Can I Take Physical Possession of Gold in My IRA?

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Individual retirement accounts have emerged as incredibly popular investment vehicles designed to help people achieve the savings they need to comfortably retire.

Of course, the creation and management of an IRA are critical to an individual's long-term financial health.

This means that individuals who own the IRA must properly diversify the IRA, ensure its growth, and have a wide array of financial assets to protect them from market crashes.  

A gold IRA is often viewed as an excellent way of diversifying retirement savings. However, there are many questions about gold IRAs.

Chief among them: Can I take physical possession of the gold in my IRA?

And Should I?

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What Is An IRA, and What Is A Gold IRA?

An IRA stands for Individual Retirement Account. They are investment vehicles - usually managed by financial professionals - that allow a person to save for retirement.  An IRA isn't just one stock, bond, or investment vehicle.

The "account" part of an IRA enables a financial professional to buy a series of financial instruments that can be saved, invested, and expanded. Then, when the account owner reaches retirement age, it can be withdrawn and used for living expenses.  

One of the key advantages of IRAs is that they are tax-advantaged. This means that a person can make contributions to an IRA and not be taxed on the growth within those accounts.

This creates a financial incentive for an individual to put as much money as possible into the account, as doing so can allow an individual to achieve major tax savings.  

When those tax savings occur depends on the type of IRA. Among the most popular IRAs include:

Traditional IRA

Contributions to this type are not taxed, meaning a person can save money on taxes. Instead, the money will be taxed when it is withdrawn. Most retirees are in a lower income tax bracket when they retire, enabling them to save money on their taxes.

Roth IRA

Taxes are paid when money is put into this IRA but are tax-free when withdrawn. 


This stands for Simplified Employee Pension, a type of IRA that allows a person to use small businesses to contribute to a retirement savings account.  

As noted above, there are many types of IRAs. Different individuals will take different strategies with their IRAs, including the level of risk they are willing to incur, where they invest their money, and how much money they invest in their IRA.

In some cases, individuals may turn to a gold IRA as part of their retirement savings strategy.  

As the name implies, a gold IRA invests in actual, physical gold.  This is a self-directed IRA, meaning that you, as the investor, choose specifically where you want to invest your IRA. 

Gold IRAs come with many advantages and may serve as an excellent method of diversifying your traditional retirement holdings, particularly during times of financial turmoil.

Why Do Investors Invest in Gold?

Gold comes with many benefits that owning other financial assets cannot match. These benefits include:

  • Long-term stability

Gold is one of the oldest and most stable assets. In times of great financial turmoil or political upheaval, gold has always maintained its financial position as one of the most stable financial assets.

Gold is believed to have a value that is independent of the value of other stocks and bonds. This gives it long-term stability and ensures that investing in gold will help to increase the overall value of your portfolio. 

  • Protection against inflation

In times of high inflation - like what we are experiencing right now - investors tend to increase their overall investment in gold. Gold prices increase during periods of high inflation.

As such, owning gold can help protect you from the damage that inflation tends to bring during these periods. 

  • Supply issues

As a physical material that is non-renewable, there are limits to the amount of gold in the world, and while gold-mining businesses continue to mine the product, there is only so much gold left on the earth.

Furthermore, central banks tend to sell gold to other investors for use. These supply issues put upward pressure on the price of gold, ensuring that its price continues to rise. 

  • Diversification

The idea behind diversification is simple: You spread out the potential risk to your retirement portfolio to ensure that you won't absorb major losses in the event of a market crash. Holding gold can help protect your portfolio from such a crash.

In times of stock or bond turmoil, investors tend to rush into more stable financial instruments, like gold.

Gold can thus provide an excellent hedge against market turmoil and ensure that your overall portfolio value doesn't take a major hit if the market crashes. 

How Can Gold Benefit Your IRA?

All of the above provide excellent reasons for you to own gold. However, owning a financial instrument is different than owning it for retirement purposes. As such, you should consider some of the specific benefits of owning a gold IRA. 

This includes:

  • Diversification

It is important to consider the impacts that a financial downturn or market crash can have on your portfolio. If the timing is wrong and the market crashes around the time you need to retire, you may see a major financial loss.

Investing in one asset or one specific financial product may result in a major hit to your portfolio that can seriously damage your ability to retire at a time of your choosing.

