Top 5 Self-Directed IRA Myths

At Asset Exchange Strategies, LLC we have had conversations with potential self-directed IRA clients many thousands of times and the myths continue to live on after 20 years in the business. Some things like Sasquatch or area 51 seem to perpetuate in people’s minds without any substantial evidence the concept is correct or myth. Let’s take a look at 5 myths we discuss on a daily basis.

Most common myth #1 – Which IRA can I self direct?
Without fail at every event and practically every one on one conversation I have the question comes up, “I have a ___ IRA, can I use that?

Repeat after me. An IRA, is an IRA, is an IRA. Regardless if you have a Traditional, Roth, SEP or Inherited IRA the core product is the same. The only difference is whether it is pre-tax, post tax contribution and how much you can contribute. Otherwise the rules for the use of the IRA are the same. Of course, an Inherited IRA does have two distinct rules: 1) distribution within 5 years regardless of age 2) Cannot contribute any additional funds.

Why does this myth exist? I think because people just do what they are told to do without much personal investigation. Somewhere down the road an advisor set them up with a structure and they have lived with the restrictions or freedom of the structure.

Most common myth #2 – Can I use the real estate?
No. Not as a self-directed IRA. The IRS code is very specific about the prohibited use of an asset in an IRA. Those people are you and your ancestral lineage. That means your blood line vertically such as your children, their children and your parents and your grandparents. Interesting though that cousins, siblings and BFFs are okay.

Why does this myth exist? My personal opinion greed or cash flow needs.

Most common myth #3 – I will loose my tax benefits buying real estate in my IRA. Yes that is true but you lost them buying stocks in your IRA as well. That CPA logic has always escaped me. You should buy real estate in your IRA because it is an investment you want to grow in retirement.

Why does this myth exist? This is a complete mystery to me. The most commonly esteemed advisor the CPA, just hasn’t thought it through and give the off-the-cuff answer without thinking about what the current assets are in an IRA.

Most common myth #4 – I can’t distribute a real estate asset to myself. Untrue. There are many people who really don’t need their IRA for retirement and want to purchase a lakefront property for retirement use. At distribution age the property in an IRA LLC can be distributed all at once or over a period of time to the the IRA holder without penalty. The distribution process is as follows:
Determine how much of a distribution is desired
Obtain a valuation from a licensed professional as to current market value
Provide the custodian with entire current market value and identify the percentage of that value to be distributed. The custodian will provide a 1099 for that amount. You now own whatever portion of that property that was distributed.

Why does this myth exist? Again, CPAs that don’t think through solutions and provide the easy answer.

Most common myth #5 – Custodian will provide compliance advice. No, no and no. The IRS gives the custodian great latitude on what they deem to be an unacceptable transaction or asset within their custody. Additionally, they can add to the confusion by not providing a stitch of advice. The standard answer is consult your advisor. Pretty hard for your advisor to hit a moving target. The IRA LLC gives you the most flexibility and still maintain compliance with the IRS.

Why does this myth exist? There is so much contradictory information on the web and in seminars. It seems that if you know a few basic rules you’re a guru. Custodians want control of your assets and they do not want you to manage your future, it is not in their economic interest. If you like playing the game mother may I? or red light, green light then custodial accounts may be right for you. But if you are willing to save some money, take control of your retirement, investment in what you know you or want flexibility allowed in the IRS code the IRA LLC is for you.

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