What You Should Know

  • Gold IRAs can be a great investment for those looking to diversify their portfolio
  • However, scammers commonly use scare tactics and false promises to conduct precious metal scams
  • Common scams include selling precious metals for inflated prices or taking seniors’ money without providing products or services 
  • Seniors should know warning signs of precious metal fraud and what to do if they have become a victim
  • Investing with reputable companies is safe and will protect seniors and their savings

If you’re one of the many people who worry that their 401(k) may not be enough to cover after-retirement expenses, you may want to diversify your savings by opening an individual retirement account, or IRA, to hold additional assets. However, like 401(k)s, the value of some IRAs may fluctuate considerably in a volatile market. Since a 2019 Gallup poll found that 52% of Americans say that the performance of their investments affects their mood, investing in a less volatile type of account can help you feel better about your finances and overall. 

For this reason, gold IRAs are a particularly attractive option because, unlike other IRAs, they hold physical gold and other precious metals. Because gold has historically retained its value in times of economic uncertainty, gold IRAs may help protect retirement savings from declining with economic downtrends. However, those who open a gold IRA account must use a reputable company and avoid falling for advertisements featuring scare tactics or unrealistic expectations that are used by other businesses. 

To help you separate fact from fiction in the gold IRA market, we’ve created a guide that explores gold IRAs in depth. Below, you’ll learn about IRS rules that govern the formation and management of all IRAs, in addition to what makes gold IRAs unique. After brushing up on the basics, view our list of top IRA custodial companies, and use our buyer’s guide for practical tips when adding a precious metals IRA to your retirement portfolio.

Overview of The Best Gold IRA Companies

Overview of the Best Gold IRA Companies
American Hartford Gold
  • Hassle-free buyback commitment
  • 100% customer satisfaction guarantee
  • Free shipping
See Packages → Read Our Review →
Goldco
  • 5-star ratings from 1000+ customers
  • Free e-book on precious metals investments
  • A+ BBB rating
See Packages → Read Our Review →
Advantage Gold
  • A+ BBB accredited rating since 2014
  • Experts specializing in IRA rollovers
  • Excellent customer reviews
See Packages → Read Our Review →
The Entrust Group
  • 30+ years of SDIRA experience
  • Low startup and annual fees
  • Four storage locations
See Packages → Read Our Review →
Millennium Trust
  • RITA Membership
  • A+ BBB rating
  • Extensive resource material
See Packages → Read Our Review →
Equity Trust
  • Private family-owned company since 1974
  • Ranked in Ohio’s top 99 workplaces
  • Online process through myEQUITY
See Packages → Read Our Review →
STRATA Trust
  • Flex IRA option
  • RITA Membership
  • A+ BBB rating
See Packages → Read Our Review →

How We Chose the Best Gold IRA Companies

We collected information from the best gold IRA companies on their storage options, fees, ratings, memberships, and account minimums. During our research, we looked for companies with a focus on transparency and honesty within the investment industry. Each of the gold IRA companies we picked had to meet three requirements:

  • Informative: Considering the legal complexities associated with IRAs, we chose to feature companies on our list that make high-quality information on IRAs easily accessible. 
  • Fair Marketing Tactics: We only included companies on our list that employed a more thoughtful sales approach, avoiding those trying to tempt or frighten seniors into investing quickly.
  • Reputable: Our research prioritized companies that have a history of service and a good reputation in their communities. 

The 7 Best Gold IRA Companies of 2022

Company

Secure Storage Partners

Fees

Memberships and Ratings

IRA Account Minimum

Brink’s Global Services

Delaware Depository

International Depository Services Group

Setup: None
Annual Fee: $75 for values of $100,000 or less; $125 for values of 100,001 or more

Storage: Variable; $100 annual storage fee in most cases

Shipping: None

Transaction/service: Variable; must contact a representative to learn more

- BBB Accredited
-BBB Rating: A+
-5-Star Rating on Trustpilot and Google
- #1 Ranked Gold Company by Inc. 5000

$2,500 for cash (wires or checks) purchases and $10,000 for purchases through a retirement account like an IRA or 401(k)



Brinks Global Services

Delaware Depository

International Depository Services Group

Setup: $50

Annual fee: $80

Storage: $100 (segregated storage is $150)

Shipping: Variable Transaction/service: Variable; contact a representative to learn more



-BBB Accredited
-BBB Rating: A+ 

$20,000 - $25,000

Delaware Depository

Setup: $50

Annual fee: $100-250 (based on asset value)

Storage: Variable

Shipping: Variable

Transaction/service: Variable; must contact a representative to learn more

-BBB Accredited
-BBB Rating: A+ 

None

CNT Depository, Inc.

Dakota Depository Company

Delaware Depository

Idaho Armored Vaults, LLC

Setup: $50

Annual fee: starting at $199 for values of $50,000 or less; starting at $199 for values of $50,000 or more plus 0.15% total asset value

Storage: N/A

Transaction/service:  9 possible fees, ranging $10-$250



-BBB Accredited
-BBB Rating: A+ 

None

Brink’s Global Services

Loomis International

Setup: $50

Annual: $100

Storage: Variable (based on value of holdings)

Transaction/service: Variable fees, ranging $25-$350 each 

-RITA Membership
-BBB Accredited
-BBB Rating: A+

None

International Depository Services Group

Brink’s Global Services

Delaware Depository

Setup: $50

Annual: $225+ (based on asset value)

Storage: Starting at $100 annually 

Transaction/service: 16 possible fees, ranging $10-$100

-RITA Membership
-BBB Rating: A+

None

Delaware Depository

Setup: $50

Annual: $95 

Storage: $150 annually for most accounts

Shipping: $10+

Transactions/services: 16 fees, $25-$250 each

- RITA Membership
-BBB Rating: A+



None

*Note: Before buying assets or consenting to their storage in any facility, you or your qualified representative should determine whether or not the facility meets the IRS requirements of being either a bank according to IRC 408(n) or being an approved nonbank trustees

