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The Top 7 Dos and Don’ts of IRA Investments

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IRAs or Individual Retirement Accounts are some of the most popular personal finance solutions for retirement planning, since they offer significant tax advantages as well as various investment options. An IRA is not an investment in itself, but an account where various investments are held.

However, it’s important to remember that certain types of investments cannot be held within these accounts and will be treated as withdrawals if you try to do so. This involves not only being taxed on the investment, but also a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under 59.5 years of age!

Here are 8 basic dos and don’ts of IRA investments that you should keep in mind while planning for retirement:

1. DO: Common Investments – Mutual funds, including equity, bond and balanced funds, are the most common type of IRA investments and a good place to start. Other popular options include publicly traded stocks, fixed and variable annuities, money market funds, bonds, treasury instruments and cash.

2. DO: Real Estate Investments –IRA contributions can be used for making down payments while buying a home as a first-time buyer. You can withdraw up to $10,000 tax-free, if the funds have been in the IRA for at least 5 years. You cannot use IRA earnings, which would be treated as taxable distributions and subject to early withdrawal penalties.

3. DON’T: Prohibited Investments – Tangible personal property deemed as collectibles by the IRS, such as art, rugs, gems, stamps, fine wines or other alcoholic beverages, antiques and most precious metals are not permitted as IRA investments. The IRS allows some exceptions for coins made of precious metals.

4. DON’T: Life Insurance – You cannot buy life insurance policies as IRA investments, but you can set up your IRA account through a life insurance company to hold an annuity that offers life insurance benefits. As the IRA owner, this annuity must be in your name and proceeds from it can only be paid to you or your beneficiaries.

5. DON’T: Prohibited Transactions – You cannot use an IRA for personal financial gains beyond the tax benefits you already enjoy. The IRS prohibits self-dealing, i.e. engaging in transactions that involve the IRA owner and parties in interest such as members of their family, corporations where they hold controlling interest, etc.

6. DON’T: Prohibited Financing – If you’re using any kind of debt to finance IRA investments, you will get in trouble. The accounts are designed to help with planning for retirement, not making quick profits, so you cannot use margin accounts, rental income from mortgaged real estate, or securities purchased with loans.

7. DON’T: Master Limited Partnerships – While there’s no prohibition, you should avoid buying MLPs or Master Limited Partnerships, such as pipeline or real estate partnerships with your IRA. Most people consider these the same as corporate stock, since they’re traded on the stock exchange. However, the taxation rules are different.

Whether you have a self directed IRA or your account is handled by a brokerage firm, you enjoy a certain amount of freedom over where and how you invest your IRA money. The right decisions will help you grow your retirement savings while reducing your tax bill.

To learn more about permitted and prohibited IRA investments, contact the team at Self Directed Retirement Plans today!

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