Insurance Assets In A World Of Rising Uncertainty

bitcoin-and-gold

‘Todo es posible nada es seguro’. These words came from the lips of a fellow local passenger during a hair raising bus trip through the narrow winding mountain roads of the Andes in Peru many years ago. Yet they could be applied today to the current state of the whole world.  When I try, as hard as I can, to envisage the global landscape over the next 10-20 years, I realise there may be a stronger case than ever before for holding insurance assets or Off-The-Grid Assets (OTGAs)©. These are defined as assets that not only act as a safe haven or store of value during a major economic crisis, but are not directly connected to the global financial system. Central banks cannot control their supply or price nor can they create more of them.

There are two principle categories of OTGAs. The first and most obvious category are precious metals. Gold, silver, platinum and palladium would all fit the bill. They are as old as the hills and are finite in quantity. Even though there exists quantities of these metals yet to be mined, their quantity cannot be enlarged as easily or cheaply as that of fiat money.

The second category of OTGAs are premium grade supply-capped cryptocurrencies (PGSCCs)©. This category is limited only to a handful of cryptocurrencies which are both of premium grade and a store of value. By ‘premium grade’ I take into account factors like trust, reputation and adoption. And by ‘store of value’ I mean that a cryptocurrency has a finite and capped supply. Bitcoin is, by far, the principle cryptocurrency and it should represent at least 50% of a cryptocurrency portfolio. It is the oldest cryptocurrency, has a supply cap of just 21 million coins, and its current value represents at least 50% of the entire global cryptocurrency market. Only two other cryptocurrencies make the cut as a PGSCC. They are Litecoin and Z-Cash. Litecoin is one of the oldest cryptocurrencies and has a supply cap of 81 million coins. Z-Cash is a more recent cryptocurrency established in 2016. It is very similar to Bitcoin with the same supply cap yet unlike Bitcoin it has the additional option of being a privacy coin. Monero is a pure privacy coin yet Z-Cash has a better reputation. The second largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum, is not a PGSCC since it does not have a supply cap.

Although there are a lot of unsavoury people and entities operating in the crypto space, one of the few important crypto related organisations is the Gemini exchange founded by the Winklevoss brothers who both have an enormous personal stake in Bitcoin. This is arguably one of the most, if not the most, trusted and safest cryptocurrency exchange currently in existence. Gemini also offers the option of insuring any cryptocurrency holdings on their exchange. Unlike other cryptocurrency exchanges, only a very selective number of cryptocurrencies can be traded on their exchange but these include all three PGSCCs; Bitcoin, Litecoin and Z-Cash.

Precious metals in bullion form can be stored and insured securely in the vaults of reputable dealers such as Sharps Pixley. This works very well if you have large quantities of gold which is currently trading at over $1400 per troy ounce. However for cheaper precious metals like silver, storage and insurance becomes more costly. Precious metals only count as OTGAs in physical coin and bullion form. Precious metal ETFs or shares in gold and silver miners are not OTGAs. In the case of PGSCCs, they become true OTGAs when they are kept in cold storage on a hard drive in a secure location and not all on a cryptocurrency exchange where they are then vulnerable to hacking attacks.

Land and edible commodities like crops are not OTGAs for the following reasons. Land is highly illiquid and carries the added risk of expropriation if a tyrannical government ever came to power in its jurisdiction. Edible crops, on the other hand, are much more liquid yet they are perishable. Even tinned foods with a longer shelf life do eventually perish. Precious metals and PGSCCs are immune from these limitations.

Precious metals and PGSCCs each have their own unique advantages. The most obvious ones for PGSCCs are the negation of physical storage costs and cross-border transportation hurdles, and of course their finite supply caps. Since PGSCCs are digital assets, unlike precious metals, one doesn’t have to worry about physical storage or transporting them between borders. They can be stored in digital wallets either on a cryptocurrency exchange platform or in cold storage on a hard drive. Even though precious metals are rare, their supply is not fixed and who knows how big potential deposits of gold and silver are not just on this planet but on other asteroids and planets throughout the solar system. It is entirely possible that at some point in the future asteroid mining could dramatically increase the current supply of these metals. Yet whether this occurs in my life time is debatable.

The advantages precious metals have over PGSCCs are their tangibility and lack of need to be powered by electricity and by extension the internet. What’s more, precious metals have been around for thousands of years whereas Bitcoin has only been around for ten years and it still remains to be seen whether Bitcoin will endure as a store of value in spite of its unique advantages and current position as the dominant and leading cryptocurrency.

