A Perfect Chaos Hedge for This Pandemic

In times of turmoil, everyone wants to know where the safe money is.

Investors typically hit the "sell" button first and ask questions later. They quickly pour their money into hard assets that they can feel safe holding. The most popular hard asset, of course, is gold. We have long called gold a "chaos hedge."

Gold lived up to that name during the recent chaos. While stocks have fallen more than 7% the past few days, the price of gold has gone up nearly 2%.

Now gold isn't the only hard asset that investors choose. Folks can also stash their money in things like timber, oil, and even farmland. In an economic crash, these assets will still hold value. But there's one other hard asset I recently recommended to Retirement Trader subscribers... real estate.

Even if the outbreak tips us into a recession, folks still need roofs over their heads. They'll cut back on things like fancy dinners and electronics before they miss a rent or mortgage  payment. And the value of property won't go down. (Right, now, we don't predict anything like the financial crisis of 2008.)

And with the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates to 0%, that means mortgage rates could fall even more from here.

Mortgage rates are already extremely low and if they fall further, it will attract more buyers. Just because the headlines have been scary recently, we've seen signs that the U.S. consumer is resilient.

Coronavirus or not, Americans will still be buying houses... especially if the cost of borrowing is near nothing.

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Q: The dentist takes X-rays once a year during my routine dental exams. I have often wondered if this is medically necessary or just a way to collect extra from the insurance company and me? If not, how often should I allow X-rays to be taken? Thanks, Doc. – R.G.

A: We've known for years that radiation from things like X-rays causes cancer. That's why you have to wear a heavy lead vest when you get an X-ray in the doctor's office... and hold a lead shield in your mouth at the dentist.

Regular X-rays are common in the medical world for a variety of health reasons. If you hurt your ankle and it's painfully swollen, a doctor might recommend an X-ray of the bones. If you have pneumonia, you might get an X-ray of your lungs to check the severity of the case.

While they're useful, X-rays come with a big risk in the form of radiation. Any amount of radiation leads to an increased risk of developing several different cancers.

Despite the risks, dentists often recommend their patients have regular dental X-rays (usually annually).

A good dentist doesn't need X-rays to find problems. So if you're not having any dental issues – things like pain, gum disease, a family history of oral cancer – or having a procedure like braces, don't bother with the x-ray. And if you do need an X-ray, check what kind of X-ray your dentist will use. Today, most dentists use digital X-rays which are a fraction of the radiation from the old film ones.

Q: What do we know about being an otherwise healthy carrier of COVID-19 (or, for that matter, the flu or other viruses), and that carrier transmitting it to an elderly or immunocompromised family member?

I'm sure many families, like mine, have grandmothers & grandfathers who are at a generally higher risk for COVID-19, which kind of handcuffs the rest of the family because the younger ones could be an unwitting carrier, who could then transmit it to the older person. Should the elderly person isolate themselves from the rest of us, if someone goes out, say to church or a store? (I think isolation is a bad idea mentally and emotionally.) What are the risks if they're taking reasonable precautions when in public (masks), and then washing properly, maybe even changing clothes, etc., before seeing Grandma? – J.S.

A: As of this writing, J.S., there isn't a clear answer. Within the course of the past two weeks, we've seen studies that show up to 80% of folks have the virus without symptoms... and they account for some of the outbreaks we've seen. But then this week, the WHO reported that asymptomatic transmission of the virus was "very rare." And then in the face of backlash, the organization backtracked, saying there are still too many questions about whether or not asymptomatic folks can transmit the virus.

Confused yet?

We wrote on Tuesday that the majority of folks get sick from only a small number of infected people (the 80 to 20 rule – read it here). While we're still trying to figure out the why and how, we do already know a few things:

1. Most transmission happens in the "4 C's": Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close-contact settings, and places with Constricted air flow.

2. Nearly all of the deaths we've seen are in folks aged over 65 (with those over 85 at highest risk). And most of the deaths are in folks with underlying conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and a history of smoking, just to name a few.

3. Complete isolation in the elderly is dangerous to their mental health. Staying in contact with friends and family is crucial to their well-being.

I do think those in the highest-risk group should take extra precautions and avoid places with those 4 C's. But family visits – that's up to you and your level of risk. It comes down to individual situations (health conditions, for example).

Some of the ideas my team has used include a front-porch visit with masks and hand sanitizer or a front-lawn visit where they sat more than six feet apart from their grandparent. Taking precautions like cleaning up, washing hands, and wearing masks are all good options.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
June 12, 2020