American Hartford Gold

Most Personalized Service

American Hartford Gold is a family-owned and operated company that has built a trusted reputation in the gold industry since 2016. With over $500 million in precious metals delivered, it focuses on helping individuals add diversity and protection to their wealth with gold, silver, and platinum bars and coins. The firm offers physical delivery straight to your doorstep, in addition to precious metal IRAs and gold and silver IRA rollovers. Its two corporate headquarters are located in Los Angeles and Woodland Hills, California. Known for its five-star customer satisfaction rating, American Hartford Group strives to educate both new and experienced investors about precious metal investments with a historical perspective, complete transparency, and fair dealing. The group was awarded the title of #1 gold company by Inc. 5000 in their list of America’s fastest-growing private companies in 2021.

American Hartford Gold stands out from other wealth management firms with similar offerings because it combines expert industry knowledge with the personalized care of a family-owned and operated business. Although larger firms may offer a variety of additional investment options such as real estate or cryptocurrency, American Hartford Gold Group is a small company that focuses specifically on precious metals. This specialization allows its dedicated team of product experts to provide clients with personalized and expert assistance.

Overview of American Hartford Gold

Storage and Security Partners

-Brink’s Global Services
-Delaware Depository

Fees

Setup: None
Annual fee: $75 for values of $100,000 or less; $125 for values of 100,001 or more
Storage:
Variable; $100 annual storage fee in most cases
Shipping: None
Transaction/service: Variable; must contact a representative to learn more

Memberships and Ratings

- BBB Accredited 
-BBB Rating: A+ 
-5-Star Rating on Trustpilot and Google
- #1 Ranked Gold Company by Inc. 5000

IRA Account Minimum 

$1,500 for cash (wires or checks) purchases and $10,000 for purchases through a retirement account like an IRA or 401(k).

Pros and Cons of Gold IRAs from American Hartford Gold

Pros:

  • Guaranteed buyback commitment that makes for an easy process without any liquidation fees or hidden fees
  • Free insured shipping and tracking policy for all orders
  • Expert staff available to answer questions and offer information on top industry trends

Cons:

  • Pricing not listed on website; must call and speak to representative

Goldco

Best for Beginner Investors

Since 2006, Goldco has helped its clients protect their retirement savings through precious metal investments. The company prides itself on making gold and silver ownership easy and accessible to all. Goldco was given an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau and a Triple-A rating by Business Consumer Alliance for its consistently strong customer service and ethical business practices. The company’s founder, Trevor Gerszt, comes from a family background in precious metal collecting and truly believes that gold and silver ownership should be a vital part of one’s overall retirement savings strategy.

Goldco’s three-step process for opening a gold IRA is uniquely catered toward beginner investors. From the moment a prospective customer speaks to a representative, to when their metals reach the storage depository, the process is easy and informative. The company hosts a large content bank on its website with helpful material for those who would like to learn more about precious metal investments. Its articles are broken down into simple concepts for new investors, including a Beginner’s Guide to a Gold IRA. The firm’s website boasts a live chat feature to ensure that your questions are answered by an expert in real-time. If you’re a gold investment newcomer looking for data to back up your decision, Golco offers a free kit that includes numbers-driven information on how to grow your retirement through precious metal investments.

Overview of Goldco

Storage and Security Partners

- Brinks Global Services
- Delaware Depository
- International Depository Services Group

Fees

Setup: $50
Annual fee: $80
Storage: $100 (segregated storage is $150)
Shipping: Variable
Transaction/service: Variable; contact a representative to learn more

Memberships and Ratings

- BBB Accredited
- BBB Rating: A+ 

IRA Account Minimum 

$20,000 - $25,000

Pros and Cons of Gold IRAs from Goldco

Pros:

  • Offers extra perks for its customers with 10% back in free silver on qualified purchases
  • Over 15 years of experience provides historical knowledge and an added layer of proven trust
  • Free beginners guide for people interested in gold and other precious metal investments

Cons:

  • Website lacks practical information and the level of detail that is standard with its competitors

Advantage Gold

Best Buyback Policy

Advantage Gold specializes in converting existing IRAs or eligible 401(k)s into gold or other precious metal investments, which makes it a great option for those specifically looking for a rollover setup. Advantage Gold takes a hands-on approach with clients by educating and guiding investors from start to finish, and you can expect to work with account executives who have extensive experience in setting up and rolling over thousands of gold IRAs. Co-founders Kirill Zagalsky and Adam Baratta bring a wealth of knowledge to the company, as both previously worked at national United States Mint-listed dealers and specialized in precious metal IRA accounts.

While some gold IRA companies charge liquidation fees and are not transparent about the process of selling back metals, Advantage Gold makes the buyback process simple and fair. You can sell back the metals that you purchased from Advantage Gold at any time and receive fair market value. At a minimum, it pledges to pay you the “spot price” at the time of liquidation. Depending on the wholesale market, the company pays well above that level for many metals. The buyback process can often be drawn out as you wait for funds to reach your account, but Advantage Gold’s fair and quick buyback policy is a strong selling point for investors who don’t want to feel locked in by rigid liquidation fees and rules.

