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Mitt Wilson

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How do I start a gold IRA?

If you’ve decided that the comfort, safety, and potential of investing in precious metals is right for you, especially with the tax advantages of an IRA, then I think you’ve made the right decision.

However, it immediately forces you to confront the fact that you’ve possibly never done it before and have no idea how to do it.

That’s the bad news. You’re new here. Fortunately, there’s plenty of good news.

The first bit of good news is that you’ve found this website. I’m an expert in gold IRAs and the companies that provide them.

I’ll certainly provide you with an overview of the process.

The second piece of good news is that the process isn’t nearly as daunting as you think. Sure, you have a lot of money involved, and the ramifications are potentially huge.

Yet, that doesn’t mean stress is warranted, because things can be really simple.

The last piece of good news is that you’re far from alone. I’ll show you the ropes, but the real help comes from choosing the right gold IRA broker.

Several of them are really good at helping people with the gold IRA process because that’s their business.

What is a Gold IRA?

an illustration of an investment growing over time

Before you start a gold IRA, you should make sure you understand what it really is. If you’re already sure about this, I invite you to skip this section and move on.

However, if it really is your first time, then it’s worth making sure you understand what a gold IRA is so you can be sure it’s right for you.

A gold IRA is a form of individual retirement account. IRAs are tax-advantaged investment vehicles you can use to save for things like retirement. You might already know about or have a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.

There are also SEP and Simple IRAs, too.

What you can usually do in those accounts is put pre-tax dollars into investments and let the assets accumulate or grow in value. Sometimes, you use after-tax dollars.

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In either case, the investment sits and grows, untaxed, until you take a distribution.

If you can fund them with pre-tax dollars that’s great. However, you should always wait as long as you can to take withdrawals or required minimum distributions. For the most part, if you wait until retirement age, your tax burden will be a lot lower than it could be.

That’s the big benefit to these.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, they’re a lot like a 401(k) except they’re an individual account and not sponsored by your employer. However, a gold IRA is quite the opposite, as it’s self-directed.

You choose what kinds of gold and precious metals you want to put into it, and yes, you can include silver, platinum, and palladium with some brokers.

You might already be familiar with self-directed IRAs if you have them for other alternative investment classes. These can include real estate and cryptocurrency.

Opening one for precious metals in your later investing years can help hedge against inflation and economic downturns so you don’t lose everything in a market crash.

You’ll also have serious diversification to manage risk and volatility.

You don’t personally take possession of your metals, however. This is where brokers come in. They not only buy the metals on your behalf but also arrange for storage of the metals in a secure depository.

There are also limits on what kinds of metals you can get, as the IRS limits this, and what depositories you can use.

The metals stay put until you make a withdrawal or distribution. At that time, you can either liquidate the metals for cash, or you can take personal ownership of them at that time.

If you waited until certain tax rules were met, your taxes on these transactions are going to be significantly less than if you had just bought gold with your own money and kept it in your home.

Three Questions to Consider Before Opening a Gold IRA

How do I start a gold IRA at this point turns into three different questions.

  1. How much do I invest?
  2. What broker do I use?
  3. What do I buy?

I can give you useful information on all three of these questions.

How Much Do I Invest?

a man in a suit holds a jar of coins with a tree growing out of it

This is a tough question. If you’ve got a personal financial advisor you use for planning your portfolio, then they’re the one to really ask this. However, I’m not going to totally dodge the question.

As a general rule of thumb, your minimum should be 5% of your total portfolio. Anything less than that, and you honestly don’t have enough exposure to truly gain any benefit from the gold sector. This is a great starting point for newer investors, and that’s likely where you are at if you’re wondering how you go about starting a gold IRA.

I’d venture to say 10% to 15% for an upper ceiling. One of the biggest benefits of gold is its diversification and ability to hedge against what stocks and bonds might do.

However, if you overdo it, you’ll prevent your portfolio from harnessing the growth and dividend power that stocks and bonds provide.

Your exposure to precious metals should go up as you get closer to retirement, but you also want to keep a highly diversified portfolio.

Much of it will always be in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs.

Your diversification should also include real estate to some degree. Whether or not you want to include cryptocurrencies is up to you and not my field of expertise, except to suggest that you put more in real estate and gold than you do digital currencies.

What Broker Do I Use?

This might just be your biggest decision. The broker you work with can make your gold IRA experience something that puts you off, or they can make your day.

Some brokers will treat you like near royalty, while others might just want to help you set your account up and then practically forget about you.

There are several dozen gold IRA brokers on the market, but there is only a handful that you should possibly consider. I can tell you that there are two things that can possibly eliminate some of them from your consideration right away.

