Why Physical Gold Is a Safer Investment Than Paper Gold like ETFs and Stocks

gold bars and coins

Gold has been a symbol of wealth and a store of value for centuries. In today’s financial markets, there are various ways to invest in gold, but two primary options stand out: physical gold and paper gold, such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and gold stocks. While both offer exposure to the precious metal, there is an ongoing debate about which is the safer investment.

Chuck Farris, CFO of Gold is Money investments says, “Physical gold is superior to paper gold investments because it is a bearer asset, meaning if you possess it, you possess it’s value.  Stocks and ETFs, or paper gold, are just someone else’s liability.  They are completely different asset classes.”

In this article, we will explore why physical gold is often considered a safer investment than paper gold like ETFs and stocks.

  1. Tangibility and Ownership

One of the most compelling arguments in favor of physical gold is its tangibility. When you own physical gold, you possess a tangible asset that you can see, touch, and store securely. Whether it’s in the form of coins, bars, or jewelry, physical gold provides a sense of ownership that paper gold investments simply cannot replicate.

In contrast, when you invest in paper gold through ETFs or stocks, you hold a financial instrument that represents a claim on gold rather than the actual metal itself. These investments are backed by the gold held by a custodian or issuer, which may not be as transparent or trustworthy as it seems. Owning physical gold eliminates the risk of a third party not delivering on its promise.

  1. Counterparty Risk

Counterparty risk refers to the risk that one party in a financial transaction will fail to meet their obligations. When you invest in paper gold, you are exposed to counterparty risk because you rely on the issuer or custodian to hold and manage the underlying physical gold. In the event of a financial crisis or the insolvency of the issuer, your paper gold investment could be at risk.

Physical gold, on the other hand, has no counterparty risk. You are the sole owner of the asset, and its value is not dependent on the financial stability or trustworthiness of any third party. This lack of counterparty risk makes physical gold a safer choice for investors concerned about the reliability of financial institutions.

  1. Liquidity

You may be asking yourself, when it comes to retirement is it worth buying bullion?  The answer is yes.  Physical gold is highly liquid and can be easily bought or sold in various forms, such as coins or bars. Many reputable dealers and institutions trade in physical gold, making it accessible to investors around the world. In times of economic uncertainty or currency devaluation, physical gold often becomes even more liquid as demand for safe-haven assets rises.

While paper gold investments like ETFs and stocks can also be relatively liquid, they may not offer the same level of convenience as physical gold. Selling paper gold often involves trading on stock exchanges, which can have specific trading hours and may be subject to market fluctuations. In contrast, physical gold can be sold directly to dealers or private buyers at any time.

  1. Price Transparency

Physical gold prices are generally transparent and closely linked to the global spot price of gold. This transparency allows investors to track the real-time value of their physical gold holdings easily. When you own physical gold, you can monitor its price and make informed decisions based on market conditions.

Paper gold investments, such as ETFs and gold stocks, may not always reflect the true market price of gold. ETF prices, for example, can deviate from the underlying asset’s value due to factors like tracking errors, management fees, and supply and demand dynamics within the ETF market. This lack of price transparency can lead to discrepancies between the price of paper gold and the actual price of physical gold.

  1. Storage Costs and Fees

Investors who choose to hold precious metals in an IRA will and also want to own physical gold must consider storage costs and fees for safekeeping. However, these costs are typically predictable and manageable. You have control over how and where you store your physical gold, which allows you to minimize expenses.

In contrast, paper gold investments may involve management fees, brokerage commissions, and other hidden costs that can erode your returns over time. For example, ETFs charge expense ratios that can eat into your investment’s performance. While these fees may seem small, they can add up over the long term and reduce the overall returns on your investment.

  1. Diversification

Diversifying your investment portfolio is a crucial strategy to manage risk. Many investors turn to gold as a diversification tool to reduce the overall volatility of their portfolios. Physical gold provides a unique form of diversification because it is not directly correlated with traditional assets like stocks and bonds.

When you invest in paper gold through ETFs or stocks, you may not achieve the same level of diversification as with physical gold. These paper assets can be influenced by broader market trends and may not always move independently from other investments in your portfolio. Owning physical gold allows you to maintain a more diversified and resilient investment strategy.

  1. Long-Term Security

Gold has a long history of preserving wealth over the centuries. It has withstood financial crises, economic downturns, and currency devaluations, making it a reliable store of value. Physical gold, in particular, offers long-term security as it is immune to the risks associated with financial intermediaries and market volatility.

Paper gold investments like ETFs and stocks can be subject to short-term fluctuations, market sentiment, and regulatory changes. While they may offer opportunities for speculative trading, they may not provide the same level of long-term security as physical gold.

  1. Privacy

Another advantage of physical gold is the privacy it offers to investors. When you own physical gold, there is no electronic record of your holdings, and you can maintain a high level of confidentiality about your wealth. This privacy can be important to individuals who value discretion in their financial affairs.

Investing in paper gold through ETFs or stocks typically involves creating a digital trail of your transactions, which may be subject to regulatory oversight or disclosure requirements. If privacy is a concern for you, physical gold may be a more attractive option.

  1. Protection Against Systemic Risks

Physical gold is often seen as a hedge against systemic risks in the financial system. In times of economic instability, currency devaluation, or geopolitical tensions, physical gold tends to retain its value and even appreciate. This protective quality makes physical gold a valuable asset for preserving wealth during uncertain times.

Paper gold investments, on the other hand, are not immune to systemic risks. They are interconnected with the broader financial markets and can be affected by market crashes, banking crises, and regulatory changes. Owning physical gold from the Burkina Faso gold mine can provide a layer of protection against such risks that paper gold may not offer.


While paper gold investments like ETFs and stocks can be convenient and offer exposure to the price of gold, they come with certain risks and disadvantages that make physical gold a safer investment option for many investors. Physical gold provides tangible ownership, eliminates counterparty risk, offers transparency, and can be easily liquidated. It also allows for greater control over storage costs and fees, provides effective diversification, and offers long-term security and privacy. Moreover, physical gold can serve as a valuable hedge against systemic risks and economic uncertainties.

Ultimately, the choice between physical gold and paper gold depends on your investment goals, risk tolerance, and preferences. However, for those seeking a reliable and safer store of value, physical gold remains an enduring and time-tested choice in an ever-changing financial landscape.