Custodians Limit IRA Investment Options

March 22, 2010 by dbdouek

One of the more common responses I get when discussing my work with people is that they already know about “self-directed” retirement accounts.  Unfortunately, the creature to which they refer more closely resembles a standard 401(k) than a truly self-directed investment platform. 

In a sense, these respondents are correct.  They have heard about something that their custodian, or another heavily advertised custodian, calls a “self-directed IRA” and through those accounts investors may select from a menu (albeit short) of investment options, like many are accustomed to seeing from 401(k) plans.  In some cases, an account holder might even have the option of selecting the specific stocks or funds that the IRA will hold. 

As a result people often remain unaware that the law only restricts IRA investment by prohibiting investment in “certain collectibles” and “life insurance contracts.”  IRA custodians, however, are permitted to impose additional restrictions on investments.  For example, due to administrative burdens, many IRA custodians do not permit account holders to invest in real estate, while the law only prohibits the purchase of the Picasso hanging inside.  The lesson here is that just because an investment may be legal, does not mean that an IRS approved custodian is required to offer the option to account holders. 

The following language comes from the “self-directed” option of Charles Schwab’s retirement web page, “choose stocks; bonds; CDs; no-load, no-transaction-fee mutual funds and more; or select a single portfolio solution.”  When I searched to determine what was meant by “and more” I found the following text regarding options trading, “currently, we allow approved clients to write covered calls and engage in long calls and puts in select IRAs.”  I do not know who qualifies as an approved client, but the FAQ page of Schwab’s website did help me confirm that under no circumstance could commodities, foreign currencies, real estate or mortgages and non-Schwab annuities be held in a Schwab IRA.  I assume this list is not exhaustive either, a phone call would probably confirm that Schwab IRA holders cannot invest in tax liens and other alternative assets. 

So why am I telling you all of this?  Simple; when we, at Reins Financial Group, use the term “self directed” we mean it. 

We call it Reins-IRA: hold any asset the law allows, invest with the same ease and efficiency you would with non-retirement funds and never pay asset based or transaction fees.  When you want to invest you simply write a check. 

At Reins, we handle transitions quickly and effectively; you are free to invest in 18 days or less.  We handle the rollover and all necessary documentation, as well as state and federal filing requirements and are always available to educate our clients on the regulations governing retirement accounts. 

Eliminate the custodian gatekeeper and make the investments you want to make. Take the reins to your retirement account.