As such, you must diversify your retirement savings, and a gold IRA can help you achieve this. 

  • Ideal for a buy-and-hold strategy

Physical assets are less liquid than other financial instruments, meaning that they can take some time to purchase and ultimately sell.

However, IRAs are supposed to be stable, trading liquidity for long-term growth. This means that gold can be ideally suited for this type of investment.

  • Self-directed IRA

A gold IRA is self-directed. This means that you can put different types of assets - including gold - into the IRA. 

This may give you greater control over the IRA, and it will also allow you to determine more specifics about how much gold you buy and where you buy it.

As such, individuals who are interested in having more direct control over their IRA may see a real benefit from investing in gold.

  • Inflation and deflation protection

As noted above, investments in gold can be highly beneficial when it comes to protecting against abrupt changes in the value of money. Gold tends to move in the opposite direction of inflation or deflation.

As such, purchasing a gold IRA can be a critical benefit against sudden inflation or deflation.

Inflation can be incredibly damaging for an IRA: Since retirees are on a fixed income, anything that creates inflationary pressures can cause major economic hardship.  

  • Long-term price gain

The value of gold has increased steadily over time. Investing in a gold IRA can give individuals who are looking to retire access to this stable price growth. 

Can You Take Possession of Gold? Do You Need To?

No. The IRS states that you can't keep or physically possess the gold. It cannot be kept in your home or a safe deposit box that you own.  One of the primary benefits of owning an IRA is that an individual gets significant tax benefits.

However, these tax benefits come at a regulatory price, and the IRS exhibits a variety of controls over all forms of IRAs - including gold IRAs.

One of these regulations is how the gold is stored: To be eligible for the tax benefits afforded an IRA, a gold IRA must be stored in an IRS-approved safe location.

This location has to meet an array of regulatory requirements, including safety, security, storage requirements, and more. 

The only businesses eligible for holding gold that can be used in a gold IRA are either banks, financial instructions, or trustees that meet the relevant IRS regulations.  

There is nothing, in theory, that would prevent you from visiting the gold and seeing where it is. A gold IRA company would likely welcome that opportunity, as it would give them a chance to build a good relationship with a client.

However, you could not leave with the gold, and you would only be able to see it within the established regulations of the company.  The reason for this is simple: Even if you own the gold, you don't exactly own the tax benefits that come with it.

Gold IRAs come with different tax benefits. If you were to leave with the gold and sell it, melt it down, or use it in any other way, you would be changing or profiting off of the asset without paying taxes on it.

The only way you can dispose of an asset within an IRA is via government-approved methods that may involve paying taxes and other financial penalties.  

There is one exception to this. When you turn 59 and 1/2, you can begin to access the money in your IRA without financial penalty. At that time, you can take physical possession of the gold in your account, and there is no tax penalty for doing so.  

There is good news, of course: You don't need to view or possess the gold. As long as the gold was in an IRS-approved location, it would be eligible for your gold IRA.

There is no reason for you to ever need to confirm that the gold even exists: As long as it is in an IRS-approved location, you are good to invest.  Of course, if you want to buy or sell gold for other purposes, you have plenty of options.

You can buy, sell or use gold in many other ways, and all of these would come with more freedom and access to the physical asset than keeping the gold that you purchase within an IRA.

Where is the Gold in Your IRA?

Depending on your specific plans, appetite for risk, and resources, there may be a real benefit to holding gold in your IRA. However, you may have some very serious questions.

 Buying gold and owning it on paper is nice, but where is the gold? Where is it kept?  

This is an excellent question, and the answer ultimately depends on where you specifically spend your money. Part of the answer has already been addressed. As noted above, gold IRAs are self-directed.

This means that you determine how much gold you want to buy. Critically, you also determine where you want to buy the gold from. Keep in mind that you don't physically "own" the gold in the same sense that you own other physical items.

Instead, the relationship between you and the gold is more of a trustee relationship. The holder of the gold remains the trustee of the asset. While you have access to its financial benefits, you do not have access to the physical gold itself.

That remains held by the firm from which you buy the gold.


The tax benefits of a gold IRA are significant, but the trade-offs are very real. As such, you should consider a comprehensive, holistic view of buying gold before making any purchase.

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