What Assets Can Be Held Inside an IRA?

Thursday, July 18th 2024

When it comes to retirement in the United States you will have a lot of savings options available. Individual retirement accounts (IRA) are a great way to save your money for retirement. It has a number of benefits that other types of accounts don’t have. Out of the variety of options that exist what makes an IRA stand out?

One of the greatest benefits of an IRA plan is that they are tax-deferred. That means that money you have is taken out of your pay and is not taxed. Tax is taken out once you start to take money from your IRA account.

If you go out there to look for an IRA, you will find that there are a variety of different types. Employer-sponsored IRAs, Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs, and rollover IRAs are just a few of the options out there. All of the options help to ensure that you have the retirement option that is right for your circumstances.

Individual retirement accounts are also very flexible. You can invest in a variety of different assets to help prepare your retirement in a way that resonates with you. For the most part, you can choose what you want your IRA investment asset to be. With that being said, what options are out there for your investments?

Conventional Investments

Conventional investments are the majority of what people store in their IRA accounts. A conventional investment can be a number of different assets, what they all have in common is the fact that they are assets that banks allow you to invest in. This can be government bonds, stocks, mutual funds and similar assets/accounts. Some employer-sponsored accounts will have specific collections of assets preset for you to invest in but in most cases, you can change your conventional investments to match your desired risk/earnings.

When it comes to many IRA accounts you will find that these conventional assets are the focus of IRAs. As such it is relatively simple for you to invest in these methods and sometimes even change between investments.

Many employer-sponsored plans start you automatically with conventional investments. You can later change it but these are considered to be a safe start and a good investment. Typically they will be grouped in investments that are safe, moderate, or income-based (riskier).

High-Risk Investments

You can also invest in assets that have a higher-risk for your retirement. Many people choose not to invest in these types of investments as they are riskier and that can result in losing your retirement. In most cases, these are account types that are used as secondary retirement accounts to supplement safer options. Because these investments are both rarer and riskier, most custodians and banks don’t want to deal with these. They often incur extra costs because of this.

So what exactly is a higher risk investment? Stock options, public stocks, liens, foreclosures, and similar types of investments fall into the category of riskier IRAs. For these investment types, it is highly advisable that you either perform a lot of research or talk with a financial advisor.

Precious Metal Investments

As the name implies a precious metal IRA involve investing in one of several precious metals to back your IRA. While these gold IRA investment accounts are far less common, they provide unique security. Gold and other precious metals tend to do very well when the rest of the economy isn’t doing well. After an economic downturn, precious metals still do well.

What precious metals can you invest in when it comes to an IRA?

All of these precious metals have a limit to the format they can be invested in. Bars, rounds, and similar items are the typical formats allowed. As another requirement, the precious metal must also meet a purity requirement.

It is important to note that just like many other forms of IRAs you cannot store the assets yourself. You must store the precious metal with a certified custodian.

Land/Real Estate

Certain types of land and real estate can be part of an IRA. We already mentioned foreclosures and liens. Land and real estate are more common investments than precious metals but they still are not very common as a retirement asset. Real estate assets are more complex and often include a lot of work.

The requirement for your IRA to have other real estate in it is complex. Summed up, real estate in your IRA must be an investment property that you do not ever live in. If you reside in the property your property is no longer eligible for an IRA and that may also come with tax implications. There are also ongoing steps you need to take to verify your property and to keep it as an investment method.


Liens are a form of debt that can be invested in an IRA. You can also find some other rarer forms of IRA debts that you can invest in. Debts are risky as they rely on the interest that comes from people paying off their debts. If someone doesn’t pay off their debt or something happens to the person, you may be without that money.

At the same time debt can be very lucrative as an investment as interest levels can be quite high. There are a number of platforms that allow you to specifically invest in debts.

What Can’t You Store in an IRA?

The United States government determines what can and can’t store in an IRA retirement account. Specific types of IRAs may also have further restrictions on the investment types that can be in that specific IRA. So on the basic level, anything that is not specifically addressed by the US government is not allowed in an IRA.

Specific things that the tax code prohibits is collectible items such as toys, stamps, antiques, etc. Also banned is cash-based life insurance, alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.

A Note About Alternate Investments

An alternative asset is anything besides the conventional investments in an IRA. Before investing in an IRA with alternate assets it is a good idea to look into the tax implications. You may find that some of these investments come with unusual tax implications such as business tax, specific income tax, or other similar things.

A tax specialist can help you to ascertain the specific tax implications an investment might have for you. Every situation is different and it is important to address tax implications based on that.

Individual retirement accounts are fairly popular and they are a good way to start your investment in your future. The items on this list are the assets you can hold in your retirement account. There are a few rare exceptions to every rule, but with those exceptions comes a lot more work to establish your retirement account and maintain it. They also come with more scrutiny from the government.

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  • Bradley says:

    Interesting article.

    Are collection cars authorized in an IRA? From what you mentioned it seems like they might not.

    Thank you in advance for the answer.


    • Hi Bradley,

      Your IRA cannot invest in collectibles. That includes artwork, stamps, rugs, automobiles, alcohol, certain metals, and other items. If you invest in an asset or otherwise use your IRA in a way that’s not allowed, it’s called a prohibited transaction.

      I hope this won’t stop you from opening an IRA and using distributions later in life to buy collectible cars 🙂

      Happy investing!