Yet we are currently living in a world of ballooning public and private debt and high equity valuations fuelled by low interest rates and quantitative easing. At the same time levels of inequality have risen along with a palpable sense of discontent across the world bringing with it an emergence of populism and radical parties and politicians. The final paragraph from a recent short article entitled How I Learned To Love Gold by Alasdair McKinnon, who manages an investment trust in the UK called The Scottish Investment Trust, is very succinct and prescient in describing this current environment and its future consequences…

Today, we are more than 10 years into a monetary experiment that ‘saved the system’ but is losing popular consent. Cheap money has driven asset prices but has increased wealth inequality, especially between generations. Demographics dictate that, in the not too distant future, those without assets are likely to be running the institutions and making the rules. In the interim, a new breed of politician is prepared to rip-up the economic rule book in their quest for power. This shift won’t necessarily prove a bad thing but, regardless, it seems a favourable environment for gold.

Such a situation is likely to manifest in the future and would create a very favourable environment not just for gold but for all types of OTGAs as more people lose trust in owning devalued fiat currencies and worthless government bonds.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

 

 

Reading/Sources

How I Learned To Love Gold

 

 

Image: http://www.birchgold.com

Is Now A Good Time To Buy Gold?

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This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot these last few months. Looking at all the current global events including the upcoming US elections and the sense that the world is becoming increasingly unhinged, could gold (and by extension other precious metals such as silver) be a good place to put some of your savings/hard earned cash into?

Gold has traditionally been the place to put your money into during times of global unrest. Out of all the world currencies, the US dollar is often seen as the main currency. If you live in a country where the local currency is notoriously unstable, it is often seen as a smart idea to have any cash savings in US dollars. Especially since, unlike other major currencies such as the Euro or British Pound, the US dollar is accepted absolutely everywhere. Yet what happens when even the US dollar becomes unstable? This is where gold comes in.

All paper currencies, whether you have US dollars or Zambian Kwacha, are all just that; paper currencies. Furthermore, if the government wanted to, it could print more and more of its currency thus increasing the money supply and triggering inflation which reduces the value of a country’s currency against other currencies. Unlike paper money, gold is highly prized for its scarcity.

Gold can be seen more as a security to protect your money as opposed to making money. Of course if you buy gold at $1,300 an ounce and the price a few months later is $1,600, you would have made a nice profit if you ever decided to convert some of your gold back into cash (and conversely, if the gold price went down to $1000 and you needed cash you would be selling your gold at a loss).

There are also of course digital currencies out there with Bitcoin being the the most well known, established and traded of all the global digital currencies. Even if digital currencies may be seen as the future of money especially with the Bitcoin (which was once the pariah of the financial world) becoming increasingly accepted and recognised as a legitimate global currency, this is a world where my expertise is limited. I am also scared by the high chance of wild fluctuations and the whole intangibility of it all. Gold just seems less complicated. It is a precious tangible metal with a limited supply and that is all I need to know.

Looking at the gold price chart of the last twenty years, gold has already had a hell of a run going from a low of just $252 an ounce in 1999 to a high of $1889 an ounce in 2011. The current gold price as I write this article is $1307 an ounce; still several multiples of its 1999 low yet a good chunk lower than its 2011 high. Some say that the gold price could surpass its 2011 high and breach the $2000 an ounce mark if the world really did begin to tilt off its axis and spin in some crazy time signature. Yet predicting the future price of gold is a fool’s game. What I can say with ‘certainty’ though is that during times of ‘uncertainty’, gold is a good thing to have.

 

How To Purchase Gold

Gold can be purchased physically in the forms of established gold coins and gold bars. It can be good to personally own some bits of physical gold and keep them in a safety box (or dig a deep hole somewhere in your garden to hide and store them – just make sure you don’t forget where you put them!). On the other hand having lots of physical gold in the house can create a feeling of insecurity. If you are lucky enough to have a big gold pile, it would be best to keep it in a robust security vault by an established and reputable firm. Below I am listing some useful contacts…

Apmex based in Oklahoma, USA, is the world’s largest online retailer of precious metals selling more than 10,000 gold, silver, platinum and palladium products in the form of bars, coins, bullion, rare collectible editions etc.

BullionByPost based in Birmingham, UK is the UKs largest online gold dealer and a good contact to have if you are a UK resident.

For Australian residents, The Perth Mint is a good contact.

Other established global gold/precious metals dealers include the Canadian company Kitco and the Indian company RiddiSiddhi Bullion Limited.

The London based company BullionVault is an online peer to peer gold and silver bullion exchange. Since its founding in 2005, the company has been very successful. This is also a great place to trade gold and silver if you don’t have much money at your disposal since there is no minimum amount of gold or silver you can trade. BullionVault charges a flat 0.5% – 0.05% fee per trade depending on the amount of gold or silver you buy or sell. The other additional costs are the annual fees for storing and insuring the gold and silver you purchase which are 0.12% (0.01% per month – $4 minimum) of the value of your gold and 0.48% (0.04% per month – $8 minimum) of the value of your silver

 

By Nicholas Peart

5th November 2016

(All rights reserved)

 

image source: http://www.therealasset.co.uk