In this post I would like to share the most common pitfalls that precious metals investors often encounter.
Common Mistake #1 – Unrealistic Expectations
One of the biggest pitfalls faced by precious metal investors of all experience levels is impatience and the temptation to chase the price with the hopes of “hitting it big”. Many new investors believe that the metals prices can only go up and that investing success is a given in the short term.
The key to success is the full understanding that investing in gold or silver is a long-term proposition. You can only measure your success over many YEARS, not weeks or even months. If you are looking to “get rich quick” we would recommend you not venture in to precious metals with this expectation.
Take the time to assess the following:
- What are your investment goals?
- Why are you considering gold and silver?
- Will the factors that are moving you to consider precious metals change in the near future?
Most likely you are considering precious metals due to a myriad of global economic conditions – most of which will not change quickly, if at all. This only reinforces a long-term position and mentality when it comes to investing in metals. If you get in the game, do so for the long haul.
Keep in mind the flip side as well. Investors will often jump from investment vehicle to vehicle if their investment strategy doesn’t yield immediate results. We have see many of our clients sell off their metals to go and invest in the “next big thing”, have it fail and then find themselves buying metals back at significantly higher prices.
Common Mistake #2 – Chasing the Price
Some people will spend years chasing after the next big thing, often believing that this strategy is “the one.” When that particular strategy doesn’t yield the results they were looking for, the common response by investors is to blame the strategy and to quickly adopt another. They don’t realize that the problem most often lies within themselves and not with a given strategy or tactic.
Again, step back…
Give the strategy some time. We can’t stress enough that precious metals investments should be long-term holdings. Success in this game is not something that can be accurately measured in weeks or months. This is a long-term commitment. Budget your time, energy and capital wisely.
Common Mistake #3 – ETF’s and Physical Metals are the Same
Many investors, especially those new to precious metals, make the critical error of thinking that owning an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) that invests in gold, such as GLD, is the same as owning the physical gold itself. It is critical to understand the key differences between owning shares of an ETF and owning physical gold or silver.
For thousands of years, physical gold and silver have been highly desirable and recognizable commodities that are easily bought, sold and exchanged for goods on local and world markets. You can take physical gold from New York to Zimbabwe and everyone will immediately recognize the inherent value in the metal itself. In essence, you can use physical gold or silver in lieu of, or for exchange of cash all over the world.
As the owner of a gold ETF, you ultimately only own a piece of paper, a promissory note, showing how many shares of the fund you own; however you do not own any actual physical gold. The ETF owns the gold and you own a promise from the fund managers to pay back the value of the shares you have purchased in the ETF.
The ETF certificate that you own is something that is not universally traded on the world markets, nor is it widely recognized or easily exchangeable for currency. You would have a very difficult time trying to trade paper certificates for goods or services the same way you would physical gold.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the most popular gold investments, GLD. The primary disadvantage of paper gold is lack-of-ease in converting to physical gold. While investors may own a claim on physical gold, in many cases they will find that actually getting their hands on the metal is much more difficult than they had expected.
Investors may not realize that when they invest in GLD, they do not own physical gold. Yes, in theory GLD is a physical gold-backed ETF, and one share of GLD is supposed to be equivalent to 1/10th ounce of gold. But the actual story is much more complicated, with major restrictions on redemption.
First, to qualify to redeem GLD shares for physical gold, special permission is required from the trustee of GLD. This permission is typically reserved for brokers and major institutional players.
Second, shares can only be redeemed in batches of 100,000, which equates to roughly $13 million at today’s prices.
Third, according to GLD’s prospectus, the fund retains the right to settle gold requests in cash rather than in the physical metal. So even if you owned 100,000 shares and had permission to redeem them, you still might not receive your physical bullion.
Another nuance to investing in GLD has to do with how its price moves in relation to the spot price of gold on the futures market. While the initial price of GLD was set to represent the price of 1/10th ounce of gold, this relationship has not been maintained, because GLD is subject to its own market forces, as well as reduction in value through management fees.
Without getting into too much detail, the price of GLD is highly correlated with the spot price movements of gold, but does not follow those movements exactly. For example, a large purchase or sale of shares in GLD can drive the price up or down, without the spot price of gold changing.
Finally, if you read the language of an ETF prospectus carefully, you will see that your investment in the ETF could possibly drop to $0 in value. This highlights two critical factors to consider about ETFs: 1) you are trusting someone else to establish the value of the gold possessed by the ETF, and 2) you are trusting that the fund managers actually have enough physical gold to cover your investment and all of the other shares invested as well.
These two concerns are negated when you consider physically possessing gold. First, the value of your investment is determined by the market, not by a fund manager or by the popularity of the shares of a given ETF. Second, since you physically possess the gold, you know exactly what it is worth at any moment in time and are not dependent on another person or entity to tell you what you have.
The chance of physical gold becoming worthless is virtually impossible, given that gold and silver have always had, and should always have value. While the value of gold may fluctuate depending on a given currency or during any given day, there will always be some value associated with these precious metals due to the fact that precious metals are rare elements, cannot be “manufactured” and have a myriad of industrial uses.
Common Mistake #4 – Falling for Confiscation Scare Tactics
Countless investors have been presented with the “Confiscation Myth” and unknowingly found themselves being upsold into unnecessary, expensive numismatic coins. Many unscrupulous precious metals firms will bait investors in to buying numismatic coins that have a margin that is 28 to 70% higher than standard bullion coins and bars.
The most frequently used technique to promote high-priced coins is to raise the issue of confiscation. Many telemarketers tell investors that old U.S. gold coins are not “subject to confiscation,” leaving the impression that modern gold bullion coins are. Consequently, many investors buy old, rare, and antique gold coins at prices significantly higher than the value of their gold content. The idea of buying “non-confiscatable” gold sounds like a powerful argument but when scrutinized fails to stand the test of truth.