Overview of Advantage Gold

Storage and Security Partners

-Brink’s Global Services
- Delaware Depository
-International Depository Services Group

Fees

Setup: $50
Annual fee: $100-250 (based on asset value)
Storage: Variable
Shipping: Variable
Transaction/service: Variable; must contact a representative to learn more

Memberships and Ratings

-BBB Accredited
-BBB Rating: A+ 

IRA Account Minimum 

None

Pros and Cons of Gold IRAs from Advantage Gold

Pros:

  • Online Learning Center features educational and easy-to-understand charts, infographics, and videos
  • Specialization in IRA rollovers makes for an easy process with one-on-one assistance
  • First year’s fees are waived as a welcome bonus to customers who bring $50,000 or more to an IRA rollover transaction

Cons:

  • Limited options for coin collectors, as only a select few metals can be invested into a precious metals IRA (gold, silver, platinum and palladium)
  • Specific requirements for the fineness of the metal (must be 99.9%)
  • Less experience, with only 8 years in the industry

The Entrust Group

Most Physical Locations 

The Entrust Group has 35 years of experience helping its customers understand and set up self-directed IRAs (SDIRAs). Based in Oakland, California and founded by Hubert Bromma, the Entrust Group is known for its helpful educational materials and its dedication to serving customers who want personal control over their finances. Currently, the Entrust Group is responsible for managing a total of $4 billion in assets of all kinds. This brand works with both large businesses and individual customers. It offers all types of SDIRAs, including precious metals, real estate, and much more.

The Entrust Group is unique because it has more locations than most other custodial companies (not including those offering metal brokerage, which may have more locations). The brand has four locations across the nation, including an office in Santa Monica, CA; Oakland, CA;  Nashville, TN; and Hackensack, NJ. The Oakland office has a team dedicated exclusively to precious metals IRA accounts. In addition to having a better reach of locations than most trust non-brokerage custodial companies, the Entrust Group also routinely holds local and national educational events that its customers benefit from. 

Overview of The Entrust Group

Storage and Security Partners

-CNT Depository, Inc. 
-Dakota Depository Company
-Delaware Depository 
-Idaho Armored Vaults, LLC

Fees

Setup: $50
Annual fee: starting at $199 for values of $50,000 or less; starting at $199 for values of $50,000 or more plus 0.15% total asset value
Storage: Variable
Shipping: Variable
Transaction/service: 9 possible fees, ranging $10-$250

Memberships and Ratings

-BBB Accredited 
-BBB Rating: A+ 

IRA Account Minimum 

None

Pros and Cons of Gold IRAs from The Entrust Group

Pros:

  • Precious metals specialists provide quick access to niche investment knowledge
  • Low startup and annual fees compared to other custodial companies
  • Up-to-date website with extremely informative articles on a variety of topics related to SDIRAs

Cons:

  • No information on storage and shipping fees

Millennium Trust

Best Educational Resources

Millennium Trust serves millions of accounts and is in the custody of assets totaling nearly $40 billion. The company has specialized in alternative assets, retirement funds, and investment accounts for over 20 years. Working in tandem with Gold Bullion International (GBI), Millennium Trust offers its customers a self-directed IRA option with the ability to invest in gold and other precious metals. GBI takes care of each step in the gold investment process and handles buying, storing, selling, and delivery of precious metals.

The Millennium Trust website is dedicated to the service of its customers and provides an easy-to-navigate streamlined experience. Over 22,000 customers have rated the company at 4.2/5 stars on Trustpilot.com, proving their commitment to service excellence. Not only are the customers happy, but so are Millennium Trust employees. The company was just recently awarded the “Best-in-Class organization” title by the Gallagher Company in 2021. 

Overview of Millennium Trust

Storage and Security Partners

-Brink’s Global Services
-Loomis International

Fees

Setup: $50
Annual: $100
Storage: Variable (based on value of holdings)
Transaction/service: 11 possible fees, ranging $25-$350 each

Memberships and Ratings

-RITA Membership 
-BBB Accredited
-BBB Rating: A+

IRA Account Minimum 

None

Pros and Cons of Gold IRAs from Millennium Trust

Pros:

  • Retirement Industry Trust Association (RITA) membership allows company leaders to learn from the best in the field
  • All fees are listed transparently on the company’s website
  • Large collection of informative articles, guides, and videos in the Millennium Trust Knowledge Center and Blog

Cons:

  • Millennium Trust does not provide investment recommendations

Equity Trust

Most Industry Awards

Equity Trust was formed in 2003, but its business origins can be traced back to 1974 when founder Richard Desich established another brokerage company that would later grow into Equity Trust. Throughout the years, Equity Trust has acquired accounts and whole trust companies, steadily expanding its influence in the financial world. This brand has innovated and found new ways to meet customer needs by providing online investment platforms and creating new divisions of its business to address the needs of the financial services industry.

Equity Trust has received many awards within its industry, especially awards for how it treats its employees. In 2021, this brand secured its eighth title as one of the top 99 workplaces in Ohio by the Employer’s Resource Council. In 2018, the publication Smart Business recognized Equity Trust with a Customer Service Excellence Award. Other awards the brand has recently won have included special recognition of Equity Trust as a healthy workplace.

Overview of Equity Trust

Storage and Security Partners

-International Depository Services Group
-Brink’s Global Services
-Delaware Depository

Fees

Setup: $50
Annual: $225+
Storage: Starting at $100 annually
Transaction/service: 16 possible fees, ranging $10-$100

Memberships and Ratings

-RITA Membership
-BBB Rating: A+

IRA Account Minimum 

None

Pros and Cons of Gold IRAs from Equity Trust

Pros:

  • Flexibility around investment options with alternative assets or traditional assets
  • Online platform, myEquity, allows investors to securely log in, view, and manage their accounts
  • Website is easy to navigate and provides a large amount of information for customers on investing

Cons:

  • Fee schedule provided by Equity Trust Includes an unusual amount of miscellaneous transaction and service fees

STRATA Trust

Best for Diverse Investments

STRATA Trust is based in Waco, Texas and owned by the parent company Horizon Bank, SSB. Originally, the company was called Self-Directed IRA Services, and its focus has always been on alternative investments. Now STRATA Trust acts as custodian for over $2 billion dollars in assets, representing 7,000 individual assets. STRATA Trust supports its customers through the work of over 50 employees, serving both financial professionals and individuals.

