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By Tim Begany

NEW YORK ( StreetAuthority) -- As a financial professional, I ask a lot of people for their views on the stock market, economy and where they think we're headed. Not surprisingly, no one says we're on the cusp of another big bull market. In some cases, they say things have gotten better and the economy could very gradually improve in four or five years.

But the response I get most is something to the effect of, "The economy is in bad shape now and it's going to get worse -- much worse. And there's no end in sight to the gloom."

People who forecast such a dismal future still say they want to do well, though. This includes the ability to save and invest and make the best investments.

But skeptics want to have little or nothing to do with the stock market, insisting Wall Street is a corrupt crapshoot rigged in favor of a few powerful players. If that's the case and these skeptics are right about what the future holds, then they're not left with many investment options -- at least not in the traditional sense.

At this point, the conversation often turns to alternative investments. These includes metals, commodities and real estate -- segments investors tend to favor in a down economy for the perceived safety and ability to maintain value. Of course, there are many ways to invest in them. But to help simplify things, I've found an attractive "all-in-one" fund geared toward investors who are bearish on the economy.

It's called the Permanent Portfolio ( PRPFX), a $17 billion open-ended mutual fund that focuses on gold and silver, mining stocks, and shares of real estate companies and natural resource producers.

Because of this, the fund is a fine one-stop shop for the most popular alternative investments. Potential investors might also find comfort in the fact that the fund has limited direct exposure to Europe and, by extension, its debt crisis.

Management believes it's impossible to predict price movements for any asset so it sticks as close as possible to a predetermined asset mix (the fund's strategy since its Dec. 1, 1982, inception). This includes allocations of about 20% to gold, 5% to silver, and 15% to real estate and energy/natural resources stocks.

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