Whenever you buy gold, the first rule of thumb is dollar cost averaging -- putting a fixed amount of money towards gold every month regardless of the price. For the average investor, this strategy spreads risk out over time and lessens the downside.
Most money managers advocate anywhere from 3%-10% in gold. More bullish managers recommend an allocation as high as 20%.
Gold is protection, insurance against inflation, currency debasement, and global uncertainty. Here are four ways you can invest.
Buy physical gold at various prices: coins, bars and jewelry. Some of the most popular gold coins are American Buffalo, American Eagle and St. Gauden's. You can store gold in bank safety deposit boxes or in your home. You can also buy and sell gold at your local jewelers. Other companies like Kitco.com allow you to store gold with them as well as trade the metal.
When you buy gold coins or bullion, avoid big premiums. You want to buy gold as close to the spot price as possible, or a 10% premium at most. The higher the premium, the higher the gold price will have to rise in order for you to profit.
Coins typically come from the national mint, where they are made and sold at a 4% mark up -- the retailer's margin is 1% to 3%.
To calculate the premium of a gold product, subtract the spot price from the price you are being quoted, divide that number by the spot price and multiply by 100.
Had you purchased a one ounce gold bar at Kitco.com for $1,225.90 -- using a spot price of $1,200 -- the bar has a 2.1% mark-up. This means that the gold price only has to rise 2.1% from spot price levels for you to break even on your investment.
Premiums, though, can mount as high as 75% or more based on the gold item.
To avoid getting ripped off you must establish why you want to buy gold bullion. If you want to own gold as a long term investment, then buy gold as close to the spot price as possible.
If you want to own gold to use as money, if you are a "survivalist" you want to buy a tank of gas with gold as Jon Nadler, senior analyst at Kitco.com says, then you need smaller gold coins like one tenth an ounce and will have to pay the premium.
Nadler's take is that an individual investor shouldn't spend more than a 10% mark up when buying gold, but acknowledges that "everyone has their own threshold."
Where investors also tend to go astray is by buying semi-numismatic or numismatic coins, otherwise known as rare coins, which come with huge premiums that seldom recoup their value.
A good rule of thumb is to leave rare coin buying to rare coin dealers. Nadler advises that consumers interested in rare coins go professional auctioneers like Bowers & Merena or Christie's who have experts on staff and can objectively grade the coins the same way an antique dealer would appraise goods.
If a broker tries to sell you a story with the coin like it's from the "old world and there are only a few thousand in existence" experts advise to go elsewhere.
"Don't confuse investing in gold with the things being sold as gold investments," cautions Nadler. "You want something that tracks the price of gold as close to dollar to dollar as possible."
Estrategia Investimentos S.A.