and government bonds. The shares were purchased at an average price of £24.50 and held in both SIPP and ISA and with my precious metals ETF now make up 8% of my portfolio.
As ever, this article is merely a record of my personal investment decisions and take on the risk/rewards associated with the current markets. It should not be regarded as an endorsement or recommendation - always DYOR!