The Seven Deadly Sins of Self-Directed IRA Investing

1.)  Paying too much. Experienced investors will tell you: Make your money when you buy. Not when you sell.

This means that whatever the investment, the best investors are buying assets at a discount to the intrinsic value of the property. Time and reasonable care and effort will result in unlocking            value, and you can profit handsomely simply by selling the property for what it is worth. You do not have to hope you find a foolish buyer willing to give you more than it is worth. That is not a        strategy. Find unloved properties, ugly ducklings and hidden gems that you can buy on sale, take a little care, fix them up, and you can rent or sell for a fair price.

2.)  Doing business with relatives. It is not a great idea in any context. But if you do business directly with the wrong relative in your Self-Directed IRA, it is actually illegal – and could        result in severe fines, taxes and penalties.

Congress expressly forbids owners of Self-Directed IRAs from using them to buy from, borrow from, lend to or sell to certain family members. Specifically, you cannot transact with these              individuals:

  • Your spouse
  • Your own descendants and those of your spouse
  • Your own grandparents and great grandparents and those of your spouse
  • Your attorney, accountant or advisor who advises you on your Self-Directed IRA in a fiduciary capacity
  • Any entities controlled by any of these prohibited counterparties.

3.)  Commingling funds.  You cannot involve your own personal funds in your Self-Directed IRA investment in any way. All purchases related to your investment must come from your Self-  Directed IRA account that contains the property. Technically, by law, you cannot even change a lightbulb in your property unless you bought the bulb with money from your Self-Directed        IRA account.

Self-Directed IRA owners should work closely with American IRA, LLC to ensure that all transactions related to your property are routed through your IRA account.

4.)  Accepting rent payments personally. If you are renting out a Real Estate IRA property, you cannot accept a rent check made out to your own name. Rents and all other payments          related to your Self-Directed IRA must be made out to the entity that holds the property, or to your Self-Directed IRA account itself.

Likewise, you cannot take a cash payment directly. Doing so risks having the IRS declare the payment to be a prohibited transaction, potentially triggering the disallowance of the Self-              Directed IRA’s tax advantages, along with tax liability, penalties and lots of legal bills.

5.)  Signing a personal guarantee for a real estate IRA mortgage. The law mandates that you cannot pledge your Self-Directed IRA asset as collateral for a personal or business loan      outside of the IRA. All mortgages on your Self-Directed IRA property must be on a non-recourse That means that in the event you default, the only course the lender can take is to foreclose          on the property itself. They cannot come after you, personally. If you sign a personal guarantee, or pledge non-IRA assets to secure the loan, the IRS could strip your account of its tax-                        advantaged status, resulting in significant taxes and penalties.

6.)  Forgetting about RMDs. Real estate is highly illiquid. But if you have assets in a Self-Directed IRA, Self-Directed Solo 401(K) or other tax-deferred savings vehicle, you will need to  come up with cash each year to make your required minimum distribution, beginning by April 1st of the year following the year in which you turn age 70 1/2.

Self-Directed IRA owners should plan ahead so they are not caught in a cash crunch, unable to quickly raise the money within the IRA to make the RMD.

7.)  Paying a high percentage each year just to hold the asset. Many Self-Directed IRA firms charge a percentage of assets under management to hold IRA properties on your behalf.      Many times this is needlessly expensive and inefficient.

For investors who tend to buy and hold over long periods of time, switching to American IRA’s flat-rate, menu-based fee structure, rather than a high expense ratio, wrap fee or other AUM                charge can save thousands of dollars each year on fees.

Interested in learning more about Self-Directed IRAs?  Contact American IRA, LLC at 866-7500-IRA (472) for a free consultation.  Or visit us online at www.AmericanIRA.com.

Best Flipping Markets for a Self-Directed IRA

If you are a property flipper, you already know some areas are better for Self-Directed IRA returns than others. Flipping is the practice of buying real estate, making improvements to unlock value in the property that may have been hidden to the previous owners and to other buyers.

It works well in rising markets, of course, but it is at its heart a market neutral strategy that can provide good results even in flat and falling real estate markets. The reason: Skilled flippers can add value through improvements faster than a falling market can suck value away.

A new survey from the National Association of Realtors lists the top ten markets for real estate flippers. And several of them are right here in the southeast, near many of our Self-Directed IRA clients in or near the Carolinas. And many of these metro markets are at reasonable entry prices. Do not have $758,800 to buy the median-priced home in Los Angeles? Head north to Fresno, or scout out properties in Nashville, New Orleans or Lubbock.

