I'll Take the Gold

On Wednesday, Rick Aristotle Munarriz posed a question: Google or Gold? He asked which one would be a better investment for the next 10 years. Rick took Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) . I'll take the gold.

"Oh, you're so old-fashioned," you might say, and you would be correct. But there's more to the story than me being a simple-minded Luddite. Gold has appeal for a wide variety of reasons.

First and foremost, gold keeps its value over time. One of the reasons we invest is to prevent inflation from devaluing our money, and gold serves that purpose well. A thousand ounces of gold would have purchased a house in California in 1970. It will purchase a similar house today. And I'll bet that same thousand ounces will buy a house in 10 years.

Furthermore, gold as an inflation hedge is more important now than at any other time in the past 20 years. The dollar has lost 30% of its value compared with the other major foreign currencies during the past three years. Because gold, oil, and other commodities are traded in dollars, a less-valuable dollar has been responsible for a large amount of recent commodity price increases. Rising prices may not be showing up yet in the consumer price index, but I wouldn't bet on low inflation for the next decade.

Second, gold is not subject to accounting or management errors. There are no quarterly reports, no stock options, no executive salaries, and no accountants. Gold is just a valuable rock that sits there and keeps its value. Google's success, on the other hand, will require a management team that stays clean as a whistle and continues to perform to perfection to justify an exaggerated multiple.

In technology, only a few great companies survive and grow for 10 years. Google will likely be one of them, but how much of that success is already in the price? I suspect that in 2015, Google will sport a P/E ratio around 20, much like Motley Fool Inside Value pick Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) do today. That means that even if Google increases its earnings per share by fourfold in the next 10 years, its stock price will remain near where it is today.

Finally, gold has no competition. Silver, platinum, and diamonds are all precious, but none is considered a replacement for gold. Nor is there a large cache of gold sitting out there, waiting to dilute the value of the existing gold. Compare that with Google, which will spend the next 10 years fighting battles with Microsoft, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , Motley FoolStock Advisor pick eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) , and a host of other companies -- some of which do not yet even exist.

Just in case you were going to start digging holes in my back yard to find where I've buried my treasure, don't bother. Investors looking to gain direct exposure to gold without the hassle of owning can buy it through two ETFs: iSharesCOMEX Gold (AMEX: IAU  ) or StreettracksGold (NYSE: GLD  ) .

Finally, investing is not like the World Series of Poker, and I wouldn't go "all in" on gold any more than I would on Google. It can, however, be a small part of a diversified portfolio -- a part that helps this Luddite sleep well.

For more glittering Foolishness:

Dell and eBay are Stock Advisor picks. For a 30-day free trial, click here.

Robert Aronen owns shares of Microsoft and iShares COMEX Gold. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy. Please feel free to share your comments with him at robertaronen@yahoo.com.


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