Great Stories About Gold

One of the favourite questions folks have for me, is whether you should buy Gold (Au) to hedge against disasters? I think Gold looks nice on my wife’s finger, and in medals, but I have never been a big believer in Gold for building wealth, but here are some fun stories about Gold.

What with all the rage about Gold (Au) and it being a great safe haven for your money let’s run through some of my most favorite stories or tales (or movies) that have Gold as its thematic premise and maybe try to figure out what lesson we should learn from the story:

  1. The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde : this one is a little less known but a story of a selfless gold covered statue that gives until it has no more and is repaid by being torn down for being ugly. The lesson to be learned here is that wealth is fleeting, especially if you give it away, so keep your Gold Leaf and everyone will love you.
  2. King Midas: The Golden Touch in Greek Mythology: given the power to turn whatever he touches into Gold, Midas learns that sometimes you should be very careful what you wish for (or possibly no good deed goes unpunished).
  3. The Goose that Laid the Gold Eggs from Aesop’s Fable: A farmer who has it made, gets greedy and instead of being patient and enjoying a slow income, kills the source of income wanting money right now. Patience is a virtue rarely seen when Gold is involved.
  4. Rumplestiltskin a fairytale: A nasty magical creature¬†spins gold from straw, and thus the concept of alchemy and the ponzi scheme are born (getting something for nothing, or better still nothing from nothing). I learned from this if someone says they can spin gold from straw, don’t believe them, and if they say they can have sustained growth of 15% a year, they may actually want your first born male child.
  5. Jack and the Beanstalk another fairytale: Jack falls for another Ponzi scheme trading his cows for magic mutual funds, that his mother throws out, which finally turns in a bond ladder that Jack climbs and he tries to steal Gold from a Giant. The message seems to be if you have been screwed out of your money,  it is OK to steal from tall people.
  6. The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare: gotta love a story where you have a money-lender, a pound of flesh and a gold casket. Best line about Gold: “… the world is still deceived with ornament …“. This may be a commentary on the new Gold rush as well. We also learn that no matter how good a contract you think you might have, it may still never pay out.
  7. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien: in this interesting tale, we learn that no matter how many other rings you have, if you don’t have a Gold one, you don’t have any of the power. Here we learned The Golden Rule, he who has the Gold, rules.
  8. Paint Your Wagon a film: lots to be learned here. You can try to make a business out of dropped gold dust in a casino? No but it is set in the California Gold Rush, so lots of Gold here. I think the producers should have learned don’t let Clint Eastwood sing, and also, sometimes you can have too many tunnels.
  9. Goldfinger by Ian Fleming (and a movie): when someone becomes so obsessed with Gold that they concoct insane plans to steal gold by blowing it up, there are some issues here. A useful thing lesson for all SuperVillians Bond always gets the girls, but if you want him to talk fire a gold laser at his private parts.

These stories and others have taught me a great deal about Gold in specific and money in general. Any other tales of Gold out there that I am missing for our Gold Rush Thursday?

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Doomsday and Money

Evidently yesterday many Italians stayed home from work (in Rome), due to the predictions of a seismologist Rafaele Bendani. The best part of this was that this predication was made in 1915,  so that must make it a legitimate reason to shut down a city.

Then there is Family Radio who claims that Judgement Day will be on May 21st, and Christ will return on that day. Now the world won’t end that day (luckily), but God will destroy the earth in October, after the rapture (I assume). There is also the now famous (as portrayed in the movie 2012) Mayan Calendar story where the world will end on December 21st 2012.

Now, I have spoken about the ability of financial soothsayers to predict the future of stocks, and such, but this is taking the Weatherman theory to the extreme. The Weatherman Theory is that eventually, no matter how outlandish your predictions are you will eventually be right (or you won’t be around to see the results, so in your mind, you must have been right), if you make enough predictions.

What is gained by all of this doom and gloom? Notoriety for one thing (just ask Nostradamus, no wait he is dead), just think how famous you might be if you were the one to predict the end of the world? Come to think of it, I think I could live without that lofty title.

Financial Apocalypse?

This same kind of doom and gloom for the Financial Markets continues with various folks saying that the U.S. will be going back to the Gold Standard, or how the Stock Markets will fail and we will go back to a full barter system (i.e. the Financial Apocalypse). Will this happen? It’s all possible, that is the intricacy of life is that it is not entirely predictable and yes horrible catastrophic things can transpire with little or no warning (ask the folks in Japan about that). If you knew exactly what was going to happen every day of your life, would that be very enjoyable?

Will there be a stock market correction/crash/adjustment/implosion, in the next few years? Undoubtedly, will there be a recovery, most likely, yes. Will it rain tomorrow? Yes, somewhere it will rain on Thursday. As usual, I do not stand by those predictions about the stock market, the gold standard or whether I can get out of debt quickly, I will leave the DOOM and GLOOM predictions to various churches, the government and possibly a few weathermen.

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Following the Crowd is Safe?

Safety is Relative

So you think following the crowd is safe, because you are with others?

Ask a lemming if following the crowd is a good idea, better still ask a cow in line at the slaughterhouse, everyone else is going in this direction, it isn’t safe?

As you can tell I have been on a Risk management course and I am now full of pithy comments about risk and such, but seriously, just because everyone else is doing something, you must at least ask yourself if this is the right thing for you (especially when it comes to your money).

As I mentioned many folks who were badly singed in 2008 with stocks are looking for safer places to put their money so they think Putting Money in Bonds is Safe (or at least in Bond Mutual Funds, or Bond Indexes). Yes, normally bonds are safe(r), but there is a perfect storm right now that does not make them as safe as you think.

Everyone in the day thought Nortel was rock solid and safe, one misguided financial media maven Garth Turner was still sending misguided investors back into the killing fields of Nortel even as the stock imploded. I remember people saying, “If Nortel goes down, Canada is going to be in a bad way“, or “The Government won’t let that happen“, well it did, and again, the majority or the herd were wrong again here too.

The experts are saying commodities and Gold are a safe place to hide against wars and all the calamities of today, but I don’t understand these markets enough to feel safe in them, so I am staying out of them. Living in Canada I am effectively already feeling the benefits of commodities and gasoline, with our economy continuing to grow thanks to Oil and Commodities, maybe I should hedge some other ways to take this into consideration?

For a non-financial example look at the proliferation of tattoos in younger folks, is this the right decision? I have no idea, but my “not following the crowd” comment to my kids is, get into Dermatology, because in 20 years all those butterflies are going to be condors, and their owners are going to want to have them removed (oh and all those folks getting multiples piercings are going to want them filled in too).

The Herd is Right Sometimes

Most of the time, most of the people make mostly correct decisions, but that does not mean there should be a blind following on your part, especially when your money is involved. You must ask questions about why your money should be where it is, why it should go where folks think it should go, and don’t follow simply because everyone else is doing it.

Remember what your mother used to say, “If everyone jumped off the bridge would you follow them?”, kind of like what I did with Nortel.

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