Convert your IRA to Gold
Best Gold IRA companies of 2022 planning your retirement
So, you want to convert your IRA to Gold.
That’s a great objective.
When you invest in a Gold IRA you accomplish several worthwhile objectives:
You diversify your Portfolio into alternative Investments
Computer models show that the typical 60 / 40 Portfolio (Stocks / Bonds) performs better with a 3 to 10% allocation towards physical Gold as markets cycle through their bull and bear phases.
You gain a hedge against Inflation
Gold can protect the Purchasing power of your retirement savings. During the Inflation and Stagflation of the 1970s the price of Gold increased by more than 2100%.
You hold an asset with zero counter-party risk
Gold is a tangible asset that has value simply by existing – its value doesn’t depend on the performance of any business or individual.
Gold is immune to currency debasement
In 1914 Germany removed the Gold backing from their currency and started printing paper Marks backed by nothing. This action led to the Weimar hyperinflation where one ounce of Gold rose from 170 paper Marks in 1919 to 87 trillion paper Marks in 1923.
Physical Gold provides these benefits whether you purchase the metal inside or outside of your tax-advantaged Retirement accounts.
One of the reasons investors make an Investment in a Gold IRA is to get their tax-advantaged savings out of Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual funds. Once you place money into an IRS-approved Retirement account you gain tax benefits but your money is essentially stuck in those accounts until you reach retirement age.
When both Stocks and Bonds are falling at the same time the way they have been this year, a Gold IRA provides a secure way to protect the value of your tax-advantaged savings.
A Gold IRA is technically a self-directed IRA that allows you to purchase and hold Precious metals using either tax-deferred or tax-exempt savings. Gold IRAs are also called Precious metals IRAs, Silver IRAs, etc., but they are all the same thing. A Gold IRA can hold any of the approved Precious metals, or a mix of the metals.
Before we talk specifically about how to convert your IRA to Gold let’s take a quick look at how Precious metals IRAs were created.
In 1974 Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act which created regular IRAs, Roth IRAs, and self-directed IRAs. This new tax law didn’t specify which asset classes could be held in a self-directed IRA but it did specifically exclude insurance contracts and collectibles. As a result, investors who took advantage of self-directed IRAs primarily used them to hold Real Estate.
Taxpayer Relief Act
The Taxpayer Relief Act was passed in 1997 and it clarified the assets that could and could not be held in self-directed IRAs. For the first time, Gold and Silver became IRA-approved assets and then Platinum and Palladium were added in 1998.
The process for converting your existing IRA to a Gold IRA is quite simple and all of the Gold IRA companies will help you with the process.
Open an account with the Gold IRA company of your choice.
Request a rollover or transfer from your existing Retirement account. In a rollover funds will be wired directly from one account to the other. In a transfer you will receive the funds from your existing account and then forward that money to the Gold IRA account.
Fund the Gold IRA account with the rollover or transfer.
Select the Precious metals products that you want to hold in your IRA.
Which products to choose
Selecting Precious metals products to hold in your IRA is exciting. This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to setting up your new IRA.
Picking inappropriate products can be an expensive mistake and, based on feedback from Gold IRA investors, it is a fairly common mistake.
An easy guideline to remember is that you want the products with the lowest premium over the spot price of the metal you are buying.
The price quotes you see for Gold are for 400-ounce bars. Silver prices are quoted for 1000-ounce bars. These price quotes are called "spot" prices but most investors purchase one ounce bars and Coins.
"Premium" is the difference between the spot price and the price you pay for a single ounce of Gold or Silver. Premiums cover the cost for a refinery or mint to take a 400-ounce bar of Gold or a 1000-ounce bar of Silver and turn it into one ounce Coins or bars.
Premiums on Gold products are about 3 to 7% in August 2022. Gold bars are the least expensive products and American Gold Eagle Coins are typically the most expensive. South African Krugerrands are often the least expensive Gold Coins because there is an abundant supply.
Premiums on Silver are quite elevated currently, and they have been for the past 18 months.
Premiums are elevated for two reasons:
1. Investor demand for physical Silver is overwhelming the available supply.
2. The spot price of Silver is too low to cover the cost of mining the metal and turning it into the products that investors want to purchase.
Like Gold, the Silver products with the lowest premiums are bars. Premiums on 100-ounce bars are about 7% and 10-ounce bars have a premium of about 9%. Generic one ounce rounds (1-ounce Coins from non-government mints) have premiums around 15% while premiums on American Silver Eagle Coins are currently over 60%.
Proof and special edition Coins
They say you should never say never, but at Gold Well Live we tell investors to never purchase proof or special edition Coins.