Here are the top 10 most profitable flipping markets this year, according to Realtor.com.   If you use a Self-Directed Roth IRA potential profits as stated below by Realtor.com would be tax free forever.

1.)  Nashville, Tennessee

Median home list price: $367,900
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 4.1%
Average flip profit: $87,200

2.)  Fresno, California

Median home list price: $311,700
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 3.5%
Average flip profit: $53,200

3.)  Palm Bay, Florida

Median home list price: $267,600
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 3.3%
Average flip profit: $71,500

4.)  North Port, Florida

Median home list price: $350,000
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 3.3%
Average flip profit: $85,300

5.)  Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Median home list price: $237,800
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 3.2%
Average flip profit: $70,000

6.)  Chattanooga, Tennessee

Median home list price: $257,500
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 3.1%
Average flip profit: $65,800

7.)  Los Angeles, California

Median home list price: $758,800
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 3%
Average flip profit: $169,400

8.)  Lubbock, Texas

Median home list price: $240,000
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 2.7%
Average flip profit: $46,000

9.)  Medford, Oregon

Median home list price: $410,000
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 2.7%
Average flip profit: $51,200

10.) New Orleans, Louisiana

Median home list price: $280,100
Ratio of flips to all home sales: 2.6%
Average flip profit: $93,400

The best thing: When you flip a property within a Self-Directed IRA, you do not have to pay immediate taxes on the profits. As long as the money remains in the account, you can execute an unlimited number of flips each year, and there will be no taxes due, except potentially unrelated debt-financed income tax on the gains or income attributable to money you borrowed to purchase or improve the property.

Interested in learning more about Self-Directed IRAs?  Contact American IRA, LLC at 866-7500-IRA (472) for a free consultation.  Or visit us online at www.AmericanIRA.com.

C Corporation UBTI (Unrelated Business Taxable Income) Blocker Technique May Help Reduce Self-Directed IRA Taxes

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – the sweeping series of Tax Cuts Congress passed at the tail end of December 2017 – included a bit of Christmas cheer for dedicated Self-Directed IRA investors.

Normally, as most readers are aware, there are no current year tax consequences for dividends, rental income or capital gains as long as the money remains within a Self-Directed IRA of any type. The income or gains continue to grow tax-deferred, or in the case of Self-Directed Roth IRA accounts, tax-free (as long as it stays in the account at least five years).

But that tax benefit does not apply to income or capital gains that are attributed to borrowed money. Instead, a special tax on what is called UBTI (Unrelated Business Taxable Income) applies.

You see, you only get the tax advantage on your own invested money – not on money you borrow from other people!

So, if you have 45 percent equity in a given property within a Self-Directed Real Estate IRA and you have a mortgage covering the other 55 percent, then 55 percent of your income from the property, and 55 percent of any capital gains from that property are federally taxable – at a punitive maximum rate of 37 percent!

The same principle applies to stocks and other securities in a Self-Directed IRA that are bought using a margin loan, and in certain cases, investing in an active business or trade via an LLC or other pass-through entity, such as a limited partnership. (S-corporations are pass-through entities, of course, but you cannot own them within a Self-Directed IRA, so they do not apply to this discussion).

Some Self-Directed IRA investors try to limit the impact of taxes on UDFI (Unrelated Debt Financed Income Tax) by creating a C corporation, and then using the C corporation to make the investments. It is a tax planning tool called a C corporation blocker.

Here is how it works: C corporations benefit a great deal from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reduces the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The corporation itself releases the dividends to the retirement account, rather than to the taxpayer directly, and they do not come from the property itself.

Obviously, there is a big difference between a 21 percent tax rate and a 37 percent rate, or even the old maximum income tax marginal rate of 35 percent.

Meanwhile, the real estate or other leveraged investment does not pay its income and gains directly to the Self-Directed IRA. Instead, they go to the C corporation.

When set up correctly, this is a big improvement compared to paying the marginal rate on your personal income tax returns, which is where your unrelated business income tax would wind up.

American IRA, LLC does not provide individualized tax advice. The information in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed to be tax advice in your individual case. Readers should engage the services of a qualified tax professional, such as a CPA or enrolled agent before taking action.

Interested in learning more about Self-Directed IRAs?  Contact American IRA, LLC at 866-7500-IRA (472) for a free consultation.  Or visit us online at www.AmericanIRA.com.

Summer is Hot for Self-Directed Real Estate IRA Investors

Real estate is hot, and Zillow Research is projecting that it is going to get even hotter. That is terrific news for Real Estate IRA enthusiasts, who stand to benefit from several favorable trends as we roll into the peak home buying season of 2018.