Minimum Investment Levels: The minimum investment levels involved with gold brokers vary with each company. You can start with one broker for just $2,000, but other common entry points might be $10,000, $25,000, and even $50,000.

Available Metals: If you’re looking to do gold only, then this won’t matter. They all deal in gold, but some only deal in gold and silver. If you’d like to also invest in platinum and palladium, they don’t all do that. That will restrict which ones you might do business with.

Just remember, you’re only choosing your first gold IRA broker. There’s nothing stopping you from coming back and doing a second gold IRA if you’re so inclined.

As you amass more wealth and have more options for doing rollovers or want to increase your exposure, adding a second or even third gold IRA to your mix might make sense.

Specific gold brokers stand out to me based on the particular reason you might want them.

  • Goldco: If you want the comfort of the best customer service in the business…
  • Augusta Precious Metals: If you want some of the best educational resources in the industry…
  • Birch Gold Group: If you want to balance great customer service, reasonable fees, and educational resources…
  • Noble Gold: If you want some of the lowest investment minimums…
  • Regal Assets: If you want the industry’s best rollover support and experience…

What Do I Buy?

The IRS standards for precious metal IRAs can be strict. As I already mentioned, you can always buy gold products. Based on the broker, you might also be able to do silver most of the time. Palladium and platinum are also available through select brokers.

Your first option should always be gold because of its benefits. However, you should understand that many of those same benefits also apply to the other three metals.

Silver has often outpaced the growth of gold over the last decade, and the values of palladium and platinum sometimes rise quickly based on industrial needs competing with investors.

The first IRS standard you need to adhere to is purity. Gold must be 99.5% pure or better, while silver products have to be 99.9% or higher. Platinum and palladium both have to be 99.95% pure.

American Eagle coins are the lone exception to the gold purity standard. In these stipulations, you can choose from things like PAMP Suisse bars, Australian Koala bullion coins, and Canadian Maple Leaf Coins.

Things you can’t buy are collectibles and rarities. You also can’t get things like German Marks, British Sovereigns, and Swiss Francs.

The Actual Mechanics

So, knowing the big decisions that need to be made, you’ve already done most of the work. Now, it’s mainly just a matter of paperwork and communications. You pick your broker and set your account up.

That might happen mainly online, but you might also communicate with their customer service via chat, email, or phone. However, it happens, that you need your gold IRA to be opened before you can accomplish much of anything else.

Once it is established, you need to fund it. Deciding on how much to put into it is one thing. Choosing where those funds come from is another.

You can absolutely use after-tax dollars to fund your gold IRA. This will let you buy gold and other precious metals to be stored in a tax-advantaged account for later benefit. I never stop anyone from doing that if it means that they’re finally investing in gold.

Then again, it’s a wasted opportunity. Since gold IRAs serve you better later in your investment years, you might be able to fund one by doing a rollover from other retirement accounts. Anytime you leave a job, you should have a chance to do that from a 401(k).

You get even more rollover chances with IRAs based on paper assets, such as stocks and bonds.

Funding your gold IRA with a rollover from a previous tax-advantaged retirement account lets you enjoy tax benefits at the start of the account and the end when you withdraw. Just contact your previous plan administrator, and tell them two things.

First, let them know where to send the funds to (your gold IRA broker), and second, how much.

They might talk to you about a direct transfer versus an indirect transfer. In a direct transfer, the funds go straight from them to the gold IRA broker.

I always advise this since there is a much lower chance of losing money by triggering tax penalties. An indirect transfer routes the money through you, which takes longer and is usually an unnecessary complication.

Once your broker has the funds, they’ll buy the metals you chose. Then, they’ll ask you about a depository.

The IRS has a list of specifically approved depositories, and gold IRA brokers usually have good relationships with a select handful of them. You’ll recognize some of the names, such as Brinks. The location might not be as important as segregated vs non-segregated storage.

Segregated storage costs a bit more in annual fees, but you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing that your stash of precious metals isn’t sitting in the same room or container as other investors. Non-segregated will be.

Final Thought

You’ll spend more time doing research and thinking about things than actually making the formal moves involved with starting a gold IRA.

Just remember that you can contact many gold IRA brokers before deciding so you can ask them lots of questions.

If you’re looking for a solid place to start, we recommend Goldco as our top choice:

Goldco
goldco
9.7/10Our Score
  • New customers might get 10% free metals in silver coins
  • First-year fees might be waived
  • Goldco reps don't get pushy with heavy sales tactics
  • Staff are quite friendly and knowledgeable to new investors
  • This broker wants investors to make good investment choices
  • Minimum investment level stands at $20,000
  • Website not totally transparent about fees
About the Author

Mitt Wilson has a background in journalism and has been writing about investing for more than two decades. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and three children.

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