Disclaimer: Many or all of the companies listed here may provide compensation to us. This is how we maintain our free service for consumers. Compensation, along with hours of in-depth editorial research, determines where & how companies appear below.
Chances are, you already have at least one retirement account started. Whether it's a 401(k) through an employer or an IRA that you picked for yourself, most people try to save for retirement early. With the instability and uncertainty that plagues the economy these days, many people want to invest in precious metals.
It is legal to put some or all of your retirement into precious metals. But you must buy bullion or coins that are a certain purity level. You must store them according to IRS guidelines, and you must have an account custodian who monitors the holdings and files the required paperwork.
On top of this, you need a self-directed IRA to buy gold. Your traditional IRA can't hold alternative assets like gold, silver, Bitcoin, or real estate. Your current custodian might not be authorized to manage self-directed accounts, so you'll have to find a new one.
Then there's the funds. If you open an entirely new retirement account, you have to fund it. Usually this is done through a rollover. But that involves a lot of paperwork, communication, and hassle. Sometimes you even need to chase down your current custodian to make sure they file the paperwork within the 60 day deadline.
All of this is an enormous hassle. To take the weight off your shoulders, we recommend investing with a gold IRA company. These are dealerships that connect you with custodians and depositories right away. They help you with all of your paperwork, and they help you choose affordable IRS-approved products. Sometimes they'll even work with your custodian for you.
So with that in mind, let's look into how to open a gold IRA.
How to Open Your Gold IRA
If you choose not to work with a gold IRA company, these are the steps you'll have to go through:
This all involves an enormous amount of time consuming research and communication. Not to mention, you'll have to familiarize yourself with the IRS guidelines and hope not to make any mistakes.
That's all pretty overwhelming! Especially since most people don't have much background in taxes or investing. Because of how overwhelming that is, plenty of people assume it's too difficult and never do it.
But a gold IRA company takes all of the hassle away. They connect you to a custodian and depository, connect you with eligible products, and make sure that you're compliant with the regulations. They're also so familiar with the paperwork that they can take you through the applications in just a few minutes.
With a good gold IRA dealer, these are the steps you can expect to follow instead:
Choose Your Gold IRA Company
There are dozens of companies that offer gold IRA services. The exact services will vary from place to place. Some specialize exclusively in gold IRAs, while others sell collectible coins or other alternative assets. Some can help you combine assets, like purchasing Bitcoin and gold from the same dealership. Some barely focus on IRAs, but have some cursory help available.
As with any part of the precious metals industry, there are both bad and good gold IRA companies. Finding the right one for you might be overwhelming, so we've put together a list of recommendations at the end of this article. There are also some key tips on how to determine whether a company is good or not.
Once you choose your company, you can contact them to use their services. Typically, an employee will help you with your paperwork through a chat or over the phone. You might even be able to do part of the application on your own before calling.
Then it's time to think about the storage and custodian. Most gold IRA companies have partnered depository and custodial companies that they use. It's important to look these up to make sure they have solid policies and transparent fees as well. Avoid any custodian that is getting constant negative feedback from its customers.
Your gold IRA company will be able to point you in the direction of an IRS-compliant depository. This means that they have strict security, frequent audits, and a full insurance policy on every vault. That's much more secure than what you'd get if you tried to store your items at home. Sometimes there will be several depository options available in different regions throughout the US, or even internationally.
You'll be able to talk to your representative about how to choose the location that's right for you. Many people just choose the depository in their region. But you might also take advantage of certain tax setups. For example, Delaware and Texas both have zero sales tax on bullion shipped to or stored in the state. As such, these states are home to some of the most popular depositories as well.
There will typically be a small fee to get your account set up and your paperwork filed. With the most affordable companies, it's usually around $50.
Transfer Your Funds
Now that you've created the self-directed IRA, chosen a custodian, and settled on a depository, you need to transfer your funds. Until you do that, the account is empty. There's no way to purchase anything.
If you have savings that you want to contribute, then you can make a cash contribution. You'll use a check, wire transfer, or cash at the bank to fund the account. This transaction will be handled exactly like a normal investment or savings account.
You may need to pay a wire transfer fee, depending on your bank and their regulations. Just call and ask if you're worried about the potential costs. Most bank wire transfer fees aren't more than around $30.
Your other option is to roll over funds from your current retirement account. As long as you file the paperwork and initiate the transfer within 60 days, you're all set. There won't be any penalties to your holdings. Most often, this is done by directly wiring the money from your old retirement account to your new one.
Sometimes your gold IRA company will help with this. They may even talk to your custodians for you, saving you all of the time and hassle. Otherwise, your new custodian is the one who will walk you through the paperwork. They'll get the relevant information and help you coordinate the transfer with your old custodian.
There are annual cash contribution limits for new IRAs. But there aren't limits for rolling over funds from your existing holdings, as long as you do everything in the right time frame.
As soon as the funds are in your account, you can use them to purchase precious metals.
Choose Your Products
Now you can decide which products you want to buy. If you're not sure, you can talk to a representative at the gold IRA company about the available options. They might ask questions about your goals and make suggestions based on how different items perform in different market situations.