First, homes are selling like hotcakes nationwide. 2017 saw the shortest time-on-market for the typical U.S. home on record. The average home sold in just 81 days last year – faster than even the crazy days of 2006-2007, just before the mortgage bubble collapse.

The high demand was not just for homes in San Francisco, Seattle and Miami. Homes sold faster in 2017 than in 2016 in nearly all the country’s 35 biggest metro markets.

July was last year’s hottest home sales month, when the average home closed just 71 days after its listing. But even that is misleading: The closing process is routinely 4 to 6 weeks long, especially for deals involving mortgages. So homes are actually coming off the market and under contract pending financing much faster than that – frequently in 30 days or even less.

On top of the lighting fast sales, the tight supply relative to demand is forcing buyers to bid against each other just to get in a home. One out of four homes sold in 2017 actually sold above their list prices.

The fastest-selling market in the U.S. was San Jose, home of the famed Silicon Valley, where buyers snapped up homes in an average of just 41 days. New York was the slowest market, with sales closing an average of 134 days after listing.

Here in the Southeast, Self-Directed IRA investments in real estate have been hopping.  Many of our clients have had great success with their accounts, the Atlanta metro market averaged 71 days. June was Atlanta’s fastest selling month when the average home closed in 63 days. Charlotte averaged 67 days, Tampa averaged 81 days, Austin averaged 61 days, Orlando averaged 86 and Baltimore averaged 94.

What lessons can we glean for Self-Directed IRAs with real estate investors?

According to Zillow’s market research, summer is the time to list homes for sale. People want to move when children are out of school, and summer is the traditional time for businesses to transfer employees for that reason.  You want to have the sale wrapped up by the time the kids go back to school in September.

The higher the demand, the more bids you can consider in a short amount of time. To maximize Real Estate IRA profits, bunch your bids to drive buyer competition. The time to do that is when the market (and the weather is hottest.)

Conversely, the time for your Self-Directed IRA to buy real estate is in the fall or winter.  Buyers are less competitive, and you may be able to snag a bargain for your Self-Directed Real Estate IRA investment portfolio.

You can get concessions in many markets. Another Zillow report found 76 percent of sellers had to give something up in the negotiation process.  Price, of course, was the most common.

For more information about Real Estate IRAs, or to schedule a no-obligation consultation on how you can take more direct control of your retirement finances and benefit from direct real estate ownership within an Self-Directed IRA or other retirement account, contact us today at 866-7500-IRA (472).  Or visit our extensive library of articles and blog posts and other educational materials at www.AmericanIRA.com.

We look forward to working with you.

Be a Better Self-Directed IRA Investor: Be Aware of Cognitive Biases and Emotional Traps

Are you as ‘squared away’ for retirement as you hope you are? Maybe not.  The Center for Retirement Security at Boston College has launched a new tool to help taxpayers determine whether they are on track for retirement – and to help Americans identify and address common psychological and behavioral traps that can short-circuit your retirement decision-making.  We recommend it for all Self-Directed IRA investors and conventional investors alike.

Curious Behaviors That Can Ruin Your Retirement is an interactive program on behavioral impediments to retirement planning. A host leads users through a series of exercises designed to create an “Aha!” moment as they relate to the behaviors. The host then explains how the behavior can hinder retirement planning and, coaches users through strategies that can help minimize the effects of these subconscious biases and help them develop a more rational decision-making process.

Users can then go to a “Learn More” page, which presents more information in multiple media formats. It is a terrific tool for all ages.

The tool is a fun and lighthearted look at a serious issue: Millions of Americans fall victim to irrational thought processes, emotionalism, wishful thinking, denial and a series of other misconceptions and cognitive weaknesses that cost real money.

A recent research report from Deloitte lists the following behavioral biases that can impact your ability to manage your Self-Directed IRAs:

  • Inertia: When you are used to doing things a certain way, the tendency is to take no action.
  • Present bias: The tendency to prioritize current wants over long-term needs
  • Passive decision making: The tendency to follow the path of least resistance, or to choose from the most obvious, readily-apparent options rather than investigate possible options more deeply.
  • Anchoring: The tendency to base decisions on a set value that may be irrelevant.
  • Partitioning: A tendency to make commitments piecemeal when you would be better served by bolder action. For example, the tendency to “dollar cost average” into a rising market when you may be better off investing a larger lump sum.
  • Peer pressure: Irrationally allowing other equally irrational actors to influence your decision-making.
  • Overconfidence: Excessive belief in your own abilities.
  • Effort aversion: The tendency to embrace the easy wrong option over the difficult right one.
  • Loss aversion: Allowing the fear of possible loss to prevent you from taking reasonable risks in the prospect of greater gains.
  • Endowment effect: The tendency to avoid giving up what one already has, even when a clearly better option is available.

