When personal finance experts talk about diversifying a portfolio, they’re talking not about holding stocks in different kinds of companies, but also about holding different kinds of assets in your portfolio. Assets like real estate and commodities can protect your wealth from market volatility and inflation because they can retain their value when the market crashes or when the economy contracts. Precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and palladium are perfect for diversifying your portfolio and gaining exposure to a commodity with inherent worth. But how do you go about investing in precious metals?

Perhaps the most straightforward way to invest in precious metals is to buy bullion in the form of rounds (coins) or bars. But it’s not the only way. You can also buy shares of stock in mining companies, or the streaming companies that extract precious metals from mining byproducts. You can also buy shares in mutual funds that deal in precious metals and mining and streaming companies, or exchange-traded funds that track the prices of precious metals.

Buy Bullion

Buying bullion in the form of bars and rounds has been a time-honored way to store wealth in precious metals. Gold and silver have a very long history of use as currency, with gold and silver coins circulating until relatively recently on the historical timeline.

It’s fairly easy to buy physical precious metals from an online dealer. You should check the spot price of the metal you’re buying before you buy it, so you know how much you can expect to pay. Expect to pay a premium of one to five percent on top of the spot price – that’s how the dealer makes a profit. Coins will carry higher premiums than bars, because coins take more time, equipment, and labor to create than bars.

If you’re going to invest in bullion, you should buy it from an online dealer that has a buyback program – that will make it easier to sell your metals when you need the money. Otherwise, it can be hard to find a buyer for precious metal bullion, especially when market demand for the metal is low.

You’ll need to make arrangements to store your bullion, too. Some investors like to store their bullion at home, where they can have easy access to in case of a crisis. Some of these investors distrust the government or the financial system and want to buy gold or silver to protect their wealth in case of war, civil unrest, or full-scale societal collapse. Others simply like the idea of being about to see and touch their precious metals whenever they want.

If you decide to store your precious metals at home, you’re going to need a safe place to store them. That usually means a safe or home vault. Some investors store their precious metal coins and bars in a bank safe deposit box. Storing your metal yourself could make it more vulnerable to theft, and you’re responsible for insuring it if you store it at home.

If you plan to buy a lot of precious metals, you might want to go ahead and store your metals in a depository (and if you buy precious metals to go into an Individual Retirement Account or IRA, it will need to go straight to a depository from the dealer thanks to IRS rules surrounding the purchase of precious metals for IRAs). Precious metals are bulky and it can be easy to buy more than you can feasibly store on your own, especially if you buy silver – the price of silver is much, much lower than the price of gold, palladium, and other precious metals. A depository can keep your investment safe and you’ll never run out of room to store your metals.

Invest in Precious Metals Investment Products

Buying physical coins and bullion can have its drawbacks. For example, you not only have to safely store your metals, you also aren’t earning any dividends or interest on the metals while they’re sitting in storage. The only way you can realize profits on your precious metal bullion is by selling it for more than you paid for it. And that can be hard, especially if you go for non-gold precious metals that are primarily used in industrial applications, like platinum and palladium. Being used in industry tends to make the price of a precious metal more volatile, because it goes up and down along with spikes and dips in industry demand for the metal.

Precious metals stocks and funds might be the better option for you. You can buy stocks in mining and streaming companies, but you have to be every bit as careful about evaluating these as you would any other stock you’re looking to buy. Precious metal mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are a little more foolproof for the average investor. Stocks and funds pay dividends and are easy to sell when you want to. Popular precious metal mining companies and funds to invest in include SSR Mining Inc. (SSRM), Wheaton Precious Metals (WPM), and First Eagle Gold Fund (SGGDX).

Precious metals can be a solid investment to diversify your portfolio and protect your wealth from inflation. Whether you choose to buy bullion, stocks, or funds, exposure to precious metals can help your portfolio survive the next economic downturn.