STRATA Trust offers a unique “Flex IRA” that makes it an especially good choice for investors who want to explore multiple alternative investment opportunities. The company also offers a traditional IRA for investors who want a separate account for more traditional investments like CDs and other public investments. For those who don’t want to be limited, the account structures offered by STRATA Trust provide the freedom to invest in diverse ways.

Overview of STRATA Trust

Storage and Security Partners

Delaware Depository

Fees

Setup: $50
Annual: $95
Storage: $150 annually for most accounts
Shipping: $10+
Transactions/services: 16 fees, $25-$250 each

Memberships and Accolades

-BBB Rating: A+
-RITA Membership

IRA Account Minimum 

None

Pros and Cons of Gold IRAs from STRATA Trust 

Pros:

  • Low administrative costs with affordable startup and annual fees
  • Positive customer feedback on consumer review website
  • Online Resource Center full of informative content and tools, like calculators and how-to guides

Cons:

  • High storage fees compared to some companies
  • Company will not recommend metal dealers to avoid conflicts of interest

More Gold IRA Companies

Gold IRA Basics

gold ira

As a type of self-directed individual retirement account (IRA), gold IRAs contain alternative investments to the stocks, bonds, and mutual funds included in regular IRAs. Gold IRAs hold physical gold and other precious metals – assets not allowed in conventional IRAs – and are challenging to manage as well as highly regulated. Those who want to open a gold IRA must first find a custodian, also known as a trustee, that administers them. This financial institution will oversee assets, make transactions, and handle required documentation and reporting. After a gold IRA is opened, it must be funded before any precious metals can be purchased. Each purchase must follow strict requirements and be stored in an IRS-approved depository. Read on for additional gold IRA information.

Custodians

All IRAs must have custodians according to the IRS. Often companies with the word “trust” in their name act as custodians, but banks and some other types of companies are also eligible. Below you can read more on what the custodian usually does for the client in a gold IRA. 

Custodian duties:

  • At a minimum: Keep records, report to the IRS according to IRS codes, report to the client, release funds for investment purchases as directed by the client, release required minimum disbursements, handle other compliance concerns for the client.
  • May also: Provide educational materials on IRAs and investment, provide a secure online platform for account management, or provide recommendations that you deal with particular metals dealers, security companies, and storage facilities.

Keep in mind that companies that offer other kinds of IRAs often don’t offer precious metals IRAs due to the complexity of the product or the preferences of their client base. 

Gold IRA Funding

Cash must be transferred into your gold IRA to be used for a gold or other precious metal purchase. You can fund your account in different ways:

  • Roll over another retirement account to your gold IRA. Taxes won’t be owed, as the funds are staying within a retirement plan.
  • Fund your gold IRA with cash each year according to determined annual IRA contribution limits. 

All moves of funds between retirement accounts should be made by your custodian to comply with IRS requirements.

Gold Standards

The gold purchases you make must meet certain requirements and some gold items are prohibited from being added to your gold IRA. Failure to comply with regulations may result in taxes or penalties.

Gold guidelines:

  • Gold bars must be 99.5% purity
  • Some gold coins, like the American Gold Eagle and the Canadian Maple Leaf, may be included
  • Other coins, like the South African Krugerrand and United Kingdom Sovereign coins, are prohibited. So are gold collectibles. 

If prohibited items are added, it will be disallowed and considered a withdrawal, possibly resulting in income tax or early withdrawal penalties. Double-check with your gold IRA custodian if in doubt that certain items are approved.

Depository

The IRS has specific storage requirements for gold IRA-owned precious metals. If you at any time take personal control of the physical metals, the IRS considers this a withdrawal and you may be taxed or subjected to early withdrawal penalties. However, penalties only apply if you take possession of your gold and you are under 59 ½ years old. 

Depository requirements:

  • Precious metals must be stored with a national depository, bank, or third-party trustee
  • The storage facility chosen must be IRS-approved

Custodians may be able to recommend an approved depository and/or assist with gold transfer while setting up your gold IRA.

What Does a Gold IRA Cost?

Gold IRA costs include your initial investment plus additional fees that your custodian may charge. It’s important to ask for a full disclosure of fees for each company that you explore. Below you’ll find quick explanations of each fee type.

  • Startup: The fee charged to open the account. It may also be called the application fee, set-up fee, or something similar. It should only be charged once for an IRA.
  • Annual: The amount you pay each year for the administration and maintenance of the account. This is the custodian’s compensation for keeping records, reporting to you and to the IRS, and more. Sometimes the fee will be charged quarterly instead of annually. It can be a flat fee or it can be a percentage of the asset’s value.
  • Brokerage: A percentage of what you pay for a metal that is profit for the one who sold it to you and/or the one who recommended the metal company to you. Only some trust companies benefit in this way from the metals purchases; many keep themselves separate from the sales process.
  • Shipping and storage: The cost of securely shipping and storing the metal in an IRS-approved, secure facility. These companies are usually separate from the trust company, but they are often paid through fees gathered by the custodian. These fees may be included in the annual fee. 
  • Transaction/services: Each company chooses which transactions and services are covered by the annual fee and which merit a separate charge. The following often come with a transaction fee: outgoing wire transfers, checks, cashiers checks, transfer out and closing fees, stop payment fees, IRS reporting corrections, and more. 

