The appeal of precious metals, especially gold, is vital for many investors. Because of the substantial profits it can provide to any investment portfolio, it is one of the world's most sought-after and popular investments. Gold's price rises as the value of the U.S. dollar falls; hence it is often recommended as a secure investment and inflation hedge.
The direct ownership of actual gold or gold derivatives like futures or options contracts is often not permitted under most 401(k) retirement plans, so investors should keep that in mind. Yet there are backdoors to your 401(k) that might let you grab some gold.
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Why Is Gold the Most Sought-After Asset Among Investors?
The main reason why many investors are attracted to precious metals, especially gold, is that they are very secure. They have been used for at least 5,000 years as a medium of exchange and a store of value.
Different countries have gone through economic crises over the years because their currency (backed by nothing) has fallen to some degree. Such currency crises can be devastating.
Highly leveraged, unstable economies like those in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are experiencing economic agony because they cannot print money and devalue their currency in the same way that countries like China, Japan, South Korea and Russia have done. They have massive capital investments needing to be paid back with no way of doing so because their currency is now worthless.
Gold is a strong currency and an excellent store of value. It has been used for centuries as a reliable asset and does not lose value like the U.S. dollar, the Euro and other fiat currencies. Gold is a stand-alone asset that does not need to be tied to any other asset or currency, unlike stocks and bonds.
Its price does not vary with the government's fiscal policies or political whims. It has a steady value throughout history as a store of value, so it is highly attractive as an investment that should preserve your wealth over time.
The appeal of investing in gold can be quite compelling for many people who love gold jewelry. They may want to invest in gold jewelry they plan to wear and enjoy. Gold jewelry, whether a pendant, ring or bracelet, is inexpensive and easy to buy.
The good news is that gold can be purchased by investors on the market and from dealers and refiners, making it easily accessible to almost everyone.
Another compelling reason for investing in gold for many people is because of its historical value. People have been drawn to precious metals like gold for centuries because of their historical association with wealth.
Many people wear gold as jewelry because of its beauty, value and historical significance. Gold is considered a status symbol, not just an investment. Some people prefer to wear it around their necks or on their fingers.
In addition to gold jewelry, many people choose to invest in gold coins or bars because of their convenience. Jewelry can be easily lost or stolen, but gold coins are much harder to eliminate. Every gold coin differs from the next and can be traced back to ownership records. Coins are also very convenient to store and trade.
An Overview of a 401(k)
Employees can take charge of their retirement savings by participating in a 401(k) plan their company offers. Millions of Americans rely on these tax-advantaged investment plans many companies offer to help them enjoy a comfortable retirement.
Many companies will match their employees' contributions to a 401(k) plan, in full or in part, allowing workers to invest a more significant portion of their income before taxes. By way of illustration, if an individual puts $100 every pay period into their 401(k), an employer who provides a 100% matching contribution would put another $100 into the plan on their behalf.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) establishes contribution limitations for specific plans. In 2022, for example, workers could put aside $20,500 (rising to $22,500 in 2023) from their pay into a 401(k). Catch-up payments for those aged 50 and over are increased from $6,500 in 2022 to $7,500 in 2023.
An investment manager or financial services firm often oversees these plans. Firms generally provide workers with a range of mutual fund alternatives to provide them the opportunity to diversify their portfolios. Small- and large-cap funds, bond funds and index funds are only some investment options for participants.
Due to the significance of these plans, participants might seize significant business openings. For this reason, some 401(k) plan participants may choose to reallocate some of their investment funds into precious metals and the gold market.
Gold Investing and 401(k)s
Buying actual gold might be an excellent method to profit from the trend. But 401(k) plans come with a caveat: Only a small fraction of programs allow participants to put their money into physical gold bullion. Most 401(k) plans prohibit direct investing in precious metals. It rules out adding gold bullion or gold coins to your retirement savings.
Yet, there is still hope, so please don't let this setback discourage you. Prospective gold buyers still have choices. Even if gold isn't a readily available investment option in your 401(k), you may still have some leeway to invest in gold via mutual or exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Gold Mutual Funds
You may invest in gold through mutual funds or what the industry terms "paper gold" if you do not have access to physical gold. Investors can locate mutual funds with considerable exposure to gold by owning equities of firms active in the gold mining sector by reading the fund descriptions given with their 401(k) plans.
For example, Fidelity Investments has the Fidelity Select Gold Fund (FSAGX). This is a value-focused, actively managed, low-cost mutual fund. Newmont Corporation, Barrick Gold, Agnico Eagle Mines and Franco-Nevada are just a few of the gold exploration/mining/production businesses in which the fund has invested heavily.
Regarding gold investments, a 401(k) plan with a brokerage option allows individual investors access to a far more extensive selection of assets through a standard brokerage account. Participating workers can gain exposure to gold through exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in a straightforward, low-cost way.
ETFs like BlackRock's iShares Gold Trust ETF (IAU) expose investors to gold bullion without the hassle of physically storing and transporting the metal. The Sprott Gold Miners (SGDM) ETF is yet another choice. Individual equities of gold sector companies are available to 401(k) participants who select the brokerage option.
Adding Physical Gold to an IRA
An IRA may prove more suitable to investors who plan to invest significant money into physical gold soon. A gold IRA, called precious metals IRA, is a self-directed IRA account in which a trustee maintains investments in gold or precious metal bullion rather than stocks and bonds.
