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Last Updated on December 2, 2023

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are a popular means of saving for retirement in the United States. One type of IRA is the self-directed IRA, which allows investors to diversify their retirement portfolios by investing in a wide range of assets.

One such asset is gold, which has long been regarded as a safe haven during times of economic uncertainty.

This article will discuss self-directed gold IRAs, how they work, the types of gold that can be owned within these IRAs, how to set one up, and other important considerations.

Can You Hold Gold in a Self-Directed IRA?

Yes, you can hold gold in a self-directed IRA.

Traditional and Roth IRAs typically limit investment options to stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, but a self-directed IRA allows investors to diversify their portfolios by including alternative assets like precious metals, real estate, and private equity.

Gold can be a valuable addition to a retirement portfolio, as it has historically maintained its value during times of economic instability and can serve as a hedge against inflation.

What Kind of Gold Can You Own with Your IRA?

Not all gold products are eligible for inclusion in a self-directed gold IRA (see our beginners guide to Gold IRAs). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has set specific requirements for the purity and form of the gold that can be held in such an account:

  1. Gold bullion bars and rounds: The gold must be at least 99.5% pure, and produced by a refiner, assayer, or manufacturer that is accredited by the Commodity Exchange (COMEX) or the National Futures Association (NFA).
  2. Gold coins: Coins must be legal tender, with a minimum fineness of 0.995 (99.5% pure gold). Examples of acceptable gold coins include the American Gold Eagle, the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf, the Australian Gold Kangaroo, and the Austrian Gold Philharmonic.

Collectible coins, jewelry, and gold below the required purity levels are not permitted within a self-directed gold IRA.

How to Set up a Self-Directed Gold IRA

a gold ira investing chart

Setting up a self-directed gold IRA involves the following steps:

  1. Choose a custodian: Find a financial institution or trust company that specializes in self-directed IRAs and is authorized by the IRS to hold IRA assets. Conduct thorough research to ensure the custodian has a solid reputation and offers competitive fees.
  2. Open an account: Complete the application process to open a self-directed IRA with your chosen custodian. You may be required to provide personal information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, and employment details.
  3. Fund your account: Transfer funds from an existing IRA or other retirement account, or make a new contribution to your self-directed IRA. Be aware of annual contribution limits and potential tax implications.
  4. Select a gold dealer: Work with a reputable gold dealer to purchase the gold products or other precious metals that meet IRS requirements for inclusion in your IRA.
  5. Arrange storage: Coordinate with your custodian to arrange secure storage of your gold in an approved depository.

gold, black, and green banner for a gold ira kit

How Does a Self-Directed Gold IRA Work?

A self-directed gold IRA operates similarly to a traditional IRA, with some key differences:

  1. Investment options: A self-directed gold IRA allows for a wider range of investment options, including gold and other alternative assets, in addition to stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
  2. Responsibility: The account holder is responsible for making investment decisions and conducting due diligence on potential investments, rather than relying on a financial advisor or investment manager.
  3. Tax advantages: Like traditional IRAs, self-directed gold IRAs offer tax-deferred growth on investments. Contributions may be tax-deductible, and withdrawals are generally taxed as ordinary income upon retirement.

Self-Directed Gold IRA Storage

The IRS requires that gold held in a self-directed IRA be stored in an approved depository to ensure the security and proper handling of the precious metals.

These depositories are typically third-party facilities that specialize in the storage of precious metals and meet stringent security, insurance, and reporting requirements.

There are two main types of storage for self-directed gold IRAs:

  1. Segregated storage: With segregated storage, your gold is stored separately from other investors’ assets in individually marked containers or spaces. This ensures that your gold remains distinct and easily identifiable.
  2. Commingled storage: In commingled storage, your gold is stored together with the assets of other investors in a common area. While this may be a more cost-effective option, it can be more challenging to identify your specific gold holdings.

When selecting a storage option, consider factors such as the cost, security, and accessibility of the depository, as well as your personal preferences for asset management.

Anything Else You Should Know About Gold IRAs?

Before opening a self-directed gold IRA, it’s essential to consider the following factors:

  1. Fees and costs: Self-directed gold IRAs typically involve higher fees compared to traditional IRAs, due to the specialized nature of the assets and the storage requirements. Be sure to carefully review and compare the fees charged by different custodians, gold dealers, and storage facilities.
  2. Liquidity: While gold can be a valuable addition to a retirement portfolio, it is important to maintain a diversified investment strategy. Ensure that you have sufficient liquid assets to cover any unexpected expenses or emergencies, as selling gold from your IRA may involve additional fees and potential tax implications.
  3. Due diligence: As the account holder, you are responsible for conducting due diligence on all investments within your self-directed IRA. Make sure you are well-informed about the assets you choose to include in your portfolio, and work with reputable professionals to help you navigate the complexities of a self-directed gold IRA.
  4. Tax implications: As with any investment, it’s important to be aware of the tax implications associated with self-directed gold IRAs. Gains within the account grow tax-deferred, but withdrawals in retirement are generally treated as ordinary income. Additionally, early withdrawals before the age of 59½ may be subject to a 10% penalty, as well as income taxes. Consult a tax professional to understand the specific tax consequences related to your self-directed gold IRA.
  5. Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): Similar to traditional IRAs, self-directed gold IRAs are subject to RMDs once the account holder reaches the age of 72 [1]. This means that a portion of the gold holdings must be liquidated and distributed each year, based on IRS guidelines. It’s essential to plan for these distributions and understand their potential impact on your overall retirement strategy.
  6. Regulations and restrictions: Be aware of the specific regulations and restrictions that govern self-directed gold IRAs, including the types of gold that can be included, storage requirements, and prohibited transactions. Engaging in prohibited transactions may result in severe penalties, such as the disqualification of the entire IRA.


Self-directed gold IRAs offer investors the opportunity to diversify their retirement portfolios by including gold and other alternative assets.

By understanding the requirements for gold investments, setting up a self-directed IRA, and selecting a custodian and storage facility, you can take advantage of the potential benefits that gold may offer as a hedge against inflation and economic uncertainty.

Be sure to consider the fees, liquidity concerns, and due diligence requirements when deciding if a self-directed gold IRA is the right choice for your retirement savings strategy.

Interested in setting up a Gold IRA – Augusta Precious Metals is our top choice – learn more and get their free investing kit below:

Cited sources

  1. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plan-and-ira-required-minimum-distributions-faqs#:~:text=Required%20Minimum%20Distributions%20(RMDs)%20are%20minimum%20amounts%20that%20IRA%20and,Dec.%2031%2C%202022).