What are the best investments of the past decade? We wanted to compare annual returns of the major asset classes over the past 10 years and then declare the top performing asset over the entire decade. What better way to illustrate this than the asset class decathlon! Each decathlon event represents returns over each of the previous 10 years.
Best Investments overall
Over the 10 year period, UK gold prices rose more than any of the other major assets classes. Its total cumulative was a whopping 132.91% significantly higher than the runner up – Bonds (62.27%) and third-placed shares with a reasonable 56.14% rise. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every decade will produce the same results, and macro factors will always have an influence on results. As a safe haven investment, gold is generally bought in times of unrest. It’s no surprise then that it was the best investment during the period which witnessed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the downgrading of the US Dollar after the Global credit crunch.
Best asset for consistency
Gold’s overall victory is also reflected in its consistency. Our infographic illustrates the fact that gold was the best performing asset class in four of the ten years, equalled by Shares. The remaining 2 years were won by Bonds’ performance. Gold only experienced a loss during one of the ten years, again the best of all the investment classes.
As expected, cash remained in the middle of the pack throughout the decade when interest rates remained very low. This also reflects that cash represents a low risk/low reward store of wealth. In other words, you may not get huge returns but you won’t suffer losses either.
How can this help us invest
The research demonstrates that over the length of a decade, the various asset classes each have their moment. By sticking to just one or two assets, you risk missing out on some potential significant gains. As any decent IFA will tell you, diversification is the key to protecting your portfolio from large losses, maximizing returns over the long term and providing a more predictable return.
Unless you have a crystal ball, you have to be incredibly lucky to pick each asset class at exactly the right time to buy low and sell high. This risky strategy tends to mix some good years with catastrophic losses. Not the best ingredients for a balanced portfolio.
What does it tell us about gold investment
The infographic and results supports our view of gold investment. Firstly, it plays an essential and unique role in anyone’s overall investment strategy. After all, if you’d invested in a mix of shares, bonds, property and cash, not only would you have missed out on gold’s huge gains, but some years may well have wiped you out.
Of course, analysis of other decades may show a different overall winner of investment returns, with gold performing far less favourably. But, this only goes to demonstrate the need for a balanced investment strategy. Gold plays a unique role because it tends to perform particularly well during times of political and economic turmoil. Crucially, the other asset classes all seem to do their best during stable times. But if an event causes disruption, whether it’s an economic downturn, an act of terrorism, banking crisis, currency devaluation or war, then all these assets fall in value together. Leaving the investor with a major headache. By owning some gold as part of an overall strategy, your wealth is protected from this volatility. Rather than taking risks, owning gold actually reduced the overall risk and volatility of your portfolio.
If you have a large appetite for risk, it’s possible
you’ll be attracted to ‘get rich quick’ offers. Timing has to be perfect with these and you have to get lucky. Generally, you can lose all your money, but in the same respect, you can also double or triple your money in a very short period of time.
Gold should always be viewed as a medium to long term investment. The infographic supports this. While it performed impressively, it did fall significantly in 2013 after offering almost no return in 2012. It may not make you rich overnight, but investing in gold is a prudent investment, which can offer some balance with riskier short term opportunities.
Another important takeaway from this research is that gold beat the rate of inflation on eight of the ten years analysed. The best of any of the major asset classes. This supports the notion of gold investment as a store of wealth. It maintains your purchasing power over time and protects from the erosive qualities of inflation.
The final bonus which makes gold the best investment of the past decade is its possible tax efficiency.
Not only did it rise in value more than any other major investment, but it also did it tax efficiently. Tax free gold coins for example are VAT-exempt and Capital Gains Tax free. Outside of an ISA or Pension, the other investments struggle to be as tax efficient. And who wants to share their gains with the Treasury!?