Retiring on a Self-Directed IRA

Saving for retirement is one of the most important actions one can take to secure their future. Sadly, many Americans haven’t saved a single dollar, or are grossly behind in their yearly savings goals. If this describes you, don’t worry. There are ways to jumpstart your retirement savings and catch up to where you need to be to live comfortably in retirement. One way to do this is with a self-directed IRA.

What is a Self-Directed IRA?

These types of accounts are just like traditional retirement savings accounts but include many more options for the investment savvy. Usually, Traditional and Roth IRAs, as well as 401ks, offer a few investment options to choose from—mostly stocks, mutual funds, and bonds. These accounts rarely allow investors to invest outside of what the various plans offer. Self-directed IRAs allow open investing in real estate, gold, private placements, trust deeds, and single-member LLCs. This gives savers more flexibility with their investments, which can help increase their funds more rapidly depending on the type of investment.

Benefits of a Self-Directed IRA

Besides offering more investments for savers to choose from, self-directed IRAs are also great vehicles for people to invest in what they know. If a saver has experience in the tech field or knows real estate trends, they can invest in these niches rather than whatever their traditional plan offers. Experts in their field, or even hobbyists, can take a more calculated risk with a self-directed IRA, and be rewarded handsomely when their investments grow. Some types of self-directed investments are inherently riskier, and therefore should only counted on for retirement by a saver who knows the market well. After all, self-directed IRAs are the responsibility of the plan owner and the plan owner alone, and a risky investment can have a major impact on future funds, whether positive or negative.

Retirement Saving Tips

Whether you choose the self-directed route or stick with traditional investment options, there are a few guidelines to follow for ensuring you will have enough saved at retirement for your needs.

  • Save early, save often. The best way to save for retirement is to start saving as early as possible and to be consistent with it. If you didn’t start saving until later in life, you can contribute extra to your retirement accounts at age 50 with catch-up contributions. The easiest way to save is to use direct deposits from your paycheck, that way there is no temptation to use the money for other expenses while it’s sitting in your account.
  • Take earlier risks, play safe later. Younger savers can invest in riskier options that have a larger growth potential because they have more time to benefit from the growth and ride out the lows should the market take a dip. Savers closer to retirement should play it safe and focus on keeping the money they’ve already earned through their accounts. Typically, the closer to retirement you get, the more you will want to transfer your stock investments to mutual funds and bonds. You still want to see growth at this stage, but it may be slower than the riskier investments.  
  • Make short-term and long-term goals. What is it you plan on doing with your retirement and saving money? Are you saving for a vacation, a new car, or college? Can any of your accounts help you with these goals? When you have a future goal to work toward, it becomes much easier to save the $50 or $100 extra a month in the present.
  • Record expenses and make a budget. If you’re nearing retirement, you will need to know exactly how much you will need per month and year to keep your standard of living the same. Record every expense, down to the last cup of coffee, to determine just how much you will need in retirement. Multiply the yearly number by how long you plan on living after retiring, and factor in extra medical expenses. You should reach this minimum savings goal before even thinking about turning in your two weeks’ notice at your place of employment.

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