Rolling over a 401(k) plan into a traditional or Roth IRA is a fairly common practice. You’ll often do this when you’ve left your former employer and want to keep your retirement savings all in one place. But you may also be looking to diversify your retirement savings with assets that aren’t as closely tied to the economy. If that’s the case, you might considering executing a 401(k) to gold IRA rollover.
Read on to learn about the basics of gold IRA plans and how to open one by rolling over your 401(k). You’ll also see how to determine whether such a strategy aligns with your retirement goals. For help with all investment questions, consider working with a financial advisor.
What Is a Gold IRA?
Made possible by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, a gold IRA is a type of long-term retirement account in which a custodian holds precious metals for the account owner. Although gold IRA is the most common name, that doesn’t mean you can only purchase gold with the plan. You can also hold certain types of silver, platinum and palladium. Gold IRA plans are typically self-directed IRAs, which allow more diverse investments than a traditional IRA.
One important thing to note: you can’t simply collect anything made of those four materials. The IRS has a list of specific fineness requirements all precious metals must satisfy before you can have them in your gold IRA.
How to Open a Gold IRA
The process of opening one of these accounts is fairly straightforward. First things first, you’ll need to find a custodian. Because it’s illegal for you to keep the gold yourself, you need a custodian to hold the gold you purchase through your IRA. You can find one by contacting a nearby bank, credit union or trust company. Make sure to do your research and find a company that has a strong track record of well-performing gold IRAs.
You’ll also need a broker or metal dealer to sell you the gold. Often, the custodian will have a list of brokers it’s worked with that can serve as a starting place for your research.
When you’ve found a custodian and a broker you’re satisfied with, you can open your account and purchase your precious metals. Once it’s time for you to retire, you have the option either to collect the metals or liquidate them into cash. The IRS will tax either action as a distribution.
Why Invest in Gold?
Gold is a precious metal with an intrinsic value. Gold is seen by many as a hedge against the volatility of the stock market and other investments. Some also invest in gold because they believe a day may come where paper money and other investments lose their value because of some natural disaster or geopolitical catastrophe, leaving gold as one of the remaining valuable investments.
While this is understandable, it generally isn’t a great idea to make gold your only investment — instead, it makes sense as part of a diversified portfolio.
Steps to Handle a 401(k) to Gold IRA Rollover
Once you’ve opened your gold IRA, you can contact the company managing your 401(k) account to begin the rollover process. First you’ll have to choose between a direct and indirect rollover. In an indirect rollover, you withdraw the funds from one account and then deposit them in another. With a direct IRA rollover, the funds move directly from one account to another. The direct option is usually much simpler, and it comes with less risk of IRS penalties.
With an indirect rollover, you have 60 days from the date you receive the funds to transfer the money to your custodian or gold IRA company. The funds become a taxable withdrawal if you don’t complete the transfer in the 60 day period. If you are 59.5 years old or younger, a 10% early withdrawal penalty is also applicable.
With either rollover option, you’ll also have to make sure you’ve satisfied any special requirements the company might have for rollovers. Once you’ve met the requirements, the company will send a check with your funds to either you or your gold IRA custodian. At that point, you’ll have completed your 401(k) to gold IRA rollover.
Should You Do a 401(k) to Gold IRA Rollover?
Are you looking to diversify your retirement savings? Do you want a retirement option that doesn’t mirror the volatility of paper currency or the stock market? If either is the case, you should consider maneuvering a 401(k) to gold IRA rollover.
Gold IRA plans, or gold investments in general, can be appealing since the price of gold typically moves in the opposite direction of the stock market. So if your securities investments are performing poorly, your gold investments are probably on the rise, and vice versa. Many investors use gold investments to hedge against other investments. It’s uncommon for investors to have a portfolio of entirely gold, or any one asset class for that matter.
Gold sellers will often market gold IRAs by contrasting them with the volatility and risk of the stock market. What’s more, gold will undoubtedly always have some value to it. However, it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a risk-free investment. The price of gold is subject to its own rise and fall. Investing in physical assets also presents the possibility of theft, although most custodians will insure against that scenario.
Investing in gold can be a good way to diversify your retirement plan across asset classes. This could mean purchasing physical coins and bars or stock in gold companies. If you’re looking for a new destination for the funds in your 401(k) and you want something that doesn’t closely follow the stock market or the economy, then a 401(k) to gold IRA rollover could be a good option.
That said, it’s always important to diversify your investments. Make sure your retirement strategy includes several different asset classes. That will help protect you from risk on all sides.
- Finding a financial advisor can explain the pros and cons of different retirement strategies can prevent a lot of headaches. With SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor matching tool, you can answer a series of questions about your financial needs and preferences. Then, the tool will pair you with up to three qualified advisors in your area.
- When deciding between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, think about your income now compared to your income when you retire. When would you rather be taxed? With a traditional IRA, taxes will apply when you withdraw your funds. With a Roth IRA, taxes will apply before you invest your money.
- Saving for retirement is less complicated once you know how much you need to save. With the SmartAsset retirement calculator, you can enter your information and determine the funds you need to maintain your lifestyle after you retire.
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