The premium on these Coins can run as high as 300 or 400% which is simply ridiculous. Coin dealers push these Coins onto uninformed investors by telling them that the limited edition Coins have greater investor demand when it comes time to sell. This is pure BS - informed Precious metals investors would never pay this kind of premium.
Don't be fooled by 'Certificates of Authenticity' or fancy boxes for the Coins you invest in. The only people that care about these things are the dealers who make a huge profit by selling you these overpriced products. If a Gold IRA company tries to pressure you into proof or special edition Coins take your business elsewhere.
Premiums won't remain elevated forever. If you pay a 60% premium for American Silver Eagles you will need the price of Silver to increase by 50% or more before you will be able to make a profit on your Silver Investment.
Again, always buy the Precious metals products that have the lowest premium over the spot price and never buy proof Coins.
"The desire for Gold is not for Gold.
It is for the means of freedom and benefit."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Gold IRA pros and cons
The key positive to a Gold IRA is that it gives you a way to protect your tax-advantaged savings from the ravages of Inflation, currency debasement (money printing), and market volatility.
The biggest drawback to a Gold IRA is the IRS requirement that a third-party Custodian has to hold the physical metal. This tax law applies to all IRAs regardless of the assets you hold. The Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual funds that you have in your existing IRA are held in your name by a third-party Custodian.
Precious metal IRA rules
There are a few Precious metal IRA rules to be aware of. In general, your Gold IRA receives the same tax treatment as a regular IRA.
Gold, Silver, Platinum, and Palladium. Metal must be at least 99.5% pure with the exception of American Eagle Coins (91.67% pure).
Limit on IRA accounts
Investors are allowed to have more than one IRA open at a time. Opening a Precious metals IRA does not affect other Retirement accounts.
Distributions can be taken in metal or cash. Required minimum distributions must be taken after age 72.
Capital gains are taxed at your current tax rate instead of the automatic 28% rate for collectibles.
Movement of funds
Investors can move funds from one Retirement account to another without paying taxes or penalties. Only one move per year is allowed.
Already owned metal
Metal that you already own cannot be moved into the IRA. All metal must be purchased through the account Custodian.
Converting 401k to Gold
In case you have a 401k as well as your IRA, let’s talk about converting a 401k to Gold.
Active vs eligible 401(k)
When it comes to 401(k) accounts there is a key distinction we have to make and that is the difference between "active" and "eligible".
An active 401(k) is an account at your current employer. Whether you are currently contributing to the plan or not, the IRS considers it "active" as long as you remain at your current place of employment. The money in active 401(k) plans cannot be moved to any other type of tax-advantaged savings plan.
An eligible 401(k) is any account from a previous employer. The money in an eligible 401(k) can be moved into other Retirement accounts or you can close the account and use the cash as you wish (after paying taxes and early withdrawal penalties, of course). If you take money from an eligible 401(k) and roll it into your active 401(k), that money becomes "active" again and falls under the same rules as an active 401(k).
Options for active 401(k)
Unfortunately, there aren't any good ways to purchase Gold with active 401(k) money. If you want to cut to the chase, a 401(k) loan is your best option. For the sake of completeness, all of the options for accessing an active 401(k) are listed below.
Close account and cash out
The IRS does not allow you to close an active 401(k) account. Any money you contribute to an active 401(k) is essentially stuck there until you have left that employer.
Stop contributing to account and redirect money
You don't have to contribute to your active 401(k) account. If you really want to invest in Gold you could take your 401(k) contributions and use that money to buy physical Gold. Obviously, if you do this you lose the tax benefits of a 401(k) savings plan.
Leave current employer
Once you leave your current employer, the active 401(k) becomes eligible for a rollover or transfer into other types of Retirement accounts like a self-directed Precious metals IRA.
Unless you have a rock-solid new job lined-up, it does not make sense to leave your current employer just to access the money in your 401(k) account. In our opinion, the entire world is heading into an economic depression where good jobs will be hard to come by.
Take an emergency withdrawal
The IRS allows you to access the money in your 401(k) for financial emergencies like overwhelming medical bills or a disability. Emergency withdrawals are subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty but you don't have to put the money back into your 401(k).
Obviously, your desire to buy Gold does not qualify as a financial emergency. You will have to prove to the IRS that you have some kind of financial need that justifies an emergency withdrawal. Lying to the IRS is definitely a bad financial strategy - don't do it.
Switch to a self-directed 401(k)
Some 401(k) plans have a self-directed option where you can buy individual Stocks and Bonds inside your account. Ask your Plan Administrator or HR department if this is an option.
