IRA Rollovers Into Gold – Your Best Investment Option
Sooner or later, everyone reaches a point where planning for retirement becomes a priority. In particular, if you have changed employers more than once, and have several retirement accounts, you will need to make a decision concerning IRA rollovers. In addition, you need to take a hard look at your current assets and consider whether it would benefit you to roll them over into gold.
How IRA Rollovers Work
IRA rollovers are tax-free distributions made from various kinds of retirement accounts, and invested in an IRA. There are a number of different retirement accounts that you can roll over into an IRA, including another IRA, or an employer’s qualified plan, such as a 401k. However, you can’t roll over a Roth IRA into a traditional IRA, because the tax status is different.
You can initiate your rollover by downloading a request form from the online account, or obtaining one from your account custodian and selecting an account to receive your rollover distribution. To avoid paying tax on the distribution, the process must be completed in 60 days. The distribution can take place in two ways — either as a direct rollover, where the check is paid directly to the custodian of the new account, or by having the check paid to yourself.
If you have the choice, you should always choose a direct rollover. This is because if the check is paid to you, it is subject to a 20% withholding tax, which the IRS imposes to ensure that you comply with the rollover rules. This means you have to find some other way of making up the 20%, to ensure your IRA contribution is complete. The 20% is refunded eventually, but meanwhile, you may have lost some investment gains.
Why 401k Rollovers are Different
If you are rolling over from one IRA to another IRA, you can decide to do this at any time, but 401k rollovers are slightly different. Normally, if you are under 59 ½, you can’t have a distribution from a 401k unless you qualify under one of the exemptions, such as financial hardship, or if you are leaving your employment. If you are changing jobs, you usually have the option of leaving your 401k where it is till you retire, but this is not advisable — the fees and expenses that accumulate over the intervening years could seriously erode your savings. Your best option is to roll it over, either into your new employer’s 401k, or into an IRA.
Unless your new employer has an exceptionally good 401k plan, you will probably be better off rolling over into an IRA. This is because fees for IRAs are usually lower, as less administration is involved — in fact, some IRAs have no fees at all. In addition, with a 401k, you only have the investment options chosen by your employer or plan administrator, and these may not be the most competitive in price or performance. With an IRA, you have a much wider range of investment options.
The steps for 401k rollovers are similar to those for IRA rollovers. You download an order form, or make a request via your custodian, and choose an account if you don’t already have one. The custodian of the receiving account will usually liaise with the custodian of your existing account, and arrange the transaction on your behalf.
Why Roll Over Into Gold?
Whatever your reason, IRA and 401k rollovers provide a good opportunity to take a look at your current asset allocation, and decide whether the funds in your portfolio are likely to hold their value, and meet your needs in retirement. The majority of traditional IRAs are funded primarily with such assets as stocks, mutual funds and bonds, or even with cash. However, the value of paper assets has been seriously eroded in recent years, owing to the ongoing market instability, while cash IRAs are affected by the constantly falling value of the US dollar.
For these reasons, increasing numbers of investors are choosing to roll over their funds, not to a traditional IRA, but to a gold IRA. It is possible to use a traditional IRA to invest in gold mutual funds, gold ETFs (exchange traded funds) or gold mining stocks, but not in physical gold. If you want to hold physical gold in your account, you need to open a self-directed IRA.
The advantages of doing this have become increasingly evident over the past decade, as the economic turbulence resulting from the recent financial meltdown shows little sign of abating. For this reason, it seems likely that gold paper assets will be subject to the same uncertainties as other paper assets. Gold ETFs are very popular, as they track the performance of gold, but because you don’t actually hold the gold, you end up with nothing if the fund goes bankrupt.
Gold, on the other hand, is barely affected by inflation — people buy gold when currencies fall, and its value increases as stock values decrease. The global demand for gold continues to be extremely strong, while production difficulties point to an excess of demand over supply for the foreseeable future. It really seems sensible to have physical gold in your retirement account, if you want to ensure your account will hold its value.
Rolling Over Into a Gold IRA
If you are rolling over your 401k or your existing IRA to a gold IRA, you don’t have such a wide choice of custodians. Your custodian needs to be a specially qualified gold investment company, who will look after your gold. The custodian will store your gold in an IRS-approved depository, as you are not allowed to take possession of it yourself until you qualify for distribution.
After selecting your custodian, and submitting the necessary paperwork, the next step is to select the dealer from whom you will purchase your bullion or coins. You can decide what to purchase, but the IRS imposes some restrictions. Gold bullion bars have to be pure 24-karat, and coins must be of at least 99.5% purity, which excludes some well-known coins like the South African Krugerrand. When you have purchased your gold, the custodian will transfer it to the storage facility, and you can then sit back and watch your fund grow.
IRA rollovers and 401k rollovers into gold make a great deal of sense. Holding physical gold in your account hedges it against the risks of inflation and economic instability, as no other investment can do. In retirement, you deserve to reap the rewards of all your hard work over so many decades, and a gold IRA is the best way of ensuring that you actually do.