How to invest in gold, including in your RRSP

Closeup silver ingots and golden bullions in bank vault. Finance 3d illustrationAt TSI Network, we recommend that if you are looking at investing in gold that you stay away from buying gold bullion, coins (unless you collect them as a hobby) or certificates representing an interest in bullion.

That’s because gold investing in bullion does not generate income. Instead, bullion and coins come with a continuing cash drain for management, insurance, storage and so on.

Instead, that’s why we recommend that you limit your gold investing to gold-mining stocks. Unlike bullion, gold-mining stocks at least have the potential to generate income.

However, if you do want to hold physical gold or silver in an RRSP, here’s how to do it:

More than a decade ago, the 2005 Canadian federal budget made investment-grade gold and silver coins, as well as gold or silver bullion bars, eligible to be held in an RRSP.

To be considered investment grade, gold coins must be at least 99.5% pure, and silver coins must be at least 99.9% pure. As well, only legal-tender coins produced by the Royal Canadian Mint are RRSP-eligible.

Bullion bars are also eligible for RRSP gold investing, as long as they are produced by a metal refinery that is accredited by the London Bullion Market Association. Accredited metal refineries include the Royal Canadian Mint and Johnson Matthey.

However, to hold the coins or bullion bars in your RRSP you need to find a third-party custodian of your coins or bars who will verify that you indeed hold the amount of bullion claimed, and report that to the Canada Revenue Agency on your behalf.

Investing in gold: a practical way to hold gold bars and coins in your RRSP

Questrade, a Canadian online discount broker, introduced its “Gold RSP” in January 2006. A decade later, in late 2016, this investment still meets all of the Canada Revenue Agency’s specifications, and makes it practical to hold coins or bullion bars in your RRSP.

To access the Questrade Gold RSP, you have to open a Questrade account. You can open an account with as little as $1,000. Gold purchases or sales cost $19.95 each. Kitco Metals buys the gold from the Royal Canadian Mint, and the gold is stored at the Mint, as the Canada Revenue Agency requires. Bid and ask prices are quoted on the Questrade web site, so you can buy and sell gold bars or coins if you want to bet on gold price fluctuations.

Questrade, on behalf of the Royal Canadian Mint, charges storage fees of $0.10 per ounce of gold per month. There is no minimum number of ounces you need to hold, and no minimum storage charge. So, for example, you could buy just one ounce of gold at the current market price of around $1,320 U.S. (plus the $19.95 commission) and pay only $0.10 a month, or $1.20 a year, in storage fees.

Mistakes you should avoid when investing in gold

The first of the gold investing mistakes you should avoid is gold futures or options. Rising gold prices can make trading gold futures and options look more attractive. However, you can only profit in future-linked deals by out-guessing other futures or options traders by a wide enough margin to cover commissions and other trading costs. When you dabble in commodity futures or options, you are betting against professionals who make a full-time occupation of studying these markets, who have better access to information than you do, and pay much lower commissions.

Most futures or options traders start out with a planned limit on how much they are willing to lose before they quit. In six months or so, most lose that amount, and quit trading. What’s more, because futures or options traders tend to trade often, a surprisingly large number find that the total brokerage commissions they pay during their trading career is close to the total losses on their commodity investments.

Stick with shares of gold-mining firms when investing in gold

We feel that investing on the basis of price changes for gold in the form of bullion, instead of in shares of gold companies, is more of a gamble than an investment. These activities don’t earn income, but instead consume funds for storage fees, insurance and so on.

As we mentioned above, a better way to profit from rising gold is by investing in the stocks of gold-mining companies. That way, you benefit from increases in the price of gold, and you give yourself the potential for capital gains and income. You also save on the higher brokerage fees and commissions associated with other types of commodity investments.

Even so, because of their volatile nature, we continue to recommend that gold stocks only make up a limited portion of your portfolio’s resources segment.

Have you made the jump and started investing gold in your RRSP? Has it been profitable? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments.


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