Ask Stacy: Is All That Glitters Golden?

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This week we have some questions about whether to invest in gold, grills or dishwashers.

Stacy Johnson answers readers’ questions every Friday. Have a question? Ask Stacy.

Q. My husband has gold fever. Ever since gold hit two new highs in the past week, he wants to take a big chunk of our retirement savings – we’re in our mid-50s – and buy gold. He says our retirement investments (mostly some IRAs we opened about 10 years ago) aren’t doing well and gold is looking really good. I’m extremely uneasy about this, but I don’t know exactly why. Is this a good idea or not? It’s putting a strain on our marriage. – Beth in California

A. Your husband has obviously never heard of the well-worn expression, “Buy low, sell high.” If gold is at its all-time highest levels, does it really make sense to jump in with both feet? Especially when your retirement nest egg is on the line? That said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to add gold to your portfolio. I explain it all – in print and in video – at Should You Join the Gold Rush? And while we’re on the topic of retirement investing, two more ideas to consider…

1. Have you looked at tweaking your IRAs first? That’s a lot less sexy than getting gold fever, but it’s healthier in the long run. Check our Find an IRA tool to see if you can beat the interest rates you’re now earning. Also check out my story called Learn to Invest Your Retirement Plan in Less Than a Minute.

2. Create a specific retirement goal. It doesn’t make sense to embark on risky investments if you don’t have to. Read Half of Baby Boomers May Not Have Enough For Retirement and choose any of the “retirement calculators” at the bottom, just so you can see where you stand before making a big move.

I’ve always found it ironic that some of the same people who clip coupons and agonize over which brand of pasta is cheaper in the grocery store spend almost no time thinking about ideas to earn more on their savings – retirement or otherwise. Spending a few hours learning to manage your savings now could pay huge dividends when the time comes to enjoy those savings in your retirement years!

Q. I got  tax-filing extension this year, so my wife and I just got our rebate check. It’s $475, and we’re having a good-natured but serious debate: I want to buy a grill and she wants to buy a new dishwasher. We’re trying to settle this the responsible way – by trying to figure out which will save us more money. I argue that if I grill more meals, we’ll save more than the new dishwasher, which will be much more energy-efficient than the 12-year-old one it’ll replace. We don’t know how to make this comparison, so we’ve agreed to follow your advice. – Mark in New Hampshire

No way I’m getting in the middle of this battle of the sexes! But I can give you both some ammunition: 9 Tips to Save on Appliance Purchases for your wife, and 7 Tips to Finding the Grill of Your Dreams. Tell me what you end up buying – I’m very curious what you decide. As to which will save more money over the long term? That’s easy – the one that gets used the most.

Stacy Johnson

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