Rethinking Gold Asset Allocations For 2013

Includes: GDX, GLD, SLV
by: Tim Iacono

Currently lower gold prices offer yet another opportunity for investors to adjust their portfolios to add more of the yellow metal in advance of what many feel will be some of the best years ahead for precious metals.

Relative to the first 10 years of the current bull market when the gold price rose an average of 17 percent, 2011 and 2012 have seen just mid-single digit gains. This could mean that the metal will soon bounce back from its recent underperformance with big double-digit gains. This seems all the more likely given that central banks around the world are printing record amounts of money and real interest rates in most developed nations remain parked well below zero.

Of course, for many investors, the word "gold" and the phrase "asset allocation" are mutually exclusive.

To most U.S.-based financial advisers and retail investors, gold remains an oddity of our modern world and, like billionaire investor Warren Buffett, they see little need for it in their investment portfolio. This comes despite what it could have done for them over the last decade as detailed in last week's report: Why an Asset Allocation of 5 Percent for Gold is Too Low.

Two quick comments on this:

1. Their loss.
2. All the more reason to think that the end of the secular gold bull market is nowhere in sight.

Broad participation by the general public is one of the prerequisites for pushing the precious metals bull market into its third and final, highly speculative phase.

While that process may now be underway in countries such as China, it has yet to arrive here in the U.S. and, if you doubt that, just take a sampling of your friends and family.

What you're likely to find is that, while eight or 10 years ago, virtually no one owned precious metals. Today, many people have, say, a five percent asset allocation to gold, silver, or mining stocks.

That's certainly better than nothing and, since this is now almost conventional wisdom amongst financial advisers, no one's going to get fired if gold has a bad year.

As an aside, it's important to remember that career risk is more important to most financial advisers and money managers than investment returns. After writing an investment letter for many years now but having never managed money, I've come to understand this.

Even if an adviser loved the idea of investing in gold, most could not take the chance of recommending a big stake in the metal simply because they can't risk being wrong alone -- that's how you get fired.

If you're a financial adviser and you've had your clients mostly in stocks for the last decade with little to show for it - that's OK. You won't lose your job because that's the same result that most advisers have produced.

So, anyway, if you're thinking of finally raising your gold asset allocation from its current zero percent or five percent, what would be a good level going into 2013?

CNBC's Jim Cramer has recommended 25 percent on multiple occasions in recent years and, just this morning, legendary newsletter writer octogenarian Richard Russell said he thought between 33 percent and 50 percent would be a good idea.

I think 20 percent is a good place to start, and be sure to consider the three basic ways to invest in precious metals -- gold, silver, and mining stocks. These are three very different asset classes, and one has only to look to their performance in 2008 to understand why has gold ended the year with a gain, while silver, mining stocks, and nearly every other asset class saw heavy losses.

A more adventurous investor might want to consider an asset allocation of 50 percent or higher, weighted more to gold and less to silver and mining stocks. Compared to stocks and bonds, this approach produced stellar results over the last decade or so (again, see this item from last week) and it's likely to do so again.

In these unprecedented times, with open-ended money printing and interest rates that could stay low for many years to come, an asset allocation that, to someone like Warren Buffett would seem quite unorthodox (if not crazy), might be just the cure for what ails many investors who have abided by conventional wisdom for so many years.

A simple way to do this is to call up the local coin shop and then pay them a visit with cash in hand, or simply buy one of the popular ETFs, such as the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (NYSEARCA:GLD), the iShares Silver Trust (NYSEARCA:SLV), or the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDX).

Disclosure: I am long GLD, SLV, GDX. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: I also own gold and silver coins and bars.