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The Price Of Gold Is At A 6-Year High. But Is It Actually A Good Investment?


The price of gold is at its highest in more than six years. Gold bugs - that is, die-hard gold investors - swear by the commodity as a sure bet. But are they right? Stacey Vanek Smith and Darius Rafieyan of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money report from New York.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, BYLINE: The world's largest gold coin rolled through town all the way from Australia.

DARIUS RAFIEYAN, BYLINE: And it was put on display, like, on a literal pedestal in a little roped-off section in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

VANEK SMITH: This event was basically a gimmick, a big advertisement. It was there to promote investing in gold.

RAFIEYAN: Gold is having quite a moment right now - no question. The price of gold is at a six-year high, and investors from all over the world are jumping into gold.

VANEK SMITH: But why is the price so high right now? And is gold actually a good investment?

RAFIEYAN: The gold coin gimmick was admittedly pretty effective. A little crowd had gathered. They were taking selfies with the coin.

VANEK SMITH: But, you know, there was this one guy in the crowd who kind of stood out.

What does it - what do you feel when you look at it?

KAROL DIBYEC: Honestly, what I feel - I feel I want to steal it.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

RAFIEYAN: Well, this very honest man is Karol Dibyec. He designs and installs kitchens. He lives in New Jersey. And Karol loves gold.

VANEK SMITH: Are you a gold bug?

DIBYEC: Yeah, I am (laughter).


DIBYEC: (Laughter) Yeah.

VANEK SMITH: Gold bugs - so these are people who invest in gold, but these are not like the same people who invest in stocks and bonds.

RAFIEYAN: No, gold people are passionate about gold. They want to talk about it. They believe in it. For a lot of hardcore gold investors, gold is almost like a religion.

VANEK SMITH: Gold bugs believe that gold has this inherent value, that it is valuable everywhere. So if your country's economy goes bust and your currency is suddenly worthless, you're fine if your money is invested in gold.

RAFIEYAN: And this is why during times when people feel uncertain about the future or worried that the economy might go south, a lot of people start gravitating to gold.

VANEK SMITH: So is gold a good investment?


VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

RAFIEYAN: Josh Brown is the CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and he says that the real appeal of gold is more nostalgic than rational. He says gold did have this golden moment back in the '70s and '80s when the economy and inflation were spinning out of control, and gold was this stable safe haven from all the chaos.

VANEK SMITH: Josh says ever since then, gold has had this reputation for being safe and secure, a place you can put your wealth when the economy is looking shaky.

RAFIEYAN: But Josh says when you actually look at the numbers, the data, this doesn't really track.

BROWN: Gold is below the level it traded at in the early 1980s - almost 44 years ago - on an inflation-adjusted basis. Everything outperformed it. I mean, stocks versus gold over the last four decades - it's embarrassing. It's not even worth discussing.

RAFIEYAN: And this moment right now could be gold's last real hurrah. Josh's gold is getting a little outdated. A lot of younger investors who want an independent, government-free store of wealth now tend to gravitate not to gold but to cryptocurrency, like bitcoin.

VANEK SMITH: And Josh says you hear a lot of the same arguments and that same kind of extreme zeal that you used to hear from gold bugs now from crypto investors.

RAFIEYAN: Cryptocurrency - it's still a relatively small market. But Josh says he thinks more and more, it will play the role for a certain stripe of investor that gold once did.

Darius Rafieyan.

VANEK SMITH: Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.
Darius Rafieyan joined NPR in 2017 as the founding producer of The Indicator from Planet Money. He has produced stories about infectious disease outbreaks, the world's greatest air salesman, and the economics of Tinder.