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Why Use a Self-Directed IRA to Invest in Alternate Assets?

A Self-Directed IRA LLC offers one the ability to use his or her retirement funds to make almost any type of investment on their own without requiring the consent of any custodian or person. The IRS only describes the type of investments that are prohibited, which are very few. The main advantages of using a self-directed IRA to make investments is that one can generate tax-deferred or tax-free gains on investments one knows and understands.

For 2017, the following are some examples of types of investments that can be made with your Self-Directed IRA LLC:

  • Residential or commercial real estate
  • Domestic or Foreign real estate
  • Raw land
  • Foreclosure property
  • Mortgages
  • Mortgage pools
  • Deeds/Notes
  • Hard money lending
  • Private loans
  • Tax liens
  • Private businesses
  • Limited Liability Companies
  • Limited Liability Partnerships
  • Private placements
  • Precious metals and certain coins
  • Stocks, bonds, mutual funds
  • Foreign currencies
  • Bitcoins
  • Hedge Funds
  • Private Equity Funds

Using a Self-Directed IRA LLC to make investments offers the investor the ability to make traditional as well as non-traditional investments, such as real estate, in a tax-efficient manner.

Below are some of the most popular reasons to purchase non-traditional assets with your Self-Directed IRA LLC.


In general, most Americans have an enormous amount of financial exposure to the financial markets. Whether it is through retirement investments, such as IRAs or 401(k) plans, or personal savings, many of us have most of our savings connected in some way to the stock market. In fact, over 90% of retirement assets are invested in the financial markets. With over $20 trillion in retirement assets as of 2013, you can see the scope of that exposure. Investing in non-traditional assets, such as real estate, offers a form of investment diversification from the equity markets. In general, the more diversified your portfolio, the greater chance that your assets will offer lower correlation, meaning they are less likely to move in the same direction. However, diversification does not assure profit or protect against loss. The use of non-traditional asset classes can help protect your portfolio when the market is down and help protect you from losing more than the market.

Invest in Something You Understand

Many Americans became frustrated with the equity markets after the 2008 financial crisis. Thankfully, we have seen the financial markets rebound since then and have even seem some years of over 20% growth in the equity markets. Nevertheless, many Americans are still somewhat shell-shocked from the market swings and not 100% sure what exactly goes on in Wall Street and how it all works. Real estate, for comparison, is often a more comfortable investment for the lower and middle classes because they grew up exposed to it, whereas the upper classes often learned about Wall Street and other securities during their younger years and college days. Everyone has heard someone talk about the importance of owning a home or the amount of money that can be made by owning real estate. From Donald Trump to reality TV, real estate is fast becoming mainstream and one of the most trusted asset classes for Americans. It is, of course, not without risk, but many retirement investors feel more comfortable understanding the real estate market and buying and selling real estate than they do stocks.

Inflation Protection

Rising food and energy prices, coupled with high federal debt levels and low interest rates, have recently fueled new inflationary fears. As a result, some investors may be looking for ways to protect their portfolios from the ravages of inflation. It is a matter of guesswork to estimate whether these inflation risks are real, but for some retirement investors, protecting retirement assets from inflation is a big concern. Inflation can have a nasty impact on a retirement portfolio because it means a dollar today may not be worth a dollar tomorrow. Inflation also increases the cost of things that are necessary for humans to live and enjoy life, such as bread, gas, shelter, clothing, medical services, etc., decreasing the value of money so that goods and services cost more. For example, if someone had an IRA worth $250,000 at a time of high inflation, that $250,000 will be worth significantly less or have significantly less buying power. This can mean the difference between retiring and working the rest of your life. Buying hard assets is seen as one way of protecting your assets against inflation. Many investors have long recognized that investing in commercial real estate can provide a natural protection against inflation, as rents tend to increase when prices do, acting as a hedge against inflation.

Hard Assets

Many non-traditional assets, such as real estate and precious metals are tangible hard assets that you can see and touch. With real estate, for example, you can drive by with your family, point out the window, and say “I own that”. For some, that’s important psychologically especially in times of financial instability, inflation, or political or global upheaval.

Tax Deferral

Tax deferral literally means that you are putting off paying tax. The most common types of tax-deferred investments include those in IRAs or Qualified Retirement Plans (i.e. 401(k)). Tax-deferral means that all income, gains, and earnings, such as interest, dividends, rental income, royalties or capital gains, will accumulate tax-free until the investor or IRA owner withdraws the funds and takes possession of them. As long as the funds remain in the retirement account, the funds will grow tax-free. This allows your retirement funds to grow at a much faster pace than if the funds were held personally, allowing you to build for your retirement more quickly. And, when you withdraw your IRA funds in the form of a distribution after you retire, you will likely be in a lower tax bracket and be able to keep more of what you accumulated. So, with using a Traditional IRA as a retirement savings vehicle, not only are you not paying taxes on the money you invested, you could be paying them at a lower rate when you finally do “take home” your money.

As long as the funds remain in the account, they grow without taxes eroding their value. This enables assets to accumulate at a faster pace, giving you an edge when saving for the long term. And, when you withdraw funds after you retire, you’ll likely be in a lower tax bracket and be able to keep more of what you’ve accumulated.

The concept of tax deferral is premised on the notion that all income and gains generated by the pre-tax retirement account investment would generally flow back into the retirement account tax-free. Instead of paying tax on the returns of a Self-Directed IRA investment, such as real estate, tax is paid only at a later date, leaving the investment to grow unhindered. For example, if an IRA investor invested $100,000 into a Self-Directed IRA LLC in 2017 and the account earns $10,000 in 2017, the investor would not owe tax on that $10,000 in 2017. Instead, the Self-Directed IRA investor would be required to pay the taxes when he or she withdraws the money from the IRA, which could be many years later. For example purposes, assuming the IRA investor mentioned above is in a 33% federal income tax bracket, she would have had to pay $3,333 in federal income taxes on the $10,000 earned on the IRA in 2017. That would have left $6,667 in the account. At a 8% annual return, those earnings would go on to produce $533.36 in 2017. However, because IRAs are tax deferred, the self-directed IRA investor is able to earn a return on the full $10,000 rather than the $533.36 she would have had if she had to pay taxes that year. At a 8% annual return, she’d earn $800 in 2017. The beauty of tax deferral is that the deferral compounds each year.

The following examples illustrate the powerful advantage of tax-deferred contributions and compounding through a Traditional IRA versus making contributions to a taxable account.

Example #1:

Joe is 40 years old and makes a $5,000 contribution to an IRA. Joe is in a 30% federal income tax bracket. Joe invests his IRA funds and receives a 6% average annual return. When Joe retires at age 70, his $5,000 contribution would be worth $21, 609.71. If Joe invested the $5,000 personally, the account would only be worth $14,033.97.

Example #2:

Jane is 35 years old and makes a $5,000 contribution to an IRA. Assume Jane makes a $5,000 contribution to her IRA each year until she reaches the age of 70. Jane is in a 30% federal income tax bracket. Further assume that Jane was able to generate a 7% average annual return on her investment. When Jane retires at the age of 70, her IRA account would be worth $792,950.21. If Jane made these $5,000 contributions though a taxable account, the account would only be worth $490,707.49.

Tax deferred investments though a self-directed IRA LLC generally help investors generate higher returns. That’s because the money that would normally be used for tax payments is instead allowed to remain in the account and earn a return.

For additional information on the advantages of using a Self-Directed IRA LLC with “checkbook control” to make investments, please contact one of our IRA Experts at 800-472-0646.

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