For decades, many people have thought they could only invest their retirement accounts on Wall Street. Most Wall Street IRA custodians only allow you to invest in stocks, bonds, annuities, mutual funds, and CDs. The problem is that these traditional investments only make up a fraction of the profitable assets you can purchase for investment purposes. But with a Self-Directed IRA, you can move beyond Wall Street and use your IRA funds to make self-directed investments in the “alternative investments” of your choice. Real estate is the most popular alternative investment people make with self-directed IRA funds. You can use IRA funds to buy commercial and residential real estate, including houses, duplexes, condos, office buildings, shopping centers, mobile home parks, factories, and raw land. This article will explain alternative investments, their different types, and how they can provide you with significant savings at tax time. Did somebody say “Alternative”??? What are alternative investments? An alternative investment is an asset that falls outside the traditional categories of stocks, bonds, and currencies. Since they are not tied to Wall Street, alternative investments can help diversify your portfolio and enhance your returns. Since many types of these investments are connected with the stock market, they can help investors achieve their long-term financial objectives, even during times of uncertainty in the market. Alternative investments typically cover a wide range of strategies. However, most of these assets have the following characteristics: Low correlation to traditional stocks and bonds Higher return potential than traditional investments Higher minimum investment requirements More complex structures Unique risk profiles Unregulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Alternative investments are not for everyone. For instance, they usually offer less liquidity than traditional investments. Many of these non-traditional assets require buyers to lock up their money for five or even 10 years. What are the types of alternative investments? Alternative investments can include both public and private assets. Here are some of the categories an investor may consider: Real estate — Real estate is the most common type of alternative investment. In addition to office buildings and farmland, however, the real estate category can include intellectual property, including inventions and artwork. The goal for the investor is to understand the long-term value of the asset. Private equity — This broad category includes investments in companies not listed on a public exchange. These assets can involve the following: venture capital growth capital buyouts Private debt — Private debt involves investments that are not financed by banks or traded on the open market. It’s important to understand that the term “private” in this case refers to the investment instrument itself since both public and private companies can borrow funds via private debt. Hedge funds – A hedge fund is an investment partnership. Hedge fund managers use a range of techniques – including leverage, short selling, and derivatives — with the goal of generating a consistent level of return, regardless of what is happening on Wall Street. Commodities and futures — These assets include natural resources (such as oil and gas), agricultural products (such as corn and soybeans), and precious and industrial metals (such as gold and silver). The value of these assets follows changes with supply and demand. Structured products — Structured products are financial instruments with a value linked to that of an underlying asset, product, or index. Examples include: market indices individual or baskets of stocks, bonds, and commodities currencies interest rates combination of the above Collectibles – Although this type of investing may sound fun, it can be quite risky. Many experts warn that only true experts in the collected item, which can range from wine to action figures, should expect a sizable return on their investment. What are the Tax Implications for Alternative Investments? In addition to the diversity they offer your portfolio, alternative investments can also provide tax advantages. The primary tax benefits of these assets are pass-through depreciation and long-term capital gains treatment. For example, many real estate funds deduct depreciation expenses from your net income, thereby reducing your taxable income. Also, as longer-term investments, alternative assets may hedge against short-term capital gains taxes. How to Use Your IRA or 401(k) to Invest in Real Estate Did you know that you can invest in private alternative investments with qualified retirement funds, such as a 401(k) or IRA? Most Wall Street IRA custodians allow you to invest only in traditional structures, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and CDs. However, there are many reasons to form a Self-Directed IRA. Primary among them is that the structure allows you to use your IRA funds to invest in the alternative assets of your choice. A Self-Directed IRA gives you complete control over your retirement assets. You can use a Self-Directed IRA LLC to make almost any type of investment. For example, the IRS permits using your Self-Directed IRA bank account to buy raw land real estate. The advantage here is that taxes are deferred on all gains until a distribution takes place. (Before tax 401k distributions are not required until you reach the age of 70 and a half). And, with a Roth Self-Directed IRA, your gains become tax-exempt. Be aware that the IRS has strict rules on these investments. It’s essential to keep good records of all income and expenses generated by your real estate investments. All income, gains, or losses from the investment needs to be allocated to the IRA. To get the most out of your investment and avoid any tax issues, you should consider a Self-Directed IRA custodian. An IRA custodian is a financial institution that holds your account and makes sure that it adheres to all IRS and government regulations. Finally, while most investors access alternative assets through their financial advisor or financial institution, there is a growing number of digital platforms that offer ways to buy them directly. If you are new to investing, we recommend working with a professional who understands the benefits and challenges of these non-traditional purchases.