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SDIRA Concepts

Public and Private Investments in One IRA: Is it Possible?

July 22, 2020
I became frustrated with my low yields on bonds in my IRA and decided to open a self-directed account with Equity Trust. I’d estimate I would have made possibly $10,000 in my old bond fund and instead created hundreds of thousands of dollars and had a great time learning the new market and controlling my financial wealth.
Self-Directed Investor Coby M., Indiana

Similar trends have played out in the IRA industry as well. Over the past decade, Equity Trust Company, a directed IRA custodian, has grown from holding $8 billion in assets under custody in 2010 to $28.7 billion in 2020.

While this growth is due to a variety of factors, including innovation and strategic acquisitions, the increasing demand for access to private market investments from retirement investors is a major contributor.

Are Alternatives a Best-Kept Secret?

Despite the growing popularity, however, alternative asset classes are still a minor part of total investment allocations.

BlackRock Investment Institute estimated private markets make up about 9 percent of the market portfolio of global investible assets.

“[The] industry tends to sell and recommend assets that can be traded in public markets daily,” said John Nicola, chairman and chief executive officer of Nicola Wealth Management Ltd.


15-minute guide to Self-Directed IRA Investing


Size of public and private markets: BlackRock

“Our philosophy is very simply this: In order to have a diversified portfolio, you should invest in assets that are representative of global wealth. Our view is that’s a fraction of global wealth, and private assets are a greater share of that wealth. Real estate, private equity, private debt, and mortgages are all part of the real-world assets.”

“I opened a self-directed IRA to remove my financial exposure to the stock market in my retirement days. Real estate investments provide me with stable rental income along with increased market value on my properties.”
– Fred B., Ohio

Diversification May Depend on Your Custodian

As Equity Trust Company CEO George Sullivan shared in a feature for Crain’s Cleveland Business Redefining Retirement series, “In today’s economy, diversifying is an increasingly wise choice: A sound investment strategy includes both public and private investments to optimize return on investment (ROI) and minimize the impact of market volatility.”

It’s about having the ability to hand-select the investments in your portfolio, in whatever way makes sense for you, without limitations.

This is a choice many retirement investors don’t have due to their custodian’s lack of capabilities.

According to the IRS, “IRA trustees are permitted to impose additional restrictions on investments. For example, because of administrative burdens, many IRA trustees do not permit IRA owners to invest IRA funds in real estate. IRA law does not prohibit investing in real estate, but trustees are not required to offer real estate as an option.”

Most retirement plan custodians do not permit investments in many alternative assets because of the aforementioned “administrative burdens.” Of those that do, typically referred to as self-directed IRA custodians, many do not support a seamless solution to invest in traditional assets like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds because of their specialized focus on the alternative asset niche.

Public and Private Investing: Building Your Portfolio at Equity Trust Company

Despite specializing in alternative asset custody, Equity Trust Company has always maintained solutions for our clients to access the public markets since our start in 1974.

With the recently added online investing capability of our myEQUITY Mutual Fund Wizard, in addition to the expanded traditional investment possibilities offered by our affiliate ETC Brokerage Services, you don’t have to decide on one type of investment strategy.

You have the freedom to diversify. You can construct your retirement portfolio however you see fit, all under the same company roof.

“As the inventory of homes for sale continues to decline, it’s harder and harder to find “deals”. The Equity Trust brokerage account is another way to invest and make money with my retirement account.
– Frank O., Texas

Whether you’re investing in an asset class you know well (like real estate), find a private market investment opportunity, want to add physical gold or other bullion, or simply seek diversification beyond the stock market, Equity Trust Company provides the flexibility to seamlessly move capital between public and private market investments.

This capability has served our clients well in volatile markets. For example, we saw an increase in private to public market volume of 221 percent from the end of February through March 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, while trade volume at ETC Brokerage has more than tripled since February 2020 (as of June 11, 2020).

By providing a seamless way to invest and putting diversification in your hands, Equity Trust Company clients can customize and diversify their portfolios between public and private market investments.

You are not limited to residential real estate. Your IRA can hold various investment properties such as commercial buildings, vacant land, condominiums, mobile homes and apartment buildings, in addition to residential property.

With a self-directed IRA, your investments are up to you, within the bounds of the IRS rules and guidelines. The IRS does note provide guidance on what investment types are permitted, but dictates only what is NOT permitted. Examples of prohibited IRA investments include collectible (such as artwork, stamps, rugs, antiques and gems), certain coins and life insurance. See IRA Publication 590 for more information about prohibited investments.

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