For example, if you just want to get the most gold for the cheapest price, they can calculate which items give you the best deal there. If you want specific easily-liquidated coins like American Eagles, you can discuss whether to get regular or proof options. The possibilities are endless.
This is another situation in which using a gold IRA company is much better than using an average gold dealership. A gold IRA company is aware of the purity and bullion requirements laid out by the IRS. Not only will they have all of the information necessary, but they'll make sure you don't invest in anything that you shouldn't.
That can save you a major headache down the road. Even if it was an honest mistake, you might end up paying premature taxes and penalties to the IRS. It's better not to risk that kind of thing by simply working with an expert from the get-go.
Watch the Account Performance
Once the order is finalized, your gold IRA company will coordinate with your custodian on your behalf. They will receive the funds from your account and ship the items out to your depository. When the items arrive, they will be unpacked by your custodian, inspected, and placed into your vault.
From there, you don't need to do much of anything. In most cases, the account fees will be taken directly from the holdings. You can passively let your gold and silver sit, or you can log into your account to monitor the changes in their value. Your custodian and gold IRA representative will both be available to answer questions about your reports.
If you want to buy more gold in the future, your gold IRA company will probably be happy to facilitate this. But if you weren't satisfied with their service, you can switch to a different dealer without any hassle. While your custodian is more difficult to change, they aren't affiliated with your gold dealer.
How to Choose a Gold IRA Company
For all the great companies in the industry, there are an equal number of companies with poor policies and shoddy customer service. So here are some of the key factors that you should consider when deciding whether to use a company.
Reviews and Reputation
First of all, you'll want to consider the overall reputation of the company. Maybe you've heard about it in endorsements or advertisements, but what do past customers have to say?
You can look up objective reviews on sites like Trustlink, Trustpilot, and Consumer Affairs. In addition, the Better Business Bureau is a trusted organization. They rate companies based on their customer care, and they publish any complaints that customers needed to file.
The more reviews a company has, the easier it is to evaluate. How do they respond to complaints? Are most reviews positive? What exactly do customers have to say? What do they think was satisfactory, and what could be better in the future?
When you're working with a dishonest gold company, they'll often try to confuse you into purchasing things you don't want. There are many tactics that can be used for this kind of "hard sell." Oftentimes the salespeople work on commission, so their main motive is to sell as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
An honest company, however, is centered around the customer. They want to build client relationships by matching you with the right investment. Basically, they make their money by genuinely helping customers meet their goals, rather than seeing every person as a dollar sign.
These types of companies typically have a large amount of consumer education. You might find guides, articles, pages, blogs, videos, charts, and other media dedicated to the precious metals industry. They share valuable information and insights so that you know how to identify a legitimate business in the future.
Level of Service
You'll also want to consider the level of service being provided. Some examples of the questions you should ask are:
The more in-depth and hands-on they are, the more convenient your experience will be.
Fees and Minimums
Finally, the company should be transparent about their fees and minimums. They shouldn't be charging hidden commission fees or ridiculous markups. Some companies even publish the formula they use for how they calculate their prices.
There will typically be setup fees and sometimes transaction fees. The best companies use flat fees, instead of taking a percentage of your holdings. That way, there's no confusion about what you'll be paying. You also don't pay more for earning more.
Minimum investments are a key factor to keep in mind as well. Many companies of all quality levels have different investment requirements. You want to make sure that you can meet the investment requirements of whichever company you have in mind.
Our Top Recommendations
These are our top three recommendations for people looking to invest in a gold IRA. All three of these companies have the following in common:
Goldco is our top pick overall for a number of reasons. The company is so well-managed and carefully designed that it's difficult to find a flaw. Customers have talked about how the salespeople are knowledgeable and patient without being pushy. They've also talked about how the product prices are super competitive.
Goldco is one of the few companies that truly streamlines everything. They'll talk to your custodian for you, so you never have to. They'll even facilitate your entire rollover process. On your own, you'd need to talk to a ton of different entities; with Goldco, you just speak to your one account representative, and they make it happen.
#2. Augusta Precious Metals
Augusta Precious Metals is another top pick thanks to their transparency and great educational tools. In addition to their aforementioned investment guide, they have articles and free webinars for clients. Clients can work one-on-one with professional economists to talk about their retirement and examine the impacts of the global economy.
There's also a strong focus on lifetime support. After making your purchase, the Augusta representative continues to maintain your account. You can always ask them your questions or look for insights. Even if you never make another purchase again, you get that lifetime of support.
#3. American Hartford Gold
American Hartford Gold is unique because it has the same stellar reputation as the other two, but it doesn't have a minimum investment. Most of the time, companies without a minimum investment also have a poor reputation. That's not the case here.
When you work with American Hartford Gold, they'll try to connect you to the products that best suit your financial future. Their inventory includes many Canadian coins and other bullion that's not often available from mainstream dealers. The vast majority of their products are IRA-approved.
The simplest and easiest way to open a gold IRA is by connecting with a company that will do it for you. Otherwise, you'll be stuck navigating a ton of confusing regulations and paperwork.