Personal Finance: Gold rush

The price of gold plunged last week, but that still hasn’t stopped the gold rush that has made the commodity the latest hot investment.

Gold is up 12 percent this month after reaching an all-time high of $1,917.90 an ounce on Aug. 23, Bloomberg reported this week.

In my Sunday column, I wrote about the great possibility that gold is just another bubble.

So before you join this rush, just be sure you understand the risks involved. Dan Caplinger of The Motley Fool.com reports on why experts are advising investors to weigh the pros and cons before investing in gold.

“Some believe that as a historical store of value, gold will be the best commodity to survive a collapse in confidence of fiat currencies, and so putting a huge chunk of your investment capital into gold is the only prudent move given today's economic uncertainties. Others argue that since gold produces no income and doesn't grow, it's intrinsically inferior to other investments and therefore deserves no place in anyone's investment portfolio,” Caplinger writes.

Caplinger takes an interesting look at the history of top-dog investments. By taking this perspective he says “you may be able to predict gold's eventual fate by seeing how its predecessors on the top rung of the investment ladder performed.”

Unhappy Campers

A survey by Corporate Executive Board, a research and advisory services firm, found that more than three-quarters of departing employees say they wouldn't recommend their employer to others, the worst percentage in at least five years, reports Joe Light of The Wall Street Journal. 

Post Leadership blogger Jena McGregor says employers should take these numbers seriously.

“Leaders who ignore these flashing warning signs are doing so at their own peril,” writes McGregor. “A jump in numbers like the CEB’s findings can’t be entirely explained away by a few unhappy folks who got lucky with a new job amid tough economic times. Leaps in dissatisfaction like that are likely symptoms of much more rage boiling beneath the surface.”

Class Struggle

In last week’s column, I wrote about how college students can help their parents shave college costs. One way is to live at home. Another is to shorten the time they spend in college.

Jay Mathews, education columnist for The Washington Post, counter argued in his column yesterday that rather than cut their time in college, students should find other ways to cut costs.

“If a family can’t afford even minimal living expenses, fees and tuition, and would be crushed by debt if they borrowed to pay for them, then living at home and finishing college in three years may be worth examining,” Mathews wrote. “But families shouldn’t assume that this is the best choice for them without considering the long-term benefits of a full four years taking advantage of everything colleges and universities have to offer.”

Mathews goes on to say: “Want to avoid college debt? Don’t cut back on the time you spend at college. Instead, pick a school that does not cost so much.”

Read what Mathews has to say and jump in on this debate.  Here’s the Color of Money Question this week: To save money, should students strive to finish college in fewer semesters? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Class Struggle” in the subject line.

Responses to “College Checklist”

College costs have been on my mind of late. I have a child heading off to college in two years. So last week’s Color of Money question was also on this topic. I asked: “Do you think parents who pay for their child’s college expenses should have access to their bills and grades?”

Iris Jordan of Huntsville, Ala. says 18 year olds are too young to be fully launched as adults. 

“Some kids may have that much maturity but not all,” Jordan wrote. “My child is living away from home for the first time and I'm holding her hand from afar. I want her to be successful for sure. I'm keeping up with not only the bills but her schedule, activities, and of course, her grades. I think parents should have full access, especially for freshman. There needs to be a transition stage for this kind of serious responsibility.”

“While I agree with the concept that if you are paying or subsidizing the bills you should be able to see the results, I think the need for parents to cut the cord is probably a more compelling argument,” says Sharon Bailey of Kirkland, Wash.  “This works both ways. Children have to become more responsible for the consequences of their actions and parents have to stop hovering and, if necessary, accept that the consequences of their children’s actions are sometimes beyond their control. This is something both [parties] need to accept for their own good. If parents feel they need this information, they should have a contract – written or verbal – negotiated before the start of the freshman year, which specifies the terms under which they will provide funding for college to their child. This agreement can include access to billing statements as well as transcripts on a reasonable basis.  If their darling refuses to provide that information, the parent has the right to withhold future funding. This should be an agreement between parent and child and should not involve the school.”

"My son goofed off in high school to the point that I refused to pay for his college up-front," wrote Matthew Tracy of Vandalia, Ohio. "I agreed to pay for tuition, books, fees, and a set living expense after each semester and after seeing the grades. He doesn’t have to pay a dime as long as he takes schooling seriously."

"Sure, parents have a right if they’re paying and, in fact, because they’re paying, they can insist that their student give permission for that,” said Kerry Kleiber of West Lafayette, Ind. “So, what’s the problem? That you might have to use this as the means to convince your student to share his/her grades?  Up to you. But the law protects those students in college because they should be adults (or fast becoming one) and they may well be paying for their own education with little or no assistance from parents at all. To place the burden on the college is simply not practical."

Debt Defeater

Have you defeated your debt demon?

If so, tell me how much debt you paid off, the time it took to pay it off and how you did it. Send your story to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Debt Defeater” in the subject line. Include a statement describing your newfound financial freedom.

Selected Debt Defeaters get a free T-shirt and a shout out on my live video chat.

Upcoming Events

--I’ll be speaking at the Women’s and Girls Fund of the Mid-shore fundraising event on Sept.15 at 7 p.m. at the Avalon Theater in Easton, Md. This event raises money to provide grants to non-profit organizations that provide a number of services to women and girls in several counties in Maryland. For example a grant to a Cambridge youth center is funding mentoring, tutoring, and after school programs for mothers and children from the low-income neighborhood it serves.

For ticket information, call 410-770-8347 or pay online

--On Thursday, October 6th, I will be honored with the Bridge Builder Award at The Training Source Inc. 18th anniversary dinner and auction. This is a fundraising event for the Training Source, which is a great nonprofit organization in Prince George's County that among other services provides training and employment placement assistance, leadership training for at-risk youth, and free professional clothing for job candidates.

The event will be held at Newton White Mansion at 2708 Enterprise Rd., Mitchellville, Md., 20721 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information about the event go to www.thetrainingsource.org.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

 You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com . Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested. 

 

 

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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