Many investors are attracted to these accounts because of the additional option to invest in physical gold for retirement savings. These accounts can be used as a complement to more traditional investments and may include a variety of metal bars, coins or rounds.
Being self-directed, gold IRA accounts gives you more control over your investments. Many gold bullion IRA holders even choose to store their precious metals at their desired IRS-approved depositories, as it would provide an extra layer of security. Self-directed IRAs are not limited to just gold. You may also invest in silver and other precious metals, including platinum and palladium if you want more options for your retirement savings plan.
Purity Requirements for IRA Metals
The IRS has set purity standards for precious metals that can be purchased and held in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). A precious metal must meet the IRS's purity standards to qualify for an IRA.
The IRS requires that all gold be at least a .995 fine and all silver be at least a .999 fine. Additionally, all platinum must be at least .9995 fine and palladium must be at least .9995 fine. All coins must also be in a condition designated as "good" or better.
It is also important to note that the IRS does not permit coins that are not considered "collectible" coins. This means the coins must be at least one year old and have a value based on their metal content, not their rarity or collectible status.
The metals that meet the IRS's IRA requirements can be arranged into two broad categories: coins and bars. Coins must be produced by a government agency and be legal tender. Examples of eligible coins are the U.S. Gold Eagle, US Silver Eagle, U.S. Gold Buffalo, US Silver Buffalo and the Canadian Maple Leaf. All of these coins must be in good condition, as previously mentioned.
A NYMEX or COMEX-approved refiner or assayer must produce bars. All bars must be in good delivery form, which means they must be in a form acceptable for delivery on the exchange. The bar must be stamped with a serial number, the exact weight and the fineness or purity of the metal.
Finally, it is essential to note that the IRA account holder must retain documentation verifying that the metals purchased to meet the purity requirements and are allowed to be held in an IRA. This documentation should be kept and readily available in case the IRS requests verification.
Funding Options for a Gold IRA
There are several ways to fund a gold IRA, including cash contributions, 401(k) rollovers, transfers and Roth IRA conversions.
Procedure for Opening a Gold IRA
Opening an individual gold IRA account is relatively straightforward and can be done online at any of the many online brokers that allow the IRA. Here are the basic steps you will take to open a gold IRA:
1. Choose a Gold IRA Custodian
The first step to opening a gold IRA is selecting a custodian to manage and oversee your account. When selecting a custodian, you will want to consider their experience, fees and customer service. Researching the options available is vital and selecting a custodian who meets your needs is critical.
When researching potential custodians, you should consider:
2. Open a Gold IRA Account
After you have selected a gold IRA custodian, the next step is to open an account with them. When opening your gold IRA, there are a few things that you will need. These include:
Once you have the necessary information, you can open your gold IRA account online.
3. Fund Your IRA Account
This step involves transferring funds from your current bank account or other financial institution into your newly opened gold IRA by check, bank wire or electronic funds transfer (EFT). This step is vital to ensure you have enough funds to purchase the gold you wish to invest in.
The first step is determining how much you would like to fund your IRA from your existing financial institution. Generally, you will need to provide the name, account number and routing number of your current bank account to your gold IRA custodian.
Once you have provided the information to your gold IRA custodian, you will need to initiate the transfer of funds from your existing account to your gold IRA. Depending on your custodian, you can initiate the transfer online or you may need to contact them by phone or mail to start the process.
Once the transfer is initiated, it typically takes up to 5 business days, depending on your custodian. After the transfer, you will usually be notified by email or other communication methods when the funds have been deposited into your gold IRA.
4. Choose Your Investments
It is crucial to consider the type of metals you would like to invest in and the individual companies you are purchasing them from. For example, some investments may include gold coins, bullion, bars or exchange-traded funds. Additionally, you should research the individual companies and ensure you feel comfortable with the quality of their products and the reliability of their service.
Once you have chosen the specific investments you want to buy, you'll need to decide how many ounces or denominations you would like to purchase. Generally, it is recommended to diversify your investments as much as possible and include a variety of metals and denominations.
5. Make Your Purchase
Once you have made your investment decisions, you should contact your IRA custodian to place your order. Your custodian will provide the details about the gold investments you have selected and the fees associated with the purchase. Your custodian will also help you complete the paperwork to purchase your gold investments.
6. Store Your Metals
Once purchased, the gold must be stored in an approved depository. The custodian will arrange with a third-party depository to keep the gold on your behalf.
7. Monitor Your Account
You are responsible for ensuring the account stays in good standing and the metals are correctly handled. This is typically done through communication with the custodian or your local depository.
To assist you in managing your gold IRA, select a custodian who provides excellent customer service and has a history of responsibly handling gold IRA accounts. If your concerns about transparency are being addressed, then it is more likely that your investments will be secure.
Adding physical gold to your IRA is a wise move. It can help you invest in safe, dependable gold while adding significant diversification to your account. Gold has shown to be a good investment historically and many financial professionals would hold some amount of gold in an IRA.
If you have a 401(k) retirement plan, then you also have the opportunity to include gold in that account as well through either gold ETFs or gold mutual funds.
Whether you are investing in gold for long-term or shorter-term goals, adding physical gold to your retirement account is a great idea that can help ensure your long-term financial security. We suggest you use our recommended reputable companies to help you facilitate the process.
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