Investors have gold on the brain, and it’s little wonder why. GDP has been revised downward and even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke softened his bullish view of the U.S. economy this week. But when it comes to getting gold exposure, are you better off with an exchange traded fund (ETF) or taking physical possession.

Some will simply never be comfortable with owning gold they can’t see and for them, taking physical possession makes the most sense. But consider the benefits of owning gold ETFs, because they’re very useful.

Owning a gold-focused ETF is a good way to get physical exposure to gold without the hassle of taking physical possession – finding storage, paying for storage and so on. [Materials ETFs Riding on Gold’s Coattails.]

Some investors may want to take the route of investing in mining ETFs instead. Gold miners are in a nice position with their profit margins right now with gold prices being as high as they are.

Remember that gold serves many purposes within a portfolio, including acting as a hedge against portfolio risk and inflation. [ETFs for a Greek Tragedy.]

Although the market for gold is driven largely by jewelry and investment, the metal has some industrial applications. Its most important economic characteristics are its rarity and permanence. The demand for gold is driven entirely by investors’ and consumers’ desire to own the metal for its own sake. [Why Gold Has Investors’ Attention.]

For more stories about gold, visit our gold category.

  • SPDR Gold Shares Trust (NYSEArca: GLD)
  • iShares COMEX Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU)
  • ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares (NYSEArca: SGOL)
  • Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEArca: GDX)
  • Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners (NYSEArca: GDXJ)

Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.