Many precious metals firms maintain that old U.S. gold coins, proof sets, and commemorative gold coins are “collectibles” and would not be subject to another gold recall. Some firms say that premiums of at least 15% automatically make coins collectibles. Another notion holds that coins one hundred years or older are antiques and therefore not subject to confiscation.
The bottom line is that NO federal law or Treasury department regulation supports these contentions. ONLY if you are a collector or speculator should you buy numismatic coins.
Common Mistake #5 – Minimal Research
When faced with something new, it’s easy to simply take the advice of a few friends or scan a couple of websites before you make the jump. In the precious metals market, superficial research is just looking at general information such as spot prices and trying to “pick a price point” or choosing the most popular forms to buy. There is significant information to be learned about buying gold and silver, and that requires sifting through the misinformation as well.
There are sound forums and blogs to review such as zerohedge.com, seekingalpha.com, cointalk.com and goldismoney.com. They are great places to read other investors’ opinions, strategies and the experiences they’ve had with specific dealers. Ask specific questions on the forums and mine the resources and experience of seasoned investors.
You can also turn to Facebook and LinkedIn for various investor groups and interest groups. Please keep in mind that many of these groups are formed by dealers or individuals that have a hidden sales agenda. Consider their profile and background before considering any aspect of investment advice that is offered.
There are a number of industry respected company blogs that are hosted by dealers and wholesalers that are another solid source of information for a new or experienced investor. Many of the industry blogs provide new product information, Mint news and up to date market information.
The mainstream media will often provide timely, yet sometimes biased news. Use your discernment when reviewing precious metals news from The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, YahooFinance or Reuters. Verify any news you read with multiple reliable sources.
In the end after your initial research, find a dealer that is willing to spend time answering any and all of your questions without trying to sell you something.
Common Mistake #6 – Going “All In”
Many first-time precious metal investors make the mistake of investing all or a significant portion of their savings in precious metals. That is a mistake! You should never invest all or a significant portion of your assets in any single investment vehicle. To determine how much you should invest, you must first determine how much you can actually afford to invest and what your financial goals are.
When you determine how much to invest in precious metals you should begin by following some long-standing investment principles. If you have significant debt, you should work first to pay down your debt and secure three to six months of living expenses in savings. If these principles are accomplished then take a look to see how much additional savings you have on hand for investing.
Follow this with a plan to add to your investments over time. You should plan to use a specified portion of your income to build your precious metal portfolio over time. This method is called “dollar-cost-averaging” and it is useful whether buying stocks, bonds, mutual funds, precious metals or any investment. Speak with a qualified financial advisor to set up a budget and determine how much of your future income you should invest.
For many types of investments, a minimum initial investment amount may be required. Different precious metals dealers require different minimum purchases. Your local dealer may let you buy just one or two ounces of silver, while some online dealers require upwards of $5,000 to purchase from them. We, for example, do not have a minimum purchase requirement.
Finally, never borrow money to invest, never buy precious metals on leverage and don’t use money set aside for other needs.
Common Mistake #7 – Obsession
Did you know that a Google search for the word “gold” produces over 700,000,000 results? “Silver” brings back about 480,000,000 results. That is some serious information overload and way too much for any one person to try to keep up with.
Many newcomers to precious metals investing may find that they become overwhelmed with information, especially when gold fever hits or when the price reaches a new all-time high. There is so much to learn and so many things happening all at once all over the world, it’s easy to catch the fever and want to keep constant vigil over the market. This gives new investors a misguided sense of control, thinking that as long as they are keeping an eye on the market, they’ll be on top of things. Right? In reality, the opposite is happening.
The Sun is always shining somewhere on the Earth, and there is a market somewhere that is almost always open – this is especially apparent with today’s Internet connected markets and global economies. Markets constantly change based on events all around the world – there’s just no way for any one person to keep up with the precious metals market 24/7.
Relax. Don’t become obsessed with the ever-changing world of precious metals – give your mind a break from it all. When our brains are strained, we tend to make high-risk decisions with a lack of concern for the consequences. It’ll still be there when you return. If you have done your homework, work with a reputable company to place your orders and have a solid long-term strategy in place, you will hardly miss a beat.
One way to ensure you are using a great strategy is to pre-plan your moves – be less reactive and more proactive. This gives a real sense of control and allows you to calculate your strategy and wait for the best timing. The markets move as they will, so instead of reacting to everything, which requires you to watch the Hong Kong Market to guess what will happen in London, you can pre-plan your moves.
Investing in precious metals is serious business but it can be very rewarding. This type of endeavor requires both attention and respect. Master it and a world of financial opportunity is open to you. Fall victim to it and there are few things more frustrating. Hopefully, from this short report you have gained a better awareness of the rapidly changing and in-depth nature of precious metals and how to maximize your opportunity to succeed.
The pitfalls we have illustrated here are just some of the more common mistakes that new investors experience. You can avoid the headache of these blunders by keeping in mind some of the crucial information we have revealed in this report. Above all, remember that success will be measured in years, not weeks. Avoid the mindset of getting rich quick – keep your goals and expectations long term.
Also, remember that there is no substitute for knowledge and practice. Educate yourself. Find a system that makes sense to you. Don’t go along with something simply because you were told it works. Rather, determine what resonates with your own body of knowledge and experience, then stick with your strategy.
Finally, find a mentor – someone who is willing to impart the knowledge that made them successful. A solid understanding of precious metals investing is truly invaluable, offering you the opportunity for secure investments, financial strength and independence.