In a self-directed 401(k) you could purchase shares of Gold-backed Trusts like the Sprott Physical Gold Trust (NYSE: PHYS) or SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE: GLD). Understand, however, that holding shares in a Gold Trust is not the same thing as owning Gold.
These Trusts can give you exposure to the price of Gold. They cannot provide you with ownership of physical Gold, regardless of what their advertising implies. If you read the fine print on PHYS or GLD, you will realize that converting your shares to physical Gold is not a realistic option.
Move to Mutual fund with exposure to Precious metals
The Investment options in most 401(k) plans are very conservative, to say the least. They consist primarily of Mutual funds that invest in mainstream companies. If you are lucky, you may have access to a "growth" Mutual fund that has some kind of exposure to the Precious metals.
Take a 401(k) loan
The IRS allows you to borrow up to 50% of the money in your active 401(k) without being subject to taxes or early withdrawal penalties. If you want to purchase physical Gold with your 401(k) money, this is probably your best option.
With a 401(k) loan you are borrowing tax-exempt money from yourself but you will repay your 401(k) account with after-tax money out of your income. These payments will be deducted from your paycheck. You will also pay interest on the loan but you are paying this interest to yourself.
A 401(k) loan is amortized over a 5-year period and has to be repaid before you leave your current place of employment. Any portion of the loan that is not repaid will be subject to early withdrawal penalties and income taxes.
"Gold is money.
Everything else is credit."
How can I transfer my 401k to Gold without penalty
To transfer your 401k to Gold without penalty, the account has to be "eligible" for transfer as described above. If you have an eligible 401k then the transfer process is no different than the simple steps described above for an IRA.
There is, however, one more key point to understand about avoiding penalties and taxes in the conversion process so we need to define the difference between a transfer and a rollover.
When you transfer funds from one Retirement account to another, you act as an intermediary in the process. Funds from your existing account are wired or mailed to you and you take possession of the money. You then forward all or some of that money to the Gold IRA account.
The IRS allows you 60 days to complete the transfer process.
Any funds that are not deposited into the Gold IRA account after 60 days are treated as a distribution and the IRS will assess a 10% early withdrawal penalty and income taxes on the distributed funds.
In a rollover funds are wired directly from your existing Retirement account to the Gold IRA. You never take possession of the money so there is no risk of penalties or taxes.
Because there is no risk involved, a rollover makes more sense than a transfer.
The only reason to do a transfer is if you plan to use some of your retirement savings for something other than the Gold IRA. Again, any funds that aren't deposited into an IRS-approved account after 60 days will be treated as a distribution.
Gold IRA reviews
The best Gold IRA reviews are available on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and TrustPilot websites. Both of these companies make an effort to filter out fake and paid reviews which, unfortunately, make up a significant portion of online reviews. The BBB says that they only publish 62% of the reviews they receive because the remaining reviews can't be verified as legitimate.
When you are reading customer reviews look for positive reviews that mention getting questions answered and not being pressured to make a decision. The best Gold IRA companies will spend months working with potential clients, making sure that they are comfortable about their Investment in Precious metals.
On the BBB website check for customer complaints - they are separated from customer reviews. For a company to keep an A+ rating with they BBB, they have to respond to customer complaints and make an effort to resolve the issue. Seeing how a business responds to dissatisfied customers can be quite informative.
Don't decide against a Gold IRA company just because they have a few complaints filed on BBB. Some customers will never be happy, regardless of the product involved. You do, however, want to look for a pattern of complaints that indicate the company is using high-pressure sales tactics or deception.
You will probably notice that many customer complaints involve proof and special edition Coins and how the customer lost money when they tried to sell the Coins. This problem is easily avoided by staying away from these overpriced Coins.
Top-rated Gold IRA companies
All of the Gold IRA companies claim to be the best but that isn't surprising. Would you do business with a company whose advertising campaign said, "We're only second best, but do business with us anyway"?
Finding the best Gold IRA company for you personally is a matter of deciding which factors are most important to you. Once you have identified these factors you can make a list of the top-rated Gold IRA companies and then compare them based on your criteria.
These are some of the attributes you may want to consider:
Rating agencies like the BBB and Trustpilot evaluate businesses for their transparency and honesty in dealing with customers. A high rating from these agencies doesn't guaranty that you will have a good experience with a particular Gold IRA company, but any company that can't earn and maintain a high rating should probably be avoided.
There are two more rating agencies you can check:
- Business Consumer Alliance (BCA)
- Consumer Affairs
Years in business
The number of years a company has been doing business is a reasonable way to sort the wheat from the chaff. Shady companies don't stay in business long-term. Word gets around and they run out of customers to fleece or they get shutdown through legal action.
