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Gold is said by many investors to be a staple of a healthy portfolio. Precious metals serve two important purposes: they hedge against inflation, and they increase in value when there's economic strife. Some people invest so that they have easily-liquidated assets in case of an emergency.
There are also investors who swear that gold is a necessary piece of your retirement portfolio. It hasn't always been legal to keep gold in an IRA, though. That changed in 1997, when the IRS passed legislation allowing people to keep gold and other precious metals in a self-directed IRA.
You can hold gold bullion in your retirement account in the form of coins and bars. But there are very specific requirements regarding both of these things.
If you are looking to get started investing in precious metals right away checkout our top companies list. We did hundreds of hours of research and testing to find the top companies for this year...
About Precious Metals IRAs
Precious metals IRAs are a subset of self-directed IRAs. Unlike traditional IRAs, which have an investment manager, a self-directed IRA doesn't have any finance professional in charge. Instead, you have complete and total freedom over how you spend your funds. But you can only invest in items that are IRS-approved!
Self-directed IRAs can hold assets that traditional IRAs can't. Among these are precious metals like gold, cryptocurrency, and real estate. Every account will have a custodian who manages the funds and assets. This custodian is responsible for filing the legal paperwork with the IRS and making sure that all of your purchases are tax-compliant.
Gold IRAs must use coins and bars of a certain purity level. The coins must be pre-approved by the IRS and come from sovereign mints. The bars must be certified and come from accredited refineries or manufacturers. There are multiple organizations and certifications that can be given to these manufacturers.
Aside from the US Mint, the vast majority of gold bars come from privately owned companies. Some people prefer this because they don't trust centralized currency. They would rather get tangible assets that are easy to liquidate, difficult to track, and not tied into any one banking system.
Once you buy gold with your self-directed IRA funds, the items will be shipped to a depository. There are many depositories that meet the IRS requirements for security. Typically, your vault will be fully insured.
The cost of storage will be paid on an annual or quarterly basis. It will vary depending on factors like the depository's fee structure, the amount you have in storage, and whether you choose to have segregated or non-segregated items.
There are gold IRA dealers that are experts in all the legal requirements for these accounts.
Gold IRA Regulations
When the Taxpayer Relief Act from 1997 went into effect, people gained the ability to hold a variety of gold items in their IRAs. Prior to this, the only gold legally allowed in a retirement account was an American Eagle coin. The Relief Act changed the rules so that people can hold US minted gold coins of varying weights, as well as some gold coins from other sovereign mints.
However, there are still major regulations that you need to abide by. The coins and the gold bars must be IRA approved. You aren't allowed to hold rounds, collectibles, jewelry, scrap metal, or anything else. You're only allowed to have pure bullion.
All gold items need to be tested and certified to be at least 99.5% pure. While coins need to be from a sovereign mint, bars can be from a variety of refineries. But they do need to meet certain standards.
Gold Coin Requirements
There are a variety of gold coins from the US Mint that are eligible to keep in a retirement account. Some of the most popular examples are American Eagles and American Buffalos. Not only do these coins retain their value over time, but they are also extremely easy to liquidate.
You can purchase coins in a variety of different weights. The larger the weight, the pricier the coin will be. Some of the approved weights include one ounce, a half ounce, a tenth ounce, and a quarter ounce.
Some coins are eligible from mints like the Royal Canadian Mint, the sovereign mint in London, and the sovereign mint in China. There are a variety of European coins available for purchase from multiple different mints, as well as coins from places like Australia and South Africa.
Again, though, collectible coins are not eligible. That's because they tend to be priced around speculation. Meanwhile, bullion is priced based on the melt value of the coin, plus the ease of liquidation. That makes pure bullion a much more stable and less risky investment at large.
Gold Bar Requirements
In order for a gold bar to be kept in your IRA, it needs to be a specific weight and purity. It must meet the aforementioned 99.5% purity level. The manufacturer or refinery also needs to be accredited or certified by one of the following organizations:
The only exception to this rule is if the bars come from a national government mint and meet the other requirements. The US Mint mostly deals in gold coins, but you might find pure bullion bars available from time to time.
All of the bars also need to be manufactured to the exact weight specifications, unless they're a large amount. The specific exceptions are 100 ounce and 400 ounce gold bars. Anything else has to comply with the approved weight specifications, and therefore be a fixed amount. This helps to ensure that the value of the investment is preserved over time.
Requirements for Other Precious Metals
There are three other precious metals that can be kept in a retirement account: silver, platinum, and palladium. Silver is much less expensive than gold, so it's sometimes popular with investors on a budget. It also has more use in manufacturing and industrial applications. Platinum and palladium are both much pricier.
Silver has a higher purity requirement than gold, with every piece required to be 99.9% pure. Both palladium and platinum are even higher, with a requirement that every piece reaches a purity of 99.95%. Coins from sovereign mints can be held with all three pieces in a one ounce size.
The small bars for any of these items must be manufactured to the correct weight specifications. They are also beholden to the same requirements as the gold bars regarding their certification and authenticity. Every refinery or manufacturer must be certified as legitimate.
