DRIGGS, IDAHO – Greetings from our Idaho winter bolthole… It’s time for our Friday mailbag edition, where I answer the latest questions you’ve sent in.

This week, a reader chimes in about my latest contrarian investment idea: hoarding pre-1983 pennies to profit from the electric revolution

Others offer advice about keeping the family close as the kids grow up, something I mused on a couple of weeks ago

And finally, we talk gold… real estate… and why retirement planning isn’t as important as financial advisors would have you believe. Let’s dive in…

Reader comment: I think you meant pre-1982 pennies. Only 1981 and earlier were mostly copper. The better deal might be nickels, as they are mostly copper and are still in circulation.

Some 1982 pennies were still made of 95% copper… but starting in 1983, all of them were made of 97.5% zinc.

Nickels are 75% copper and 25% nickel. At current spot prices, they have a melt value of 5.3 cents per coin.

Copper and nickel will both be essential metals in the electrification of the world… Copper for conductivity and nickel for batteries. So hoarding nickels might not be such a bad idea, either.

And so much easier to collect than pre-1983 pennies…

Reader comment: I think pressuring and expecting your kids to live close to you probably will have the opposite effect from what you intend. If they have roots, friends, and interests in a community other than just you and Kate, they are more likely to stay.

Neither you nor Kate has given them an example, so they don’t see you living out what you expect them to do. Even if they live near you, it is normal for them to form their own families and have some separation. You can’t live your life through your adult kids, and if you try, you can expect it to be counterproductive.

Thanks for writing in. I understand everything you say.

We’re just questioning the “normal” path – living far away from our parents – that Kate, I, and many of our peers took. We’re wondering if there’s a better path… and if we have any agency over that.

Reader comment: I have a contrarian view to many of your readers. You want your children to be near you in your old age. But isn’t that a potentially limiting (and heavy) expectation to put on your kids? Do you really want to put your children in the position where they feel like they have to choose between their parents and their lives?

Closeness doesn’t have to mean living down the road or working in the same business. A real connection can span continents. I speak from experience. Don’t let your desire for a close family become defined by geography. That’s when it becomes selfish. Let the kids spread their wings. You did. And look how well you’ve done.

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I suppose “do your best and let the chips fall where they may” is probably the best policy here.

Reader question: I started buying gold back when it was at $250, but now, I am seeing bitcoin replace it as the safe haven to protect your assets. Investors all over the world seem to be shunning gold at this point, in favor of bitcoin, and to top it off, other big-name gurus are saying you should hold 10% of your assets in bitcoin and 1% in gold. Completely opposite of what my thinking has been. Please give us your thoughts on this subject.

My advice is don’t look at bitcoin and gold as substitutes. Consider the utility they each provide and then decide if you need that utility.

Gold is like putting your cash under the mattress. It’s for people who don’t want to take any risk with their savings. It’s, by definition, the safest place you can put your money.

Bitcoin is an exciting but experimental new technology that promises great things but is extremely volatile. It’s for the visionaries… the speculators… the fence swingers.

What’s your appetite for risk? That should determine how much gold and bitcoin you own. (The good thing about bitcoin is it’s very volatile, so a small position goes a long way.)

Personally, right now, I’m not interested in high-risk, high-reward investments like bitcoin. I feel the whole financial system has been juiced by fake money, suppressed interest rates, and inflation.

We’re in maximum safety mode, hunkering down, just hoping to get through the next decade with our purchasing power intact. So bitcoin is 0% of my personal portfolio and hard metals (gold, silver, and steel) are 100% of my personal portfolio.

Reader question: I have two mundane questions:

  1. Where did you find such an inexpensive ticket to London? I would love to know how you search for airline tickets.

  2. With not having a permanent address, what do you do about mail? We manage everything online (statements, bills, correspondence, etc.), and still get mail in our mailbox. Mostly junk, which I don’t care about, but occasionally something that matters. Thanks!

Actually, these are my favorite types of questions.

We use Kayak to find flights, but I don’t think it’s anything special. It’s COVID. The UK is in a national lockdown right now, and Brits are not allowed to take vacations. So there’s lots of extra capacity on the planes and at the airports.

As to your second question, we only get one or two pieces of mail per year. We direct it to wherever we’ll be able to pick it up next.

Reader question: Having read all your emails, I have wanted to ask you: When the time comes to sell the metal investment, just where is the best place/method to sell this?

Since ~2002 I have accumulated quite a bit of the stuff in the form of bullion and Maple Leafs, but balk at the idea of selling back to the dealers I purchased from to receive a check of a high sum payable in U.S. dollars, also knowing that the dollar is on its way to the doghouse. Confident you can come up with a few scenarios for selling.

I plan to sell my coins to gold and silver dealers when the time comes. I’m not bothered by the idea of receiving U.S. dollars in exchange.

That’s because I plan to immediately roll the proceeds into the equity of what I call “corporate aristocrats” (which, as longtime readers know, are great businesses that generate profits year after year, and raise their dividends every year for decades at a time.) To do that, I’ll need dollars.

Reader question: My question is regarding real estate holdings. If we are at the top, or near it, for real estate (commercial buildings) but are at the start of tremendous inflation, are we better to hold the real estate or sell the real estate and invest in gold?

Good question. I can’t give specific advice, but personally, I’d probably own a little of both – especially if I could write off interest and depreciation on the properties.

Reader question: I am confused. I am working and unable to cash my retirement funds in for gold. What should I be investing in? Should I invest in a stable bond to get the 6% match and perhaps look at another type of investment (maybe gold)? Is there a guarantee that I will be able to sell my gold and for what currency (if cash is worthless, then would it be digital)?

I am assuming our government will continue to print money as long as possible. Should I invest in digital money now? Should I liquidate, sell my house at an outstanding price, and move to a much cheaper place in the States, or to another country when I can?

As you can tell, I have no idea how to plan for the future. I am 56, so planning is key at my age. I love your story and that your family is together again. Time is precious, waste it wisely. Thank you for your time!

I’d recommend you keep taking the full match from your employer if you can afford it. That’s the equivalent of a 100% risk-free return on investment. There’s no investment in the world that matches that. It’s free money.

As for the rest of your questions, well, I can’t give specific advice, but I’d just say this: Financial planning is not that important. I know that might be surprising coming from someone who spends all his time thinking and writing about investing and finance, but it’s true.

The financial planning industry wants you to think financial planning is critically important so that you hire them and pay for their expensive services. But I think it’s fine to live in an expensive house in a premium zip code if you’re comfortable there and you can afford it.

And I also think it’s fine to let the extra cash you earn pile up in your bank account as savings and not worry about inflation, or government money-printing, or cryptocurrency, or any of that other stuff we finance junkies like to talk about all the time.

If you want to dip your toe into investing, then buy a 1-ounce gold coin sometime and see how it feels in your hand. But otherwise, I think you can safely ignore financial planning and just stick to the basics.

And that’s all we have time for today. Thanks to everyone who wrote in! As always, please keep your questions and comments coming at [email protected].

I can’t personally respond to every note you send us, but I promise to read them all, and to address as many as possible in future Friday mailbag editions.

– Tom Dyson

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