Deciding Between Buying Gold Bullion or Gold Coins

Remember that you’re purchasing a physical asset when you open a gold IRA account. Thus, one decision you have to make is whether to buy gold bullion (bars)or gold coins. The main difference between gold coins and gold bullions comes down to your personal preference. 

Gold bullions are ideal for investors who want the gold for its inherent value rather than the way it’s shaped or minted. Simply put, gold bullions are a lump of precious metal minted into a neat trapezoidal shape. On the surface of the bullion, you’ll see various inscriptions that signify the weight and purity of the gold content. 

On the other hand, gold coins command a certain premium value because not only are they used as legal tender, but they also have a cultural and historical value that many people hold in high regard. Gold coins are for you if you want your gold assets to be more than a financial investment and enjoy the historical significance. .

Gold Bullions vs. Gold Coins: How They Stack Up

Gold Bullion

Gold Coin

Size

Standard gold bars measure 7 x 3 5/8 x 1 3/4 inches and must weigh between 350 and 430 ounces.

Size depends on which type of coin you buy.

Storage

Gold bars can hold a large amount of wealth in small spaces.

Gold coins are small enough to fit in gift boxes or presentation boxes.

Cost

Gold bullions are priced very closely to the live gold spot price. Expect a small margin for the minting and the seller.

Gold coins have commemorative value and require extra minting costs. Thus, gold coins command a higher premium than the live gold spot price.

Traditional or Historical Value

Gold bullions have little to no traditional or historical value and are solely traded for precious metal content.

Gold coins have intrinsic value and historical appeal, making them highly sought by investors and collectors alike.

Investment Reliability

While all gold assets are deemed reliable investments, gold bullions are particularly dependable since their value is very close to the live gold spot price.

The value of gold coins is trickier to determine due to factors like rarity and historical significance. For instance, rare gold coins are highly desirable as collector’s items and can increase their value tenfold over time.

What Are Some Reasons for Opening a Gold IRA Account?

Whether it’s lurking recessions, high levels of debt, or rising inflation, there are many roadblocks on your journey to a happy retirement. Opening a gold IRA account is one way to secure your financial future. Is putting a gold IRA in your portfolio the right move? Here are some of the key reasons why you should open a gold IRA account.

Investment Diversity

One of the most touted benefits of owning precious metals in an IRA is the proper diversification of an individual’s retirement portfolio. You may have heard of the old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” You should also apply the same mindset to your retirement portfolio.

The main problem with long-term savings like simple IRAs and 401(k)s is that they’re prone to market volatility. Meanwhile, opening a gold IRA account helps you develop a well-balanced portfolio and protects your retirement savings from market decline and volatility.

Gold IRAs are most attractive to older adults because they’re excellent tools for diversifying one’s retirement portfolio. A gold IRA account enables you to spread out your retirement investments. Therefore, not all of your retirement savings will be negatively impacted if a market downturn occurs.

Tax Benefits

Similar to standard IRAs, a gold IRA provides the same built-in tax benefits. Gold IRAs are considered tax-deferred income investments. All gains and incomes of your gold IRA will flow back to your account tax-free, essentially giving you tax-free growth. Instead, you’ll only pay tax when you withdraw the money generated from selling your gold (i.e., after liquidating your asset into cash).

With these built-in tax benefits, gold is well-suited to IRA accounts which are generally long-term holds anyway. Similar to conventional IRA holdings, physical gold isn’t very liquid and benefits from a buy-and-hold sort approach. This is ideal for older adults and seniors who are more likely to sit on their assets for years until retirement.

Portfolio Protection

Nothing is more devastating than when you’re one year out from retirement, and you lose a good portion of your retirement savings to stock market dips and market fluctuations that may take years to recoup.

Physical gold has a proven track record of protecting savings from various economic turmoil, like the Great Recession and the recent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When most investment types like bonds may implode during financial hardships, precious metals retain their intrinsic value and have the potential to grow in value substantially.

A gold IRA account can help minimize the effects of inflation, financial crises, and other downturns in the stock market. For older adults, safer and more stable investments like gold IRAs are the best places to store their retirement money. Although your earnings are less with a gold IRA account, it also significantly lowers the risk of hurting your retirement savings.

Full Control and Flexibility

Gold IRAs are self-directed individual retirement accounts that put you in direct control when managing your holdings and making investment decisions. Although the IRS has rules on which types of precious metals you can purchase, a gold IRA account still provides more control and flexibility than a traditional individual retirement account.

Some of the gold coin products approved by the IRS for gold IRAs include:

  • American Eagle Gold Coin 1 oz
  • American Buffalo Gold Coin 1 oz
  • Canadian Maple Gold Coin 1 oz
  • Australian Kangaroo Gold Coin 1 oz
  • Austrian Philharmonic Gold Coin 1 oz
  • American Eagle Silver Coin 1 oz
  • Mexican Libertad Silver Coin 1 oz
  • Australian Koala Platinum Coin 1 oz
  • American Eagle Platinum Coin 1 oz

A gold IRA account enables you to leverage the market by buying low and selling high. On the other hand, when gold prices start to dip, you may opt to sell your coins and bullions to avoid or minimize losses on your investment.

Gold IRAs’ level of control and flexibility is ideal for older adults who prefer a more hands-on, rather than passive, approach to their retirement investments.

Buyer’s Guide to Investing in a Gold IRA

Buyer’s Guide to Investing in a Gold IRA

Step 1: Speak with a Financial Advisor or Lawyer

If gold IRAs are appealing to you, the first step is not to act and “buy now.” Instead, we suggest taking it slow and seeking reliable advice first. In addition to discussing your options with loved ones, you should seek professional financial advice that isn’t connected to a metal sales company or an IRA management company. If you don’t already have someone that you consult regarding your retirement plan, a lawyer or financial advisor is probably your best source for help on this topic. 

