During the past decade, a lot of people bought gold as a hedge against inflation. Some made money -- some didn't.
Now, a growing number of investment counselors are saying that the stock market will do a lot better than gold or other traditional hedges against inflation during this decade.
Jerome Tuccille, author of the recent book "Dynamic Investing" (New American Library, $9.95), says: "Stocks have been undervalued for almost 20 years and many are ready to make their moves."
Tuccille, who is an investment executive with the brokerage firm Shearson, Loeb, Rhoades, is quick to admit that not all stocks will do well in what he calls the "great bull market that's coming."
In this book, he lists certain industries that he feels will do well during the 1980s (he even lists specific stocks and when they should be bought or sold). Energy and mining (metals) are listed among the better industries for investing.
Tuccille is the first to agree that stocks are not for everybody. "You should have some savings and life insurance," he says, "and then, if you have any money left over, you might want to put it into stocks." In other words, don't bet the egg money.
If you are going to start a stock purchase plan, Tuccille says you should have a minimum of $1,000. You should resist hot tips on obscure companies and stick to bluechip household (or offfice) names.
Yale Hirsch, who publishes a highly rated investment newsletter called "Smart Money," says you can get into stock investments for less than $1,000.
For beginners and/or people with modest means, Hirsch suggests buying mutual fund shares. these funds operate as capitalist communes pooling small investors' money to purchase a diversified portfolio of a wide range of stocks.
Many mutual funds offer initial shares in their portfolios, for as little as $250. And, you can buy incremental shares for as little as $25 to $50 a month if you wish.
Both Hirsch and Tuccille feel that a good mutual fund with a balanced portfolio of growth stocks should do well in the 1980s. And there are literally hundreds to choose from.
Basically, there are two types of funds -- those that charge a sales commission up front and those that don't. The former are called "load" funds and the latter are called "no loads."
The load funds charge around 8 percent as a sales commission right off the bat. This means your investment during the first year has to make 8 percent just to break even. There is no sales commission for a no-load fund because there is no sales force. You just mail in your deposit.
You can get a free list of mutual fund names -- load and no-load -- by writing: Investment Company Institute; 1775 K St. N.W.; Washington, D.C., 20006.
Forbes magazine has an annual mutual fund performance rating issue which you might want to read. Your local library may have a copy.
When you invest for the long haul, you may become alarmed from time to time when sudden price drops hit the stock market. If you have a good stock or mutual fund and keep investing regularly, you shouldn't be overly bothered by momentary price swings.
The big thing that affects stock prices, Jerome Tuccille says, is interest rates. Rates will rise for a spell this year, he explains, "but it will be temporary . . .The long term outlook is for rates to come down and stock prices to go up."
Q. After reading your column on hot water heaters, I was surprised that there was no mention of insulation blankets you can install to cut down waste heat. What about these insulation blankets, aren't they worth the investment?
A. They are, indeed, worth the investment. Department of Energy experts on insulation say you should be able to save enough energy in a year or so to pay for the installation (which you can easily do yourself). Prices for insulation blankets range from $16 to $20, depending on the heater size and where you live.
Q. I have some old mining stock certificates and wonder if they have any current value. Do you know where I can get this information?
A. You can write to the Office of Corporate Affairs, in the state where the company was incorporated, to request current information on the company's status.
For a fee of $20, a specialist in old stock certificates can determine if your stock has any value. Write: R.M. Smythe Co.; 170 Broadway; New York, N.Y. 10038.
If your stock has no value as a security, it still may be worth something to a collector. Old stock certificates are in fashion as frameable antiques. The Society of Paper Money Collectors puts out a publication which lists dealers in old stock and bond certificates. For more information, write the society's headquarters at 225 South Fischer Ave.; Jefferson, Wis. 53549.