Inflation Hedges: Gold & REITs

02/28/2017 7:00 am EST


Benjamin Shepherd

Analyst, Breakthrough Tech Profits, Global Income Edge and Personal Finance

With inflation consistently hitting new highs, now's the time to buy some insurance. Below, we explore the right inflation hedges, explains Benjamin Shepherd, editor of Investing Daily's Income without Borders.

Inflationary fires have been rekindled, but investors generally aren't paying attention. For the past several years, there's been a greater risk of prices falling than rising, breeding complacency on Wall Street.

However, you ignore inflation at your peril. The U.S. Consumer Prices Index (CPI) posted its biggest increase in nearly four years in January.

The latest numbers hardly depict runaway inflation, but the CPI's upward momentum is significant enough to warrant proactive steps to protect your portfolio.

Gold is the traditional haven in times of rising prices. The most convenient and cost-effective way to gain exposure to gold is through exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that hold physical bullion.

SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is the most popular gold-backed ETF. While it's a fine fund, it's not my favorite because of its 0.40% annual expense ratio. I prefer the iShares Gold Trust (IAU) because its expenses run just 0.25%.

Most investors gravitate to GLD because it's the largest, but you're better off with IAU's lower expense ratio. Every basis point counts when you're holding a fund over the long haul.

My favorite inflation hedge by far is real estate. Gold prices appreciate as inflation rises, but that's really about all the yellow metal does for you.

One the other hand, real estate investment trusts (REITs) not only rise with inflation, they also pay you in the meantime.

The key is being selective and sticking to quality REITs. One rock-solid REIT is Realty Income (O), which has paid more than 550 consecutive monthly dividends.

Realty Income now yields just over 4% and has a proven ability to successfully navigate rising interest rates.

Also consider a REIT fund, which gives you one-stop access to a wide swath of the REIT market and, in some cases, even sports higher dividends.

Notably, Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ) is incredibly cheap with an expense ratio of just 0.12%, and it holds more than 150 REITs in its portfolio. VNQ also yields an outsized 4.8%, providing a steady stream of income even as inflation heats up.

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