Most of the top-rated Gold IRA companies have been in business for at least 10 years so you can use this as a filtering criteria. You may eliminate some good companies who are just getting started, but when it comes to your retirement savings it is best to deal with established businesses that have been around for at least 10 years.
Focus on education
Precious metals are an alternative Investment that most investors are unfamiliar with. The best Gold IRA companies understand this and they make an effort to educate their potential customers. This education process starts on the company's website and continues with all of the company's representatives.
At a minimum, a Gold IRA company should offer some kind of 'Gold IRA 101' guide to get you started in the right direction. Ideally, you will find a library of videos and articles on the website so you can educate yourself independently. Some Gold IRA companies want to talk with you before they provide their educational materials through the mail or email.
Location of the Depository
Because the IRS requires that a third-party Custodian holds the assets in an IRA, your Precious metals will be stored in an IRS-approved Depository. Each of the Gold IRA companies has a preferred Depository that they work with, although most of them will use any Depository that you specify.
Although you aren't allowed to store your IRA metals at home, you may prefer to have them stored somewhat close to where you live. If you live in Texas, for example, you might want to have your metals stored in the state-administered Texas Bullion Depository instead of a privately-owned Depository in Delaware or California.
Setup and annual fees
The Precious metals in an IRA require secure storage and insurance. Because of these expenses, the fees on a Gold IRA are higher than the fees on an IRA holding Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual funds. When you are comparing Gold IRA companies you can use the fees they charge as a differentiating factor.
There are two categories of Gold IRA fees: startup and annual. Startup fees vary from $50 to $200 and annual fees are typically $200 to $400.
Fees vary based on your account size, the Custodian being used, and the chosen Depository. Some Gold IRA companies waive fees on large accounts or offer promotions where fees are waived for the first year or two.
When you contact a Gold IRA company, ask the representative for a fee schedule that covers your situation.
Broker fees and commissions
Gold IRA companies facilitate the process of establishing a self-directed IRA where you can hold physical Precious metals using your tax-advantaged savings.
Obviously, you have to buy your metal somewhere and that is where the Broker-Dealer comes into play. This business entity is usually associated with the Gold IRA company or may be the Gold IRA company itself.
Broker-Dealers charge transaction fees to cover their expenses and make a profit. Usually their fee is included in the premium for a bar or Coin but you some Gold IRA companies may charge you a separate Broker fee or sales commission.
It is critical that you understand all of the fees you will be charged when you make an Investment in Precious metals. Ask your Gold IRA representative to clearly itemize all of their fees in writing. If they become defensive or refuse your request, simply move on to another company. There are lots of Gold IRA companies to choose from.
All of the companies listed below meet the Gold Well Live criteria for being a top-rated Gold IRA company. When you are building your list of candidates, these companies are a good starting point.
Augusta Precious Metals
We've covered a lot of ground in this article but we are talking about your hard-earned money and how you can protect it. Converting your IRA to Gold is not something to be done hastily or without adequate knowledge.
Let's recap the points we have covered in this article:
- A Precious metals IRA diversifies your Investment Portfolio and provides an Inflation hedge with assets that have zero counter-party risk and are immune to currency debasement
- There is a simple process for converting your existing IRA or eligible 401k to Gold without paying any penalties or taxes
- When you pick the Precious metal products to hold in your IRA, choose the products with the lowest premium over the spot price
- Like any Investment, Gold IRAs have pros and cons
- Gold IRAs have a few unique IRS rules but, in general, they receive the same tax treatment as any other IRA account
- If you want to convert a 401k to Gold, the 401k must be eligible for conversion - otherwise, a 401k loan is probably your best option
- Gold IRA reviews are available online and you can use them to identify the best companies for your Investment in Precious metals
- Picking the best Gold IRA company for you personally is a selection process based on the criteria that are most important to you
If you have a question about Gold IRAs that hasn't been covered here, feel free to reach out to the Gold Well Live team. We will do our best to answer your questions and help you make an Investment decision that you will be comfortable with.
After the dot com bubble popped I started researching Financial bubbles - how they evolve, how they pop, etc. I quickly realized that Gold is the only real money on planet Earth and in 2002 I bought my first Gold Coin. I've been investing in the shiny stuff ever since - both physical Precious metals and the Mining stocks. I've also studied the Financial markets, trading, Technical analysis, and the endless games that central banks play with fiat currencies. I do my best to share what I've learned with others - that's what you'll find here on Gold Well Live.
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I'm just a good ol' boy from Texas, but I love to talk about the Precious metals. I share my ramblings with subscribers on a regular basis.