How to Invest in the Best Gold Funds & ETFs

Strategies for Investing in Gold Mutual Funds and ETFs

gold coins
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Adding the best gold funds to a portfolio can be a smart means of diversification or as a hedging strategy. Gold can be used as a hedge against (or as safe harbor from) inflation, stock market declines and falling currency prices, especially with the US dollar. But what is the best way to invest in this precious metal? Gold mutual funds or gold ETFs?

Let's begin the lesson on investing in gold funds by learning the basics of gold.

The Gold Standard and Advantages of Investing in Gold

Until recent times, gold has been used throughout history as money and has also been used as a standard for currencies.

The gold standard is when the value of a country's money is tied to the amount of gold the country possesses. An individual holding a particular country's paper money could present it to the government and receive an agreed upon value (par value) from that country's gold reserves.

Gold as a currency standard has some advantages and disadvantages. The basic advantages of investing in gold derive from the fact that gold is a fixed asset: When a country's currency is fixed to the asset, it is not possible to print more currency than the country has in gold. This discourages and reduces government debt and the nations that are able to produce more exports can attract more gold.

However, the nations with less gold as a natural resource are typically the poorest unless they are able to compensate with more exports of goods and services. But the desire to obtain or hold on to gold can also potentially distract from the desire and energy to produce better goods and services.

Investing in Gold as a Hedge Strategy

In recent history, investors have had concerns about the devaluation of the US dollar. Due to large government deficits, the federal government pumps more money into the economy as stimulation. However, the more money that is created, the lower its value. As concerns over dollar devaluation increases, more investors invest in gold as a perceived safer alternative.

This adds to the effect of self-fulfilling prophecy: As the demand for gold increases, so does its price. For related reasons, gold is considered a safe haven; investors feel more comfortable with real assets in times of economic uncertainty. Therefore gold can be used as a hedge against inflation but also as a hedge against hard economic times.

Investing in the BestGold Mutual Funds and ETFs

When investing in gold funds, you won't directly invest in the commodity itself. The most common means of buying gold directly is bullion gold coins and the most common way to invest in gold indirectly (as an investment security) is through an exchange-traded fund (ETF) such as the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD).

Mutual funds invest little to no assets in physical gold. Usually categorized as "Precious Metals," gold mutual funds typically hold stocks of mining companies. A few of the best gold mutual funds, in terms of long-term performance, long manager tenure and average to low expense ratios include Tocqueville Gold (TGLDX) and Gabelli Gold Load-Waived (GLDAX.LW).

Which Is Best for Investing in Gold: Mutual Funds or Gold ETFs?

A Wall Street Journal article makes a few good points. Use the ETF as the traditional hedge against inflation or extreme economic downturns when investors typically flee to perceived safety of physical assets like gold. However WSJ makes this valid point for gold mutual funds:

If it costs a company $800 to mine an ounce of gold, and gold is $1,000 an ounce, the profit for the company is $200. If gold rises to $1,100, the profit becomes $300. That's a 50% rise in profits off a 10% rise in the price of gold.

It is important to remember that gold should never be used as a market timing tool or as the sole vehicle for all of your savings. The price of gold can have dramatic turns and the long-term average return for gold as an investment trends around 3.00%, which is significantly less than that of an average S&P 500 stock fund. Gold can be a good diversification tool and an appropriate allocation for most investor portfolios is around 5%.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is provided for discussion purposes only, and should not be misconstrued as investment advice. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities.

Article Sources

  1. World Gold Council. "Bringing the gold market to investors." Accessed March 12, 2020.

  2. The Wall Street Journal. "Gold Mutual Funds Vs. Gold ETFs: It Depends on the Goal." Accessed March 12, 2020.