We all have our little fears: The frayed wire on the coffee maker. That knocking noise from the left-rear tire. The zombies staggering around in the backyard.
For investors, one of the biggest fears today is inflation — a period of rising prices. Inflation erodes the buying power of your money at home and abroad. In a worst-case scenario, it can result in hyperinflation, when a wheelbarrow of bills won’t buy a loaf of bread.
Right now, inflation is deader than an army of zombies. But massive government borrowing raises the fear that inflation will rise from the grave and eat your savings. But you can fight back — with five inflation-fighting investments……
……Gold: No matter what, it’s worth something
Paper money may lose its value, but gold is always worth something. The problem: The price of gold isn’t tied terribly tightly to inflation.
For example, the price of gold has barely budged since its 1981 high of $850 an ounce. On the other hand, gold has doubled the past five years, a period of tame inflation. “Gold has been a terrible proxy for inflation since 1981,” says Ray Ferrara, a financial planner in Clearwater, Fla.
One reason: Gold prices move opposite the value of the U.S. dollar, rather than tracking inflation. But if inflation does roar, the value of the dollar will fall, too. After all, if a dollar buys less at home, it will be worth less abroad.
•Buy gold bullion coins, such as the American Eagle or Canadian Maple Leaf. Take possession of the coins. Scammers love to pretend to store them for you.
•Consider a gold bullion exchange traded fund, such as the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD). Each share equals one-tenth of an ounce of gold, minus the fund’s expenses.
Commodities funds: Prices of materials rise with other prices
Inflation is, by definition, a period of rising prices — not just for gold, but for virtually all basic materials, such as steel, coal, oil and lead.
Clearly, buying a boxcar full of coal has its drawbacks. And small investors who invest in commodities via the futures markets lose early and often.
But you can invest in commodities via exchange traded funds. These funds typically track a commodity futures index, such as the Goldman Sachs Excess Return index, which tracks 24 commodities.
Be aware that many commodity funds have big weightings in energy — which is fine, if that’s what you want. TheiShares S&P GSCI Commodity fund (GSG), for example, is 67% invested in energy.
•The PowerShares DB Commodity index fund (DBC) is a highly diversified commodity fund.
•Consider an actively managed natural resources fund. Two funds that have consistently beaten their peers are Vanguard Energy (VGENX) and ICON Energy (ICENX).
Full Story: http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/columnist/waggon/2009-04-23-inflation-hedges_N.htm