NEW YORK ( TheStreet ) - Owning gold is important no matter what kind of investor you are or how old you might be.

The first thing to realize is buying gold is the same as making any other investment decision. First you have to figure out what kind of investment you are looking for: value, growth, conservative, or risky. Asset managers recommend that 3% to 10% of an investor's portfolio be in gold depending on age, risk tolerance and world view.

"It's a question of portfolio protection. What sort of portfolio protection do you need?" says George Gero, vice president of global futures at RBC Capital Markets. "Are you trying to maintain purchasing power? Are you trying to use some asset allocation away from what your normal portfolio is?"

Gold is not without risks but prices over the past 10-years have popped 336% from $282 to around $1,230 an ounce as investors piled into the precious metal.

The most recent 13F filling for the popular gold exchange-trade-fund the SPDR Gold Shares ( GLD) revealed that Eton Park Capital, a hedge fund a started by a former Goldman Sachs partner, bought 6.5 million shares in the second quarter. Paulson & Co., a hedge fund run by John Paulson, is the largest shareholder of the GLD at 31.5 million shares.

>>>View John Paulson's Portfolio

Gold-buying is becoming a fad among investors, risky and conservative alike, from hedge funds to John Paulson to everyday buyers like you and me.

Most every analyst can agree that gold serves as an inflation hedge and as protection against volatility in the stock market, but there are many theories on how to buy gold.

Try age-based gold-investing.

How To Invest In Gold

Investor: 18 to 30 years old

You're on your first, maybe second job, paying off debt, learning how to survive on your own. Maybe you're even trying to save money to buy a house, or maybe you just need groceries.

You also should be buying gold.

Typically gold-buyers in the United States have been "people 40 to 65, professional, college-educated upper-middle class, upper-income type people," says Jeffrey Christian, managing director of the CPM Group. But Christian notes as gold prices have rallied over the past decade, younger investors in China and Europe, particularly those worried about inflation, also became interested. In the second-quarter 2010, the World Gold Council reported that gold ETF demand grew 414% on strong buying from Germany, China and Thailand.

There are two ways to look at gold as a young investor: risk vs. available income.

A young investor presumably has a minimum of 30 years until he can retire and therefore can risk more, which makes gold stocks an attractive option.

Most analysts say that gold mining stocks can offer 2:1 leverage to gold's spot price, sometimes even 3:1 and typically lead the gold prices on the way up and the way down.

Spot gold has risen 9.7% in 2010 while Newmont Mining ( NEM) has popped 26%. Some gold stocks even offer the much-sought after dividend like Randgold Resources ( GOLD).

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