What Is a Gold IRA?

When it comes to saving for retirement, you have many options to choose from. But one that you may not have considered is investing in gold—namely, a gold IRA.

gold and silver American eagle coins

A gold IRA is a simple yet innovative type of individual retirement account (IRA). Instead of the conventional holdings of stocks and bonds, it invests in precious metals, primarily gold, but also in silver and platinum.

Investing in a gold IRA presents a potential opportunity for safeguarding your savings from economic turmoil and expanding the diversity of your asset portfolio. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that a gold IRA may not be a suitable option for everyone, and a thorough evaluation of your personal financial situation is necessary before making an investment decision.

This article will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of gold IRAs and equip you with the knowledge necessary to make an informed investment choice.

What is a Gold IRA?

A gold IRA, also known as a precious metals IRA, is a type of investment vehicle that gives you the ability to hold physical gold, silver, and other valuable metals. You have the option of funding this account either with pre-taxed money or as a Roth IRA with post-tax funds.

Your savings will not be invested in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds but rather in precious metal coins or bullion, providing a tangible form of investment. The tax rules and procedures for a precious metals IRA are similar to those of any other IRA.

Investing in gold bullion and other precious metals goes beyond just IRAs. Some investors choose to purchase stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in gold mining companies or precious metal funds. However, the majority of gold investors prefer to keep their investments in physical precious metals.

Types of Gold IRAs

There are three main types of gold IRAs: traditional, Roth, and SEP.

  • Traditional gold IRA: – Traditional gold IRAs are funded with pre-tax dollars and require you to pay income tax on withdrawals in retirement.
  • Roth gold IRA – Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars and allow for tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals in retirement.
  • SEP gold IRA – SEP IRAs are intended for self-employed or small business owners and are funded with pre-tax dollars. Contribution limits are different, and business owners can contribute on behalf of their employees.

Eligible Precious Metals

The IRS has strict guidelines for the kinds of metals that can be included in a gold IRA. The only precious metals that can be included are gold, silver, platinum, and palladium.

Here is an overview of each of the IRS-approved precious metals, as well as the requirements for each.

1. Gold

To be eligible for inclusion in a self-directed gold IRA, gold coins or bars must adhere to stringent purity standards, with a minimum of 99.5% purity. Any gold that fails to meet this standard will be rejected.

Should the gold pass the purity test, it must be securely stored in an approved depository, which is a specialized facility specifically designed to protect precious metals.

Having a trusted and IRS-approved custodian is also a requirement, who will serve as the trustee of the IRA and oversee the safekeeping of the gold. Some of the most sought-after gold coins and bars for IRAs include:

  • American Gold Eagle coins
  • American Gold Buffalo coins
  • Australian Gold Kangaroo/Nugget coins
  • Austrian Gold Philharmonic coins
  • Johnson Matthey Gold bar
  • Valcambi Gold CombiBar
  • Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coins
  • Credit Suisse Gold bars

2. Silver

The purity of silver coins must be at least 99.9% to be eligible for deposit in a gold IRA. The following is a list of silver coins and bars that meet the approval criteria for inclusion in an IRA:

  • American Silver Eagle coins
  • Australian Kookaburra Silver coins
  • Austrian Philharmonic Silver coins
  • Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coins
  • Mexican Silver Libertad coins
  • Johnson Matthey Silver bar
  • Royal Canadian Mint Silver bar

3. Platinum

Platinum coins and bars must meet or exceed a purity standard of 99.95%. Here is a list of IRA-approved platinum bars and coins to consider:

  • American Eagle Platinum coins
  • Australian Koala Platinum coins
  • Canadian Maple Leaf Platinum coins
  • Isle of Man Noble coins

4. Palladium

And finally, palladium must meet a purity standard of 99.95% or higher. Here is a list of IRA-approved palladium bars and coins:

  • Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf coins
  • Russian Ballerina Palladium coins
  • Baird Palladium bars
  • Credit Suisse Palladium bars

Metals That Are Not Eligible for a Gold IRA

If you’re interested in investing in a gold IRA, you need to be mindful of the accepted metals. While there may be other precious metal bars and coins that are sought after by collectors, they may not be eligible for investment within a gold IRA. To ensure you’re making the right investment decisions, it’s best to work with a trusted precious metals company.

