When you want to know the true, fair market value of your checking account, savings account, or bank CDs, you simply check your balance. It’s the same case with your publically traded stock investments; you simply log into your account while the market is open and you’ll get an instant and accurate valuation.
But what’s the fair market value of your home or your car? You might have a general idea of the proper value, but it can be challenging to come up with an accurate assessment. You may also find it a bit challenging to come up with a fair market value for illiquid investments you hold inside your self-directed IRA.
Let’s examine some of the most common illiquid investments in self-directed IRAs, how you can calculate a fair market value, and why this can be so important.
Real Estate. Real estate investments are generally considered to be illiquid, even if the property is located in a “hot” market where the number of buyers greatly exceeds the number of sellers. That’s because the sales transaction itself generally takes some time, so even if you have strong buyer interest in a property you’re trying to sell,it can take several weeks or more before you actually liquidate and receive your check.
Because a property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, you can calculate a fair market value for investment by looking at recent comparable sales in your area, or enlist the help of a local estate expert and draw upon their experience.
Private Equity and Debt Instruments. You’ll probably need to rely more on expert assistance when you need to find the fair market value of any private equity or private debt investments you hold within your self-directed IRA. This is due in large part to the fact that the data regarding prior transactions won’t likely be available – such transactions are not a matter of public record in the same manner as are real estate transactions.
Why Does it Matter? Knowing the fair market value of illiquid investments within your self-directed IRA is important for several different reasons. First, the more accurate the valuation information you have about the investments in your self-directed IRA (and the other investments you have), the better you’ll be able to plan, assess the risks, and diversify your overall investment portfolio.
In addition, if your self-directed IRA is set up as a traditional account, you’ll become subject to the rules on required minimum distributions once you reach age 72. This isn’t particularly problematic from an administrative perspective if all of your investments are liquid, like stocks. You always know what your account is worth, and therefore you can easily calculate your RMD obligations. You can also quickly sell whatever investments you need to in order to meet those obligations.