BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- The trend toward increasing volatility continues to be on the rise for stocks. Since the beginning of May, the VIX, which tracks the implied volatility of the S&P 500 index, has rocketed more than 71% as investors have run from risky stocks in favor of safe alternatives such as money market funds and gold -- a move known as a "flight to quality." But as market participants flee volatile investments, they run the risk of getting into positions that are less than ideal.With so many different options available for investors looking to limit their portfolio risk, it's no surprise that even unattractive trades are being made for the sake of being "safe." But that doesn't have to happen to you. Before we take a look at which flight-to-quality investments are attractive right now, we need to take a closer look at the reasons behind putting your money into one of these instruments -- risk reduction isn't the whole story. In 2008, as stocks tumbled significantly, most Wall Street brain trusts predicted that the dollar would fall in kind. It didn't. Instead, it rallied hard in response. The reason was the flight to quality itself. With scores of investors piling into flight-to-quality investments such as treasuries, the dollar's rise was an unintended consequence. Whenever Wall Street moves to a particular kind of investment en masse, serious short-term gains can ensue for the investors who got in early. If you're serious about avoiding risk, though, don't even think about stocks. Even the most solid blue chips are highly susceptible to the market's ebb and flow. If you're going to reallocate your portfolio, you might as well do it right. Without further ado, here's a look at the best flight to quality plays for the summer of 2010. Gold has long been a favorite play for tough times -- no surprise to most investors. Gold is a hard asset that you can actually take physical delivery of (if you're so inclined), and that's something that investors of all experience levels can relate to. Gold ETFs, such as the SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD), have become popular options for people who want exposure to the yellow stuff without having to deal with the intricacies of actually buying bullion.
Despite gold's popularity, though, I think there's a better bet for fans of hard assets right now: silver. While silver don't necessarily carry gold's cachet, this precious metal does have some interesting attributes. Unlike gold, which has comparatively few industrial uses, silver is actually consumed through many manufacturing processes -- a factor that decreases the available supply of silver and maintains a relatively inelastic demand for the metal. I think that silver is significantly undervalued right now, but there's no telling how long that will last. The easiest way to get access to silver is the iShares Silver Trust ( SLV). In fact, this ETF is the only fund that offers direct exposure to silver right now. Don't think that precious metals are the only option for investors hoping to fly to quality. Treasuries and money markets are popular choices that have their fair share of complexity. The money market, which includes everything from T-bills to eurodollars to CDs, is basically a market of short-term borrowing and lending. Because of their short time horizon, money market investments are less risky than other options, but that safety comes with less reward. For the truly risk-averse investor, T-bills are short-term government borrowings that are as risk-free as possible. They're popular because their denominations make them accessible to individual investors, but because of their minuscule returns, I'd only recommend them to the most pessimistic of investors. I think other money market instruments are more attractive, but I'd caution buyer beware. Scores of investors have been scammed by disreputable banks offering extremely high-yield CDs. Lack of risk comes at the cost of low returns. One of the best options for risk-averse investors is through longer-term government debt such as T-bonds. Treasury bonds have maturities of 10 years or more -- and for investors who foresee increased volatility ahead, keep in mind that for longer maturities generates better yields. A couple of popular treasury funds are the iShares Lehman 3-7 Yr Treasury Bond ETF ( IEI) and, for international exposure, the SPDR Barclays Capital International Treasury ETF ( BWX). Nearly any low-risk investment you can imagine can be accessed easily these days through ETFs. To see more flight-to-quality funds, have a look at this portfolio on Stockpickr. -- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.