Surely you have heard that a global apocalypse – or some form of cataclysm or world-changing event - will soon be upon us. Or so say a number of sources ranging from alternative online news sites, to bloggers and The History Channel. The ancient Mayans, in their famous calendar, have set the big event for the 2012 winter solstice in December.
Of course, a lot of folks are capitalizing on the fear mongering. Hollywood has already made hay with its film titled simply 2012. And, in some areas of the world, such as the state of Utah, goods for survivalist types are said to be flying off the shelves. Meanwhile, a real estate developer in the U.S. is converting abandoned underground missile silos into highly secure, multi-million-dollar condos as a hedge for those who’d rather not concern themselves with the sort of menacing, post-apocalyptic bandits found in movies like The Road Warrior.
Curiously, science appears to support some sort of change when the winter solstice arrives. In fact, part of the 2012 mystique has to do with stars other than those found in the mansions of Beverly Hills. Astronomers tell us that come the winter solstice, our sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years. At that moment, whatever energy typically streams to Earth from the core of the galaxy could be disrupted or otherwise altered.
Under the circumstances, what’s a fiscally responsible person to do?
Well, come Friday, December 21, 2012, I can tell you what I likely will be doing. I’ll be racing about behind a cart in a Toronto supermarket collecting the last of my provisions for the Christmas holidays. Probably later that day, I will enjoy the security and peace of mind that come with, say, a nice, big fat mug of rum and cocoa. I will do so in the faith that even if the planet implodes, I will exit this world with a measure of style and grace.
Still, among those who may be worried about their finances in a time of world change, one thing has become a subject for much discussion these days. I’m talking about a precious metal known as gold.
To many, gold as a physical possession - or as a paper investment - offers the highest degree of financial security. This all has to do with the mystique surrounding the substance, which has gripped our species since before recorded history. We have always treated gold as a prized possession, even before it was used in the form of coins dating back to 700 B.C. Before that time, gold took many other highly valued forms, associated as it was with the gods, with immortality, and with prestige.
It’s not surprising that gold should capture the human imagination, and play a role in cultures worldwide. Geologically, it is widely dispersed across the planet, and it boasts qualities that hold universal appeal. Its beauty and luster - not to mention its scarcity, unique density, and resistance to tarnish - are naturally alluring. Truth is, gold was the first metal known to our species, predating the use of iron and copper.
Thanks to the above qualities, and to the ease with which it could be melted and formed, gold became a natural trading medium over time. When measured out, it gave rise to the concept of money. Eventually, along with silver and copper, gold took the form of standardized coins that replaced barter arrangements and made trade between people and cultures much easier. Still later, it became the basis for banking, and eventually it took shape as the standard against which global currencies were valued – at least up to the mid 20th Century.
Today, of course, world currencies no longer base their value on stores of gold, and perhaps on this basis there is good reason for people to have the jitters about what the future holds for our species. Indeed, I would venture to say that today’s economic uncertainties probably pose far more of a threat to the planet than photons streaming toward Earth from the centre of The Milky Way. Some maintain that global debt - and the worn down money presses of reserve banks supporting that debt - could be the real basis for any disaster that awaits us.
Yet the money experts remain divided about just how much value and security gold offers as an investment, and as a hedge against economic disaster.
The brilliant investor, Warren Buffet, does not put a lot of stock in gold as a long-term investment. Others maintain that gold ought to count for at least 10 percent of any personal financial portfolio. Today, it appears Buffet and those who are bullish about gold are both right. Buffet continues to make money, and gold – particularly in recent years – has made substantial gains in the marketplace.
One thing is sure. Gold will always be valued in one form or another - that is, unless civilization as we know it comes entirely to an end. After all, you can’t eat gold or keep warm by it. But to me, all that sort of thinking doesn’t especially matter.
Really, none of us can say for sure day to day what the future will bring. If disaster strikes tomorrow, perhaps it will come in the form of a stray comet, or maybe it will take shape as an unnoticed truck that we see barreling down a street toward us at too late a moment. Whatever the case, that will be our fate, and all the worry in the world is not going to change matters.
Life is better spent thinking about less weighty things, like who we love to be with, and what we love to do, with plans established – particularly financial plans - to enjoy both.
Such advice, dear friends, has got to be as good as gold.