To avoid any issues, make sure to double-check with your IRA company before investing in any precious metals you’re unsure about. Here’s a list of metals that are not approved for investment in a gold IRA:

  • Austrian Corona
  • Belgian Franc
  • British Sovereign and Britannia
  • Chilean Peso
  • Chinese Panda coins
  • Dutch Guilder
  • French 20 Franc
  • Hungarian Korona
  • Italian Lira
  • Mexican Peso
  • South African Krugerrand
  • Swiss Franc

Pros and Cons of Gold IRAs

Before investing in a gold IRA, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Here are some key factors to consider before making a decision.


Since the Financial Crisis of 2008, gold IRAs have become a popular investment option for people looking to diversify outside the stock market. Many people believe that gold is a good way to protect yourself against inflation.

And gold IRAs are not as difficult to invest in as they were in the past. Due to increased demand, there are more legitimate gold IRA companies available that will help you buy and manage your gold and precious metals investment.


One of the biggest downsides to opening a gold IRA is that the startup costs can be high. Plus, gold doesn’t pay dividends or interest, which kind of defeats the purpose of putting it in a tax-advantaged investment.

Plus, many people find it tricky to make withdrawals on gold IRAs, since gold isn’t a liquid asset.

You also need to be sure that you’re working with a reputable company that knows what they’re doing. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall victim to scam artists.

How to Get Started With a Gold IRA

Starting a gold IRA requires opening a self-directed IRA account, which offers greater flexibility in terms of investment options. You’ll be responsible for managing this retirement account, but you’ll need the assistance of a broker for buying gold and securing your assets.

When selecting a custodian, consider a bank, credit union, or brokerage firm that has been approved by a state or federal agency. You may also ask your gold dealer for recommendations on trusted brokers.

Start-Up Costs to Open a Gold IRA

Unlike traditional IRAs, a gold IRA comes with a few extra expenses. Here are some of the most significant expenses you’ll need to know about:

  • The markup fee: When you buy gold or precious metals, you may have to pay a markup fee. This is a one-time upfront fee, and it will vary based on the vendor you choose.
  • IRA setup fee: The setup fee is another one-time fee you’ll pay to set up your IRA account. Again, this will vary depending on the broker you choose. However, it will likely be more costly because not every firm deals with gold IRAs.
  • Custodian fees: You’ll have to pay an annual fee for the custodian who’s managing your gold IRA.
  • Storage fees: Your gold must be stored in a secure, approved location. For that reason, you’ll have to pay annual storage fees.

Bottom Line

If you seek to diversify your portfolio beyond the stock market, a gold IRA could be a suitable option. Precious metals like gold are often considered secure investments and can act as a safeguard against inflation.

On the other hand, other methods of asset diversification may be more economical and less cumbersome. Some people regard gold as a poor choice for a tax-deferred investment, as it does not produce income.

If you opt for a gold IRA, be sure to thoroughly research your metals dealer and custodian, to ensure the protection of your investment and to steer clear of scams.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a gold IRA a good investment?

It depends on your personal financial circumstances and investment objectives. While some view gold as a way to hedge against inflation and diversify their portfolio, others may not find value in physically investing in the precious metal. To make an informed decision, you’ll need to thoroughly examine both the potential risks and benefits before investing in a gold IRA.

How do I set up a gold IRA?

To set up a gold IRA account, you will need to find a gold IRA company that specializes in setting up precious metals IRAs. Gold IRA companies will provide you with the necessary paperwork and guidance to open and fund your account.

Are there any restrictions on what types of gold I can hold in my IRA?

Yes, there are specific rules for the types of gold that can be held in a precious metals IRA. The gold must be at least 99.5% pure and must be in the form of coins or bars from an approved refinery or mint. Some common examples of approved gold coins include the American Gold Eagle and the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf.

What is the difference between a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, and SEP IRA?

A traditional IRA is a tax-advantaged account that allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars and potentially receive a tax deduction on your contributions.

A Roth IRA, on the other hand, is a retirement account that accepts post-tax contributions, but all qualified withdrawals, including earnings, are tax-free.

Lastly, a SEP IRA is a retirement savings plan designed for self-employed individuals and small business owners. It enables them to make tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA for themselves and their employees.

Jamie Johnson
Meet the author

Jamie Johnson is a freelance writer who has been featured in publications like InvestorPlace and GOBankingRates. She writes about various personal finance topics including student loans, credit cards, investing, building credit, and more.