Hedge fund manager Eric Sprott has just one word of advice for private investors in 2012: gold.

The Toronto-based money manager, whose $9 billion Sprott Asset Management has made a mint for investors due to large and successful bets on metals, told an investor conference on Tuesday that everyone should make room for the shiny metal in their portfolios.

It is way less risky to have money in gold than to have money in the bank, Sprott told the GAIM USA conference in Boca Raton.

While Sprott took a bath on his bets last year when the fund slid about 22 percent, over the last decade he boasts far better numbers, with an average annual return of about 20 percent.

This year, again, Sprott is sticking with his call to invest in gold, in part because his outlook for the economy is so gloomy.

As an individual, I would have at least 20 percent in gold, Sprott said. As a rule of thumb, high-risk portfolios should have about 10 percent in gold.

Considering where the world is going, I think people could easily consider numbers higher than that, he added.