Seven Mainstream Fallacies About Investing With Self Directed IRAs

With the current downturn Investment climate   in the stock market and the likelihood that interest rates will remain low in the long term, there has been considerable interest in investing self directed 401(k) or IRA funds in real estate.

Ironically, there seems to be a direct correlation between the surge of interest in this area and the lack of accurate information about it. There are several fallacies promoted as fact about this kind of investment. I would like to address each of them in turn.

Fallacy #1 – This kind of investment is not considered appropriate by the IRS

This is flatly untrue. It has been perfectly legal to purchase real estate with your IRA funds since 1974 and to direct any profits, whether rental or capital, back to your IRA. You can also use your IRA funds to pay for the maintenance fees and development, decorative and other upgrade or modernization work on your real estate holdings.

Where the confusion lies is that any real estate investments you make may not be used by yourself or your immediate family, otherwise the ‘profit’ you make from their use would be regarded as a withdrawal from your IRA and subjected to the usual taxes and penalties.

While the IRS is sometimes accused of not reading its own code, what this actually means is that your parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren may not use the property for any purpose. Yet your brother or sister and their family may. So, if, for example, you invested in a holiday property in Mexico, your brother, sister in law and their children can use it for their holidays and pay you the rental but you couldn’t go and stay with them during their vacation.

Fallacy #2 – If it’s legal, why haven’t I heard of it until now?

Who would tell you, your current financial advisor? They will only let you invest your IRA in investments that their firm offers because they earn a commission off what they sell you. At a bank you will be limited to CDs. At a brokerage firm you will be limited to stocks and bonds.

There are any number of companies that help investors take their IRA cash and use it to purchase real estate for investment purposes or for any other legal investment purpose. The company’s representatives who do this are called ‘IRA Custodians’ or ‘Self Directed IRA Custodians’ – depending on the exact financial arrangements you have made.

Third-party IRA custodians look after your investments and will advise you on the kinds of choices – stocks, shares, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, business opportunities or real estate – you can make. They retain a degree of control over the disposition of funds and over the writing of checks.

Self directed IRA custodians are not allowed to advise you on your investment choices. They are mainly there to help you properly and legally administer your funds and to avoid accidentally making withdrawals or incurring penalties and taxes.

 

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