Consider These Lesser Known Investments for Your Self-Directed IRA

Making the best choices for your financial future means that you need to choose the investments that are best suited for your investment goals, tolerance for risk, and other factors unique to your individual situation. Choosing the most appropriate investments is particularly important when it comes to your self-directed IRA. After all, most retirement savers build their nest eggs over many decades, so there’s a lot of time for their investment choices to do the most benefit.

But seasoned investors may find that the types of investments that they currently hold in their taxable investment accounts, or even their other retirement accounts (such as a 401(k) at work) don’t provide them with exactly what they’re looking for. These individuals may want to consider some of the lesser known investments that are available in their self-directed IRAs.

Precious Metals. Precious metals have long been a favorite of those who seek out alternative types of investment. Gold and silver, for example, have for centuries been recognized as ways to hedge against other types of investment risk, political instability, etc. With a self-directed IRA, and account holder can invest in those metals directly, by requesting that the account custodian purchase precious metal bullion or coins.

Note that those coins cannot be “collectible” in the sense that their value must derive from their precious metal content rather than their scarcity. So gold coins recently struck by the U.S. mint will likely qualify, but collectible gold coins from the Wild West days almost certainly wouldn’t qualify.

The account owner is also prohibited from themselves possessing the precious metals that they purchase with their self-directed IRA, so they’ll need to work together with their account custodian in order to insure proper safekeeping of their precious metal investments. Individuals who don’t want to worry about the logistics of investing in physical precious metals can choose to invest in precious metals focused mutual funds or ETFs.

Private Mortgages. One of the biggest consequences of the significant decline in the broader housing market that occurred a few years ago is that lending standards for home mortgages have tightened. This means that it’s become increasingly difficult for many potential homeowners to get a loan. This is true for first time homebuyers as well as homeowners looking to trade up to their next home.

You can use your self-directed IRA to make private mortgages to potential homebuyers. It’s important that you document these loans properly, so you’ll need to get professional help in drawing up all the paperwork.

The scope of potential investments within a self-directed IRA is broad. It’s important to look beyond what you might already be familiar with, and look to take advantage of some of the lesser known investment types that are available to you.

How to Pay Emergency Family Medical Expenses With Your Self-Directed IRA

For many Americans, being able to manage their family’s medical expenses is a significant financial concern. And this has been a growing issue for many years. In inflation-adjusted terms, total national health care expenditures have grown 818% since 1960, while inflation-adjusted wages have only grown 16%.

Adding to these financial challenges is the fact that our medical expenses are largely unpredictable. Medical emergencies and unexpected injuries and illnesses occur, and they often cause big financial problems. In some cases, families will turn to their single biggest asset for financial help – their retirement nest egg. Here are some steps for using your self-directed IRA to pay for those emergency family medical expenses.

Avoid Early Withdrawal Expenses. Depending on your financial situation, you may be able to use funds from your self-directed IRA without having to pay early withdrawal penalties. Recall that any time you take money out of a self-directed IRA prior to reaching age 59½ the amount of withdrawal will be subject to a 10% penalty (in addition to any taxes that may be due), unless an exception applies. The most relevant exception here is for certain qualified medical expenses. (If your self-directed Roth IRA is old enough, you may also be able to withdraw your original contributions, but not any earnings, on a tax-free basis as well.)

In order to qualify, the withdrawal can only cover that portion of the medical expenses that exceed 10% of the account holder’s adjusted gross income for that year (or 7.5% for account holders age 65 and older).

Disability. If the injury or illness that results in significant family medical expenses also results in a permanent mental or physical disability, you may be eligible for penalty free withdrawals from your account. A physician must determine that the disability exists, that it prevents you from engaging in gainful employment, and it must be one that is either likely to result in death or continue on for an indefinite period.

Stay Adequately Insured. One key way to stay financially healthy in the case of large medical expenses is to maintain adequate health insurance. Obviously the insurance markets are always changing (and even more so over the past few years), but having health insurance provides you with a strong measure of financial security. If you lose your job and receive unemployment compensation for 12 consecutive weeks as a result, then you are eligible to make penalty-free withdrawals from your self-directed IRA in order to pay for health insurance for yourself and your family.

The decision to withdraw funds early from your self directed IRA should not be undertaken lightly. Even if you can do so without incurring the 10% penalty, the withdrawal can still end up costing you. Once the money is out of your account you will be able to pay it back in, so you will forever lose out on the tax-advantaged growth opportunities that they self-directed IRA provides. It can be a comfort to know that you have those funds available if you truly need them, but they should be thought of as your last financial resort for emergency medical expenses.