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Motley Fool Answers' August Mailbag: Is Silver a Good Investment for Your Golden Years?

By Motley Fool Staff – Sep 6, 2018 at 10:16AM

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A listener is looking for a better asset than some weakly performing mutual funds.

Summer is just about over, but we expect most Motley Fool Answers listeners didn't "sell in May and go away" -- you've been keeping up with matters of finance and investing all along...right?

However, if you happened to take a break from thinking about your money during beach season, you might have missed a few of Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp's monthly mailbag shows. In which case, you wouldn't have noticed that Ross Anderson -- certified financial planner from Motley Fool Wealth Management, a sister company of The Motley Fool, and a regular on the mailbag podcasts this spring -- took a break from his guest hosting duties as well, so that other Fools could get their time in the sun. Now, he's back to help the podcasting duo address another batch of listener queries.

In this segment, they talk about precious metals as an asset class, and why they don't fit a Foolish investment philosophy.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Aug. 28, 2018.

Alison Southwick: The first question is from Linda. "I have a friend who is 61 years old and not where he'd like to be regarding his retirement. He has limited funds and isn't sure how best to invest them. He has a mutual fund, but the fees nearly outpace his earnings. He's considering buying silver but is wondering if it's as good an investment as he's been told. Do you have advice as to what his best plan of action might be?"

Robert Brokamp: Linda, the first thing I would say to your friend is that here at The Motley Fool, when it comes to investing, we tend to recommend what Warren Buffett calls "productive assets." Things that produce cash flow, produce goods and services, and have a flow of income and earnings that generally increases with inflation. In other words -- businesses. And the reason we like that is because historically, as long as you hold on for a long-enough time frame, you're probably going to make money.

Silver does not meet that criteria. First of all, it's a chunk of metal just like gold. Some people value it and some people don't. But over the long term you may not make money. And if you just look at the history of silver, it hit about $50.00 back in the early 1980s and then fell to $5.00 and stayed there for decades. It got back up in the early 2010s to about $50.00 because, as you may remember, people were really afraid of inflation and that the Fed's moves, after the Great Recession, were going to cause all this deflation. It drove up the price of silver and gold. Where is it now? It's dropped from $50.00 down to $15.00.

Over the long term holding onto silver, gold, or many precious metals just doesn't turn out so well, so I would recommend to your friend to avoid silver or gold. I would instead focus on a low-cost mutual fund. If he has a mutual fund that's not working out well for him he should definitely get out of it. But look for a low-cost mutual fund. An index fund is perfectly fine. If he's very behind in his retirement savings, he probably should consider retiring later. Working until probably 70 if not later. That's the best thing he could probably do for his retirement, but definitely avoid gold and silver.

Ross Anderson is an employee of Motley Fool Wealth Management, a separate, sister company of The Motley Fool, LLC. The information provided is intended to be educational only, and should not be construed as individualized advice. For individualized advice, please consult a financial professional. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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