As a group, Self-Directed IRA investors tend to be a rational bunch. Many of our clients are veteran investors and business people who have achieved significant success over the years. But all of us are human, and none of us are immune to any of these cognitive biases.

But forewarned is forearmed: Being aware of these biases and emotional traps can help you prevent falling victim to them. And that is going to make you a better Self-Directed IRA investor.

For more information about Self-Directed IRA investing, or to get started on your Self-Directed IRA investing journey, call us today at 866-7500-IRA (472). Or visit us at www.AmericanIRA.com.

We look forward to serving you.

Real Estate IRAs: Because You May Live Longer Than You Think!

The good news is longevity is way up! The bad news is longevity is way up!  Due to the increase in longevity, Real Estate IRAs are the way to go!

Well, as bad news goes, we have heard worse. It is great that people are living longer. However, longer lifespans present a problem when it comes to retirement planning: Any given nest egg must last a lot longer than it used to.  It must also generate a reliable stream of income the whole time, without fail.

People are underestimating the problem: A recent study of British senior citizens found that people in their 50s and 60s are grossly underestimating the likelihood that they will live to age 75, 85 and beyond.

The report, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, found that people in their 50s and 60s tend to underestimate their chances of survival to age 75 by around 20 percentage points and to 85 by around five to 10 percentage points. Meanwhile, those who have reached their 80s become overly optimistic about the chances that they will see 95.

The result is a significant gap between the assets required to generate a retirement income for that long and the probable need itself.

“As individuals are given more responsibility for saving for their retirement, and more freedom over how they use those savings in their later years, it is a concern that many are systematically misjudging their longevity,” said IFS research economist David Sturrock. “When people underestimate their chances of surviving through their 50s, 60s and 70s, they may save less during working life, and spend more in the earlier years of retirement than is appropriate, given their actual survival chances.

The Value of Real Estate IRAs

At American IRA, we believe Real Estate IRAs should be part of any significant retirement portfolio: real estate is a proven long-term income generator, which also provides the potential for capital gains, and the prospect of increasing rental income as a hedge against inflation.

Leverage and Real Estate IRAs

Real Estate IRAs also have the advantage of ready access to leverage.  This greatly increases the cash-on-cash return for Real Estate IRA investors as compared to more Traditional IRA asset classes, which are typically unleveraged.

Lenders know that real estate is a relatively stable source of wealth and makes excellent collateral for loans. It is therefore much easier to get financing for real estate than for other forms of investment. While you cannot sign a personal guarantee or pledge non-real estate assets as collateral for a loan to buy property within your Real Estate IRA, there are several lenders eager to help you finance Real Estate IRA properties. You just have to do your borrowing on a non-recourse basis.

This means the loan must be secured entirely by the property in your Real Estate IRA. The lender can have no claim or recourse against you, personally, nor any assets held both inside and outside the Self-Directed IRA.

We often see lenders willing to finance about 65 percent of the purchase price of the real estate investment, though they frequently have tighter requirements for condominiums or properties in historically volatile real estate markets, such as Florida.

You should be aware of the impact of unrelated debt-financed income tax, however, which may result in a current tax liability for gains attributable to borrowed money, rather than your own contributions to your retirement fund.

Real estate is also frequently a much better asset to pass on to heirs than a closely-held small business or other more esoteric investment; as homes are usually easier to sell than businesses.  Real estate investments could also be managed easier than a small business held within a Real Estate IRA, for example.

Real Estate IRAs and Diversification

Real Estate IRAs can also help protect owners against stock market risk: The more different asset classes you have making up your retirement portfolio, the less affected you could be by unexpected declines in any one asset class. We believe Self-Directed IRAs, including Real Estate IRAs, can help investors achieve meaningful diversification across a variety of asset classes that are difficult to access using conventional off-the-shelf retirement products available from Wall Street investment firms.

The combination of steady rental income streams, access to financing and leverage, potential capital gains and the possibility of keeping up with inflation make Real Estate IRAs an excellent addition to many of our clients’ retirement portfolios.

To learn more about Self-Directed IRAs and Real Estate IRAs, call American IRA at 866-7500-IRA (472), or visit www.AmericanIRA.com.

Self-Directed IRA Administrators vs. Custodians

More and more people are coming to understand the power behind Self-Directed IRA strategies.  Further, they are embracing the wisdom of diverse and unconventional asset classes while liberating their retirement portfolios from the narrow outlooks frequently characterizing the big Wall Street investment firms.