When you consult with a professional about adding a precious metals IRA to your retirement portfolio, make sure you bring up the following questions during your conversation:

  • Is this a good diversification option for me? 
  • Can you share how you’ve seen gold IRAs work out for other people over the years?
  • If I diversify with a precious metals IRA, what percentage of my retirement should I convert to this investment?
  • Are there specific types of deals and transactions that you consider investment red flags in gold IRAs?

Something your advisor may bring up is that a gold IRA won’t earn you dividends or interest. While it’s true that the gold may appreciate in value to the point that you make money when you eventually sell it, this is by no means certain. You could actually lose money if the market value for gold has deflated at the time that you are required to take distributions from your IRA (usually after age 70 ½) .

Step 2: Review Current News for Fraud Alerts

Unfortunately, scams in the gold investment market are quite common. If you’re going to invest in gold or another precious metal, you need to approach every company with healthy skepticism. It’s a good idea to check the Federal Trade Commission’s website since it posts articles about gold investment scams occasionally. For example, check out the CFTC’s blog post on precious metals scams

In addition to looking at what government agencies say about current gold investment scams, you should also search major news outlets to find out about companies or practices that are under suspicion but may not have been formally prosecuted or proven to be illegal. Search the words “gold IRA” or “gold investment” followed by the words “scam,” “scheme,” “fraud,” “lawsuit,” or any related word you can think of. Once you search this, make sure you click on the “news” tab of your search engine so that you can see recent articles. 

When searching for scams on the news, we recommend focusing primarily on red-flag sales tactics, rather than solely concentrating on the company names. Scammers often change company names frequently, hopping from location to location and targeting different groups of investors. The names and people involved may change, but you should train yourself to recognize scams no matter what they are called.

Common red flags include:

  • Promises of guaranteed profit
  • Scare-tactic statements about the state of the economy and world
  • Company history, location, and other key details that cannot be found
  • Pressure sales tactics: “act now,” “don’t wait,” “this deal won’t last,” “it’s never been better,” “you’ll regret it if you don’t…”
  • Someone urging you to convert your entire retirement to a gold IRA
  • Unsolicited sales offers over the phone or online
  • Unclear or contradictory fees
  • Companies that recommend investing using a personal loan
  • Companies that claim that they don’t have to report your transactions to the IRS

Step 3: Find a Custodial Company and Establish the IRA

Once you’ve received advice from a financial advisor and familiarized yourself with the pitfalls of scams, it’s time to decide on a reputable custodial company that you can trust to administer your IRA for you. Having a custodian is not optional; all gold investments must be held by a bank, trust company, or some other IRS-approved custodian. Some people claim that if they form an LLC they can hold their investments anywhere they please via the LLC, but the IRS is clear that this supposed loophole is invalid.

When you look for a trustworthy custodian, keep the following tips in mind:

Look into History and Associations

Always read up on the history of a company. Read the “about” or “our story” page of the company’s website to discover the number of years in business, any brands the company has acquired or been acquired by, the names of the company’s founders and investors, and professional associations or awards that the company has within the financial industry. Companies that are members of the Retirement Industry Trust Association (RITA) or that have high ratings from the BBB may be especially good choices. 

Consider the Scope of Service

As you compare companies, it’s important to decide exactly how much help you want from them. At a minimum, all companies must keep records for you, release IRA funds for investment purchases according to your instructions, report to the IRS as the law requires, and handle mandatory distributions (though you may need to calculate the amount yourself).

In addition to these services, some companies go the extra mile by recommending metals brokers and/or by arranging for the shipment and storage of precious metals on your behalf. For the metals to be part of your IRA, you cannot at any point take possession of them, as they must be handled by other qualified companies and placed in storage at an IRS-approved location. 

Explore Fees

If a company doesn’t list its fees online, you’ll need to either call and write down all fees or request that the full fee schedule be emailed to you. Don’t settle with just viewing one or two companies’ fee structures. Try to compare four or more companies so that you really get an idea of your options. 

Below, you’ll find explanations of the most common fee structures that custodians use:

  • Custodial fees: The custodian isn’t affiliated with the metal dealer and doesn’t directly profit off of the sale of metal to your IRA. Instead, the company makes all of its profit through a startup fee, flat annual or quarterly fees, and vrious transaction fees that occur when the company performs a variety of services on your behalf. In more rare cases, some of the fees may be charged as a percentage of the value of the IRA (for example: 0.1% or less). 
  • Commissions: The custodian makes a commission or charges a brokerage fee to you when you buy metals from a company that the custodian has a contract with. The custodian receives a percentage of the cost of the metals that you purchase. In these cases, the company may be able to offer you very low annual or transaction fees because the custodian has already turned a large profit off of the deal. 

Annual administration fees can vary dramatically, starting around $50 at some companies, to over $200 or $300 at other companies. Sometimes annual fees are high because they factor in the cost of storage, shipping, and security. It’s common for companies to have roughly ten separate “transaction” or “service” fees that occur when you make transfers, write checks, require a rush on a transaction, close the accounts, or take other specified actions. Generally, account closure fees will be as high as $100 or $200, and all other transaction fees will be significantly lower – even as low as $10-$30. 

Step 4: Establish and Fund the IRA  

Most applications to open an IRA can be done online and are fairly quick. To open an account, you will likely need the following:

  • Driver’s license 
  • Social Security number
  • Information about beneficiaries (you must list who will inherit the IRA if you pass away)

Once you open an IRA account with a company, you have to fund it before making precious metals purchases through it. There are several ways to fund an account, which we list below:

  • Bank transfer
  • Check
  • Cash
  • Rollover funds from another retirement account

If you want to use funds from another retirement account, you will need to indicate that at the start of the application process, as rollover accounts may be considered a separate IRA category by an institution.