The exceptions for the weight of the bars include:
Everything else is required to meet the aforementioned specifications. If you're not sure whether a bar is eligible to keep in an account, you can check with an IRA specialist to ask. We've compiled a list of our favorite gold IRA experts to help you out.
If you purchase proof coins of any kind for your account, then these must be kept in the original mint packaging. They must be in perfect condition and have an accompanying certificate of authenticity. Coins that are not proof should be damage-free and uncirculated, meaning that they have never been handled or used before.
Our Top Gold IRA Companies
There are companies that exist solely to help connect you with the right bullion for your IRA. They can also help you with the paperwork and the complicated rules surrounding these accounts. We've created a list of our top recommendations based on their reputation, services, pricing, and inventory.
Each one of these companies has received top marks by organizations like the Better Business Bureau and Business Consumer Alliance. On top of that, they have been reviewed hundreds or thousands of times by past customers. The feedback is vastly positive, and when any negative issues do come up, the companies immediately address the situation and rectify it.
Keep in mind that the available items for any company will vary by the day. But we've taken a look at the offerings of each company to give you a sense of the gold bars that they have available.
Goldco is our top pick overall and has been for several years. The company is the cream of the crop as far as customer service is concerned. They handle every single aspect of the IRA process, from explaining the paperwork to filing your papers to making phone calls to your custodian.
The company has received overwhelmingly positive feedback over the years from thousands of different customers. They do have a minimum requirement of $25,000 to start. While that may be out of some people's price ranges, the purchase does streamline the whole IRA process.
Goldco mainly specializes in gold and silver coins, which make up the bulk of their inventory. But their website also states that they have gold and silver bars available. While they don't provide information about the specific manufacturers, they do say that the bars are IRA-eligible. In addition, there are multiple different weights available.
If you're interested in purchasing gold bars rather than gold coins, you can give Goldco a call and find out what bars are available. The company provides inventory information and price quotes over the phone.
Augusta Precious Metals serves clients all over the country. Despite being such a large company, they operate like a luxury boutique. To this end, they require customers to invest at least $50,000 if they want to use their services. But that gets you an ongoing lifetime of consumer support and market updates.
Augusta is so popular in the industry that they are endorsed by sports legend Joe Montana. In addition, they hold free one-on-one webinars for potential clients. You don't even need to commit to a purchase. All you have to do is sign up for an email, which will tell you when there's a webinar available to schedule.
When you go to the Augusta website, you'll find links to their common gold and silver options, as well as their premium options. Under the common gold section, you'll find two bars available. One is a ten ounce option, while the other is one ounce.
The larger of the bars is .9999 purity. Each bar is stamped with the weight, the purity, and the company issuing the gold. Augusta sources their gold bars from several different locations, but they most commonly work with Englehard, Johnson Matthey, PAMP, and Credit Suisse. All of these are well known and well respected refineries with high quality, certified products.
The one ounce bar is also .9999 purity. Augusta encourages people to invest in these bars when they have a fair amount of money to tie up in gold, but they aren't interested in buying a gold coin. If you call to speak with a representative, you may be able to ask about which products give you the best value overall.
American Hartford Gold is perfect for people shopping on a shoestring budget. Whether you're a young person who hasn't saved much for retirement, or an older person who's cautious about how much to invest, they have you covered. Unlike the other two options on our list, they have no minimum requirements or fees to get started.
Not all of American Hartford Gold's products are eligible to keep in an IRA, but the vast majority are. You can sort by IRA-approved items when you look through their inventory.
There's a one ounce gold bar available from Sunshine Minting. They also feature Valcambi Combibars from Valcambi Suisse in both gold and silver. You can call to learn about the available weights and current pricing.
Though American Hartford Gold doesn't appear to hold many large weights for their gold bars, they are the most affordable option for people on a budget. What you sacrifice in diversity is made up in savings later.
Gold bars are a little different from gold coins when it comes to IRAs. Gold coins must be made by a sovereign mint, and they can't be collectibles. It's best to check a list to see if the coins are IRS-approved. Meanwhile, gold bars can come from any refinery or manufacturer that has the proper certifications and accreditations.
We recommend working with a gold IRA specialist when choosing products for your IRA. These experts can explain the bars available in their inventory, the difference in prices, and how to get the best deal for your dollar. They'll also be happy to answer questions about gold coins, as well as other precious metals products that you can keep in an IRA.
Our top choice overall is Goldco, thanks to their customer service and streamlining. They make the process super easy, and their representatives will patiently answer questions. Customers report that they felt listened to and cared for, and the representatives don't try to "hard sell" you on anything.
If you can afford it, we also highly recommend Augusta Precious Metals. Though their minimum investment might be a little steep, the ongoing service is worth it. You'll get continuing updates on your holdings, the market, and any economic factors that you might be concerned about. You can even sign up for a webinar without ever making a purchase.
For those who are operating on a budget, we recommend American Hartford Gold. While their selection of gold bars is somewhat limited, they're the only choice without a minimum investment requirement. There's also no setup fee for an IRA. If you invest a certain amount, you might also be eligible for some promotions from the company, like having your other account fees waived for up to three years.
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