Investment is a scary topic in a precarious economic climate, which certainly describes a large portion of the world in the years following the financial crises of 2007 and 2008. If you’re a fledgling investor who can’t afford to lose everything to a fluctuating market, and are willing to forgo some immediate returns to achieve that, then the answer may be in precious metals.

Why buy gold and other precious metals?

A lot of finance experts will tell you to buy gold for your portfolio, but many don’t explain why. The truth is that there are always people looking to buy and sell gold, so it and other precious metals always have value. As history proves — 1920s Germany, anyone? — that’s not always the case for currency. If the dollar lost all value today, you could still sell gold in exchange for a currency that’s still strong.

Know what you’re buying

There are a few ways to buy precious metals, which include buying the actual, physical metal and buying precious metal stocks. In physical gold, you have the option of bullion, scrap gold, or little collectible bars or unofficial coins. Collectible metals usually cost quite a bit more, but can be bought in smaller amounts and have a decorative appearance, which appeals to a lot of buyers. Bullion is cheaper by weight, but usually requires a far more substantial investment. Scrap gold varies widely in price, but also in purity. If you know how to decipher jewelers’ marks and are willing to deal with a little extra work, this could be a way to accrue value relatively quickly. Scrap dealers also provide an easy way to sell gold or other precious metals if you need to convert your metal to cash quickly.

Finally, metal stocks function exactly like other stocks – you pay someone to buy and store the metals for you. “Stock” is a catch-all term here; the precious metal market includes futures, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), bonds and even mining stocks. There are usually broker fees attached, and you have to be really careful and make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting. Often, these stocks don’t translate to an actual weight of gold or other precious metal.

Fit metals into an overall investment plan

As with any investment, precious metals aren’t meant to be the only thing in your portfolio. In fact, they’re not even intended to make any money – they do in a failing economy, but the real goal is to simply protect value. Putting assets into cash-based investments, such as traditional securities, is a way to get fast returns in the form of interest or dividends. The assets in precious metals, however, are intended as a true “buy and hold”; they’re your insurance against a true currency crash that could see your other investments go to zero.

Discuss your investment goals with a financial professional before diving in. Every situation is different, and these professionals can help you formulate an investment plan that works for your individual needs.

For more information, check out companies such as Rocky Mountain Coin Inc.