When you set up your account, the custodian may let you know what your yearly contribution limit is, or you may have to calculate it for yourself using information on the IRS website. Your age will affect this limit, and the limit may change each year since it is routinely adjusted for inflation and other factors.  

Step 5: Invest in Precious Metals Via the IRA

Once you’ve set up your account and funded it, you need to direct your custodian to spend those funds on gold or other precious metals. To do this, you need to research precious metals dealers, get a price from them, and then fill out a form for the custodian with all relevant purchase details. The custodian can then release IRA funds to the dealer for you per legal requirements. Of course, if you selected a custodian that works with a designated dealer, then your purchase may be easier since the terms of the sale will likely be predetermined.

Buying gold is often where consumers run into scams. Here are a few examples of fraudulent practices:

  • Selling metals that aren’t as pure as they are labeled to be
  • Selling metals disqualified for use in an IRA due to their collectible status or purity
  • Surprise fees or huge markups over actual value
  • Nonexistent products

To avoid being defrauded in the metals purchasing process, it’s safest to select a dealer from the US Mint authorized dealers list. When you read the list, you can also explore the Bullion Coins section of the US mint website to learn all about coins available for investment. You can also view the IRS publication of IRA rules which includes a section on which coins are exempt from the designation of collectible.  

How to Protect Against Precious Metals Scams

Precious metal scams are successful because they manipulate the emotions of their victims. Fraudsters will claim the stock market will collapse or the economy will tank and the only option seniors have to protect their savings is by investing in gold or other precious metals. Alternatively, they will promise guaranteed profits at absolutely no risk as part of a limited-time offer that’s about to expire. Read on to discover the warning signs of precious metal fraud as well as what steps to take if you have become a victim. 

Common Precious Metals Scams

It is critical that seniors invest in gold and other precious metals through reputable companies with proven histories. This helps them avoid the following common precious metals scams and protects their savings.  

Inflated Pricing

Many fraudsters lure senior citizens into purchases of gold and silver by preying on their fears of economic instability. They then sell them coins and/or bullion (99.5% to 99.9% pure metal bars or oblong blocks) at grossly inflated prices several times higher than their prevailing market value. This results in a huge loss for these unsuspecting investors. 

Also be wary of advertising stating that coins are “plated in pure 0.999% gold,” as such advertisements can be misleading. While this may technically be true, the amount of precious metal is extremely small and fraudsters may then charge prices suggesting that the coins have much more value.

Fraudulent Fees and Theft

Scammers may take seniors’ money to make a precious metals purchase on their behalf and never follow-through with the promised transaction. They may offer loans to cover purchases, yet these loans don’t really exist and they will charge seniors fake interest. Fraudsters will even bill seniors ongoing fees for storage though they aren’t storing anything. Fraudsters will illegally take seniors’ money any way they can.

Dirt-Pile Scams

Salesmen will contact seniors offering them the option of investing in a mining operation for gold, silver, or platinum. Seniors will buy unprocessed dirt guaranteed to contain precious metal at profitable levels, only later to find out that the dirt has next to no precious metal content.  

Precious Metals Scam Warning Signs

Read the following warning signs so you can be aware of what to avoid when looking into a gold IRA company. 

  • You receive an unsolicited phone call with heavy pressure to act now or the ability to buy precious metals expires. 
  • Dealers ask about your retirement portfolio in the process of trying to get you to buy precious metals. 
  • Companies selling precious metals state that transactions are not regulated by the CFTC or National Futures Association.
  • Company licensing cannot be easily verified and representatives cannot help find proof of government agency licensing.
  • Where the physical metal is located is not specified or deliveries are made to an overseas storage facility.
  • The only company contact is a P.O. Box.
  • Critical documents that should reasonably be included are missing. 
  • Sellers are guaranteeing high-returns for no risk when investing.

Tips to Protect Against Precious Metals Scams

There are precautions seniors can take to help protect themselves against scams. These include seeking expert advice, thoroughly researching a business, and requesting clarification of business practices and products. 

Stay Calm and Become Informed

  • Fraudsters prey on seniors’ emotions and hope that you will act quickly and not think things through
  • Always take time to get a second opinion from a trusted expert
  • Contact your state securities regulator for informed answers to investment questions  

Research the Business

  • Call the Commodity Futures Trading Commision (CFTC) at 866-366-2382 or the National Futures Association (NFA) at 312-781-1410 to get details on a business before completing any transaction.
  • Both of these organizations can verify a company’s registration and provide background information as well as disciplinary history. 
  • The NFA has a free BASIC tool that allows you to perform a background search online. 

Ask the Right Questions

  • Ask for written materials that explain their business, services, and/or products.
  • Ask about policies for unsatisfied customers and make sure to get copies of warranty or refund policies in writing.
  • Ask the company representative you are in contact with about his or her qualifications.
  • Ask for clarification about how what is being sold helps you financially.

Steps to Take If You are a Victim of a Precious Metals Scam

Seniors who have become victims of precious metal scams should try to get their money back. Professionals can assist them with reporting the fraud as well as accessing additional resources that can help. 

Try to Recover Lost Funds

Depending on how you paid the scammer, it may be possible to get your money back. Contact the company that issued your credit or debit card if it was used for payment or contact the wire transfer company if you made a transfer.  

  • MoneyGram can be reached at 1-800-666-3947
  • West Union can be reached at 1-800-325-6000
  • For wire transfers made through your bank, contact your bank to report the fraud and request a reversal of the transfer. 

If you used a money transfer app, contact the underlying company.

  • If your credit or debit card was linked to the app, also report the fraud to the card company or bank. Request a reversal of the charge to get your money back. 

