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Ask Dave

Will Dave Ever Change His Mind About Gold?

A Twitter listener asks Dave if the price of gold continues to rise, will Dave change his stance on buying gold as an investment? Dave says no.

QUESTION: A Twitter listener asks Dave if the price of gold continues to rise, will Dave change his stance on buying gold as an investment? Dave says no.

ANSWER: No. I won’t because there are philosophical problems with investing in gold. There are two of them that will keep me from doing that in my lifetime. One of them is that I buy investments that are very conservative that have long track records. That doesn’t say that they never go down and they never go up. They do have some cycle to them, sometimes rather extreme cycles. But they have a long track record that is very positive and very predictable. On the short term, when it goes down, that means anything I’m buying is on sale. Gold, on the other hand, has a long track record of sucking—a very long track record of that. Gold has given us about a 1–3% rate of return in any 10, 20, or 50-year period except the last eight years. If you take out the last eight years of gold, it is unbelievably horrible. The only numbers that make gold even reasonable to look at are the last eight years, and of course the last eight years have been fabulous. The last three years have been bonkers. But I don’t buy stuff based on the short term. I don’t buy a single mutual fund that has a three-year track record or a four-year track record. A five-year track record is the minimum, and the concept of stocks in growth stocks in a mutual fund has an 80- and 100-year track record that is excellent, by the way. I don’t buy stuff that has, in the scope of its investing lifetime, had one little blip on the radar. I look at long histories on things. I don’t get caught up in the latest fad that way.

When you buy segment funds or funds of certain segments of the economy—sector funds—or you buy certain investments that have lousy track records on the long haul just because they’ve had a recent spike, you’re going to get burned. That’s an investment philosophy right there. Another investment philosophy that keeps me from buying gold is it doesn’t have any intrinsic value. Stock represents a share of ownership in a company, and that company owns things and makes a profit. So there are mathematics you can do to determine the actual value of a company, thus what one share of ownership in that company is worth. So yeah, stock does have value. Gold is a shiny rock. The only reason it has value is that some of you think it has value. Diamonds are a shiny rock. The only reason they have value is that some of you assigned them value.

Let me put it this way. All of your gains in gold are based on people’s perceptions. They’re not based on math. Your gains in gold are based on fear—people freaking out and thinking the world’s coming to an end, the government’s going to spend us into bankruptcy, we’re going to be at war, the lower class is going to arise, there are going to be riots in the streets, and all this other socialistic crap. Extreme right-wing, extreme left-wing breaks down the economics of life to the point that they don’t even make sense anymore.

I don’t buy any gold, because it has a lousy track record and with the fact that it doesn’t have intrinsic value, what that’s going to lend itself to is extreme volatility. It can move instantly for no reason. As soon as people start feeling secure again in the economy and in economic growth, gold is going to go in half. It’s going to happen so suddenly that some of you are going to lose all your money. I’m not going to change my tune because it’s not going to start having intrinsic value, and it’s not going to start having a long-term track record, at least while I’m alive.