How Much Retirement Income Can You Generate With Real Estate Investments?

Why do you save for retirement? At the most basic level, you probably save so that you’ll be able to pay for your living expenses once you reach your desired retirement age (whatever that age may be). One of the best ways to plan for your retirement finances is to have the goal of putting together a nest egg that generates enough income every year to cover some or all of those living expenses. This will often be preferable to having to liquidate your investments in order to pay your living expenses, and be at risk of depleting your account too quickly, and effectively outliving the usefulness and value of your retirement savings.

Unfortunately, individuals who aren’t familiar with self-directed IRAs, and the additional investment opportunities that those accounts can provide as compared to IRAs with traditional custodians, might take an overly narrow view of the types of investments that can generate meaningful income.

More specifically, many would consider an “income investment” to be something like a municipal bond or U.S. government bond, or a corporate debenture, or perhaps even publicly traded stocks that pay quarterly dividends. While these are certainly income generating investments, they only scratch the surface of what’s available to a retirement saver who has a self-directed IRA.

Private Debt Investments. Self-directed IRAs are authorized to invest in private debt instruments. This can include not only personally guaranteed notes (lending money directly to an individual), but also borrowings from businesses, and even private mortgages. That’s right, with a self-directed IRA you can make loans to people who are looking to buy a home, and use the home as your security for repayment — just like a traditional mortgage lender would do.

These types of investments have the potential to generate a significant income stream, and the more risk you’re willing to take with respect to repayment, the greater that income can be.

Real Estate. Speaking of home buyers, you can use a self-directed IRA to invest in real estate directly, and generate income from renting the properties you buy. In the residential marketplace, stagnant incomes have combined with increasing real estate prices and tighter lending standards to create a huge demand for rentals. In some areas the growth in prevailing rents has actually exceeded the rate of growth for home prices.

And you’re not limited to residential properties when you invest with a self-directed IRA. You can use your account to purchase commercial properties, including office, retail, and industrial properties. These types of investments can provide exposure to a different type of risk if you’re looking to diversify your retirement investment portfolio, but they can still generate a healthy level of periodic income.

Obviously, making these types of investments is a significantly more complicated process than simply buying a corporate bond. When considering these types of investments with your self-directed IRA, be sure to seek out qualified professional assistance to help you as necessary.

Getting Started with a Self-Directed IRA When Your Nest Egg is Small

While you might have been initially drawn to a self-directed IRA because of the investment flexibility that this account type offers when compared to IRAs with traditional custodians (e.g., being able to invest in precious metals, and real estate, and private companies), it’s true in all areas of investing that not every investment option is suitable for every investor.

Precious Metals. One way that this quickly becomes apparent is with respect to investing in precious metals. Investing in bullion or investment grade coins can be a great way to diversify and hedge your other investments, but it’s significantly more expensive than more straightforward investments like publically traded stocks. And some of these expenses are baseline fees to get started, regardless of the size of your investment.

Make the Maximum Contributions Every Year. When your self-directed IRA balance is relatively small, it’s vital that you make the maximum contributions to your account each and every year. If you fail to make the maximum contribution in any given tax year (the contribution limit for the 2015 filing period is $5,500, with an additional $1,000 allowed for taxpayers age 50 and over), you won’t be able to make up for that lost opportunity in later years. Once the chance to make the maximum deposit has passed, it’s gone forever.

Consider Maintaining Two Accounts. It’s a common misconception, but taxpayers are not limited to having a single IRA. In fact, it can be good practice to maintain both a traditional self-directed IRA as well as a Roth self-directed IRA, and then decide where to make your deposits each year based on the tax deduction advantages you might be able to get from contributing to the traditional account. The key is to deposit the maximum each year, regardless of the self-directed IRA you choose. And remember that it’s always possible to convert a traditional self-directed IRA to a Roth account whenever you decide that you only want or need a single account.

Does Small Mean Little Investment Experience? If your nest egg is relatively small because you’re just starting out with your retirement savings and don’t have a lot of investing experience, then don’t feel pressured to start investing in the most complicated and advanced investment types right away. Even though the self-directed IRA structure permits investments in a wide range of investments, you’re still free to choose investments that you have more experience and familiarity with.

Use 401(k) Rollovers. Finally, another way to grow your self-directed IRA is through the use of rollovers. Whenever you leave an employer, you’re permitted to roll over the funds you’ve accumulated in your 401(k) to an IRA. Because many individuals are permitted to contribute to both 401(k)s and IRAs, this can be a great technique for building as large of a nest egg as possible.