It is also possible to get payment sent by the U.S. mail intercepted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  

Call the National Elder Fraud Hotline

National Elder Fraud Hotline callers are assigned a case manager who will offer support and assist them with reporting scams at the federal, state, and local levels. Case managers also connect seniors to resources they may need based on their unique situation. Call 833-fraud-11 or 833-372-8311 to contact National Elder Fraud Hotline representatives.

Find Additional Resources 

The Office for Victims of Crime website allows seniors to search for services near them intended for victims of fraud or financial crimes. These include legal services, justice system support, victims support groups, and counseling.  

Resources to Report Precious Metals Scams and Assist Victims

Organization

Support

Contact

Commodity Futures Trading Commision (CFTC)

Provides information on a company’s registration, background, and history. Accepts complaints from scam victims. 

Call 866-366-2382 or submit a tip or complaint online

National Futures Association (NFA)

Provides company information and has an online background search option

Call 312-781-1410 or perform an online search

Office of Victims of Crime (OVC)

Helps victims 60 years old and older report fraud and connects them to available resources.

Call 833-fraud-11 or 833-372-8311


Find out more about services on the OVC website

Local criminal authorities such as the police, sheriff, or county attorney.


Federal organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Accepts and investigates reports of theft such as failure to provide precious metals a customer paid for 

Local numbers vary.


Report fraud to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or reach out to your local FBI office. 

State Attorney General or state Department of Banking and Finance

Receives complaints for dirt-pile scams, inflated pricing fraud, and more. 

Contact your state’s attorney general or your state bank agency

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a gold IRA the only way to invest in gold?

Purchasing physical gold through a gold IRA is only one of the ways that you can invest in gold. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), another common way to invest in gold is through gold mining stocks and mutual funds. Yet another way to invest is through gold exchange traded funds (EFTs). All of these methods of investment are generally seen as a method of balancing a diverse portfolio. None except gold IRAs are intended to give the investor ownership of actual gold. When you consider the variety of gold-based investment options on the market, it’s always best to consult with a knowledgeable financial advisor. 

Is gold guaranteed to increase in value?

No investment, including gold, is guaranteed to appreciate in value. Anyone who claims to be 100% sure that gold will appreciate is engaging in predatory sales tactics. However, one of the most commonly held beliefs about the value of investing in gold is that gold tends to gain value when the stock market loses value. Many people find the thought of “hedging their bets” with gold comforting, believing that having gold in their portfolio will provide them security. While this often seems to be the case, it could change in the future. No investment is certain.

When deciding whether gold’s value is likely to rise enough to be profitable, as opposed to merely a form of security, consider how much its value will need to rise to cover the cost of account setup and maintenance fees. Unlike stocks or even cash, you won’t earn interest or dividends on a physical asset like gold. The only possible way to profit is if you sell it at a higher cost than you bought it for.

What are prohibited transactions for a gold IRA?

An IRA is an account that’s intended to be a resource for you once you have retired. If you attempt to use the account to purchase something for your immediate personal use or for the use of certain close relatives called “prohibited parties,” you can compromise the status of your account as a legitimate tax-advantaged IRA. Such a compromise is called a “prohibited transaction,” and it can lead to large tax penalties. To learn more about exactly which actions are prohibited, you can read the IRS guide to prohibited transactions. The bank or trust company that acts as custodian for your account is obligated to report a prohibited transaction if they see one happen, but they will not necessarily stop you from making a prohibited transaction.

Can I add gold I already have to my gold IRA?

Many people want to add gold heirlooms like coins, jewelry, or other pieces to their gold IRA. This is not allowed for multiple reasons. First, no collectibles items are allowed in an IRA. Only certain “one, one-half, one-quarter, or one-tenth ounce U.S. gold coins, or one-ounce silver coins minted by the Treasury Department … [and] certain platinum coins and certain gold, silver, palladium, and platinum bullion” can be eligible for investment in an IRA. Most commonly owned precious metals simply don’t qualify according to these narrow guidelines.

The other reason that you cannot fund your IRA with gold or other precious metals you already own is that the IRS requires that the IRA remain very separated from the finances and life of its owner until the owner reaches retirement age. The owner is supposed to fund the IRA with a transfer and then direct the IRA custodians to make investments on his or her behalf. Directly funding the IRA with an item already owned is considered a prohibited transaction, no matter how logical it may seem to do so.

How do mandated distributions work with a physical asset like gold?

For all IRAs except Roth IRAs, you’re required to take a portion of the IRA out each year once you reach age 70 and ½. At that point, you’ll have to pay taxes on that amount. With a gold IRA, you can take these mandatory payments in the form of the gold itself or in the form of cash after the trustee sells a portion of the gold for you. Selling gold can result in a gain, loss, or breaking even depending on the current market. Rules regarding taxes and mandatory distributions can be quite complex, so it’s a good idea to review relevant publications from the IRS along with your CPA or another tax expert to make sure you’re working within the law. 

What is an IRA recharacterization fee?

Almost all trusts and other custodial institutions list a recharacterization fee in their fee schedule. If you make a contribution to your gold IRA account but later realize it’s better that you put that money in a different IRA account, you can approach the custodian (also called the trustee) of the account and ask them to transfer what you invested to another account. This is referred to as recharacterization. To learn more about recharacterizations, you can view what the IRS writes about recharacterization online. You can also discuss this topic further with the trust company.

Is my precious metals investment FDIC Insured?

When you have cash in an IRA account prior to purchasing precious metals with it, the funds might be Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured, depending on the custodian. However, as soon as your money is exchanged for precious metals, that investment is no longer FDIC insured. Stocks, real estate, and other physical assets are also not FDIC insured. The FDIC exists to protect consumers from bank failures, but it can only extend its protection to cash deposits, not investments.