As such, with that knowledge comes the increased openings of Self-Directed IRA accounts.  Many of these new investors are not yet clear on the role of custodians and third-party administrators in the Self-Directed IRA industry – and the important distinctions between the two.

Let’s take a closer look.

IRA rules prohibit investors from taking personal, direct possession of assets within their Self-Directed IRAs. Yes, you can own the house down the block within your Self-Directed IRA, but you cannot personally reside there. What is more, you cannot keep the gold coins your IRA owns in a safe in your living room.  To use a more traditional example, it is no different than not being able to personally hold your stock certificates residing in a Schwab IRA account.

Custodians hold your Self-Directed IRA assets on your behalf.  Administrators process the paperwork on behalf of the custodian.  American IRA is an administrator and New Vision Trust Company, a South Dakota chartered Trust Company, holds the assets.  New Vision Trust Company and American IRA, LLC are an integrated financial company providing both custodial and administrative oversight for your Self-Directed IRA transactions.

A custodian handles transactions and holds Self-Directed IRAs and other retirement assets on your IRA’s behalf. The IRS has stringent requirements for Self-Directed IRA custodians. These businesses are subject to regular inspections and audits by federal regulators. They can hold titles, cash, investments and other types of property on investors’ IRAs’ behalf, and handle a lot of transactions.

If you own gold or other precious metals, or physical assets within an Self-Directed IRA, chances are there will be a custodian in the mix, holding the gold or other assets in a secure, insured facility somewhere – or at least physically holding certificates.

An IRA third party administrator, such as American IRA, LLC, has a more tapered scope of engagement. Administrators are the account record-keepers responsible for generating statements and documents. We do not hold assets directly, but work with New Vision Trust Company, a South Dakota chartered Trust Company on your behalf.  New Vision Trust Company and American IRA, LLC are an integrated financial company providing custodial and administrative oversight for your IRA transactions.  We simplify the process, document your transactions, generate statements and 1099s, and work with your advisors to help you stay in compliance with IRS rules and regulations.

We do not advise on the suitability or non-suitability of any particular investment for your individual portfolio. That is up to you and your own financial advisors. We focus on quickly and accurately executing and recording the transaction on your behalf, in accordance with IRS regulations.

Moving down the Self-Directed IRA industry hierarchy, there are other professionals and salespeople known in the industry as “promoters” and “facilitators.”

These individuals do not handle transactions and do not hold assets on your behalf, but they support the Self-Directed IRA process in other ways.

One type of promoter might be a real estate agent who focuses on helping investors find properties for their Real Estate IRAs, and who becomes very knowledgeable in that niche. Others are financial advisors, RIAs, IARs, accountants and attorneys who also promote the Self-Directed IRA approach and help facilitate your Self-Directed IRA strategy.

For example, an attorney may help create entities within your Self-Directed IRA such as C corporations and LLCs which may help insulate other properties and IRA assets against the claims of creditors.

Every Self-Directed IRA investor needs a custodian or administrator affiliated with one or more custodians to create and maintain a functional Self-Directed IRA account. Few are totally go-it-alone beyond that. Most investors require a knowledgeable and experienced, multi-disciplinary team of professionals to get the most out of their self-directed retirement accounts.

Fortunately, getting started in Self-Directed IRA investing is very easy, and our team of professionals at American IRA, LLC is available to help you throughout the process.

To learn more about our services as one of the leading Self-Directed IRA administrators in the country, or to set up an account and get started investing, call us today at 866-7500-IRA (472), or visit us at www.AmericanIRA.com.

You can also read more on this subject at our blog, here.

Do not delay! Give us a call today! We look forward to working with you!

Global Markets Sink

Invest your IRA in almost anything you want today!

Real Estate in your IRA
What’s your reaction to the market sink? Don’t let anyone else tell you where or how to invest! With a self-directed IRA from American IRA, LLC, you can invest in almost anything you want — real estate, precious metals including gold, silver, platinum and palladium, private stock, LLCs, and more!

Getting started is easy. Please contact our office for additional information.

U.S. Stocks Plunge Again

Invest your IRA in almost anything!

Precious metals in your IRA
Tired of investing in stocks and watching it NOT pay off? Want to try something a little more stable? With a self-directed IRA from American IRA, LLC, you can invest in almost anything you want — real estate, precious metals including gold, silver, platinum and palladium, private stock, LLCs, and more!

Getting started is easy. Please contact our office for additional information.