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Learning Center


Access the largest knowledge base for Self-Directed IRAs. Expand your investor knowledge with articles, whitepapers, practical guides and tons of other educational resources.

About Entrust


For 40 years, The Entrust Group has provided account administration services for self-directed retirement and tax-advantaged plans. Entrust can assist you in purchasing alternative investments with your retirement funds, and administer the buying and selling of assets that are typically unavailable through banks and brokerage firms.


What is a Self-Directed IRA (SDIRA)?


An SDIRA is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that empowers you to diversify your portfolio with alternative investments.

With one, you can invest your retirement funds beyond the stock market. A few popular options include private equity, precious metals, real estate, cryptocurrency, and more.

Put simply, if you’re looking for a tax efficient way to build a portfolio that’s more tailored to your interests and expertise, an SDIRA could be the answer. 

Key Takeaways

  • With a self directed IRA (SDIRA), you can invest in an almost endless list of alternative assets, like real estate, private equity, precious metals, cryptocurrency and more. 
  • An SDIRA is different from an IRA from a bank or brokerage firm because you, the account holder, decide what investments you make. Nothing moves in or out of your account without your direction. 
  • By opening an SDIRA, you have the opportunity to create a more diverse and resilient portfolio by investing in assets that operate outside of traditional markets.
  • An SDIRA can be traditional or Roth, depending on your tax and investment strategy.
  • Because you are in total control of your retirement funds, it is crucial that you carry out your own due diligence and understand the IRS rules prior to making any investment. 

What is the Difference between a Self-Directed IRA and a Regular IRA?

IRAs held at banks and brokerage firms offer limited investment options to their clients because they do not have the expertise or infrastructure to administer alternative assets. As an investor, however, your options are not limited to stocks and bonds if you choose to self-direct your retirement accounts. That’s why an SDIRA can transform your portfolio.

An SDIRA custodian is different because they have the appropriate staff, expertise, and capacity to maintain custody of the alternative investments. The first step in opening a self-directed IRA is to find a provider that is specialized in administering accounts for alternative investments.

Who qualifies for an SDIRA?

SDIRAs are often utilized by hands-on investors who are willing to take on the risks and responsibilities of selecting and vetting their investments. Self directed IRA accounts can also be great for investors who have specialized knowledge in a niche market that they would like to invest in.

3D cover of the SDIRA Basics guide

Self-Directed IRAs: The Basics Guide

Learn about your investment options, Self-Directed IRA rules,
and much more!

How to Open an SDIRA

Opening an SDIRA can give you access to investments normally unavailable through a bank or brokerage firm. Here’s how to begin:

Find an SDIRA provider, like The
Entrust Group
Confirm they’re able to hold your
preferred investment 
Choose whether you’d prefer a
traditional or Roth SDIRA 
Set up the account and pay your
account establishment fee
Fund your account via a transfer,
rollover, or contribution

Then, you can begin investing in alternative assets.

Traditional vs Roth SDIRA

The tax advantages are what make SDIRAs attractive for many. An SDIRA can be both traditional or Roth - the account type you choose will depend largely on your investment and tax strategy. Check with your financial or tax advisor if you’re unsure which is best for you.

Self Directed Roth IRA

  • Funded with post-tax dollars
  • Investments grow tax-free*
  • May be withdrawn tax-free*
  • Taxes on earnings aren’t due until withdrawn from the IRA
*If certain requirements are met

Self Directed Traditional IRA

  • Funded with pre-tax dollars
  • Potentially lowers your taxable income
  • Funds withdrawn from the IRA are subject to taxes
  • No income limits; contributions may not be deductible at higher incomes 

The Advantages and Risks of a Self-Directed IRA

A self directed IRA is an incredibly powerful investment vehicle, but it’s not for everyone. As the saying goes: with great power comes great responsibility; and with an SDIRA, that couldn’t be more true. Keep reading to learn why an SDIRA might, or might not, be for you.

The Advantages of a Self-Directed IRA

Potential for Higher ROI

Potential for Higher ROI

Diversify Your Portfolio

Diversify Your Portfolio

Leverage Tax-Advantaged Retirement Accounts

Leverage Tax-Advantaged
Retirement Accounts

Take Control of Your Financial Future

Take Control of Your
Financial Future

The Risks of a Self-Directed IRA

Though there are many benefits associated with an SDIRA, it’s not without its own drawbacks. Some of the common reasons why investors don’t choose SDIRAs include:


Lack of liquidity


Increased responsibility


Greater potential for fraud



What Can I Invest in with an SDIRA?

Any investment legally allowed by the IRS can be held in a self directed IRA.

Real estate is one of the most popular options among SDIRA holders. That’s because you can invest in any type of real estate with a self-directed IRA. Some popular real estate investments include residential real estate, vacation rentals, commercial properties, farmland, and even mortgage notes. These are sometimes referred to as a “Real Estate IRA”.

Some other popular investment options include:

Getting Started with an SDIRA

Once you’ve found an SDIRA provider and opened your account, you may be wondering how to actually start investing. Understanding both the rules that govern SDIRAs, as well as how to fund your account, can help to lay the foundation for a future of successful investing.

IRS Rules Around Self-Directed IRAs

The main SDIRA rules from the IRS that investors need to understand are investment restrictions, disqualified persons, and prohibited transactions. Account holders must abide by SDIRA rules and regulations in order to preserve the tax-advantaged status of their account.

Increase the potential for growth

There are three types of investments that you are not allowed to invest in:

  • Life insurance
  • S Corporations
  • Collectibles

Disqualified Persons

These include yourself, your fiduciary and members of your family:

  • Spouse
  • Ancestor
  • Lineal descendant
  • Any spouse of a lineal descendant

Prohibited Transactions

Any transaction with a disqualified person constitutes a prohibited transaction.

See our Prohibited Transaction Flowchart for additional details.

Funding your Self-Directed IRA

There are three main methods to fund your account:

IRA Transfer


Moving funds or assets from a single type of retirement account to a new financial institution.
IRA Rollover


Moving funds from one type of account to another type of account, such as moving funds from a 401(k) to a traditional IRA.
IRA Contribution Limits


Adding cash directly to your account. Remember that contributions are subject to annual IRA contribution limits set by the IRS.

For additional details on each funding method, download our free funding guide.

Got questions about account types, specific investments, or anything in between?

Request a free consultation from one of our experienced SDIRA experts.

woman enjoys freedom of SDIRA

Frequently Asked Questions

I thought only stocks, bonds, or mutual funds were allowed in retirement accounts? Why haven’t I heard of this before?

Most investors are surprised to find out that investing in alternative investments with your retirement funds has actually been around since 1974. Most brokerage firms and banks offer investments, like stocks and bonds. For this reason, it’s not in their best interest to talk about self-directed retirement accounts, and they don’t have the infrastructure or expertise to handle them.

Can I move my 401(k) into a Self-Directed IRA?
Yes, you can move funds from an old employer’s 401(k) into a self-directed IRA via a rollover. Other methods to fund your account include transfers and cash contributions. Contributions are subject to IRA contribution limits that the IRS publishes each year.
Are there any disadvantages to a Self-Directed IRA?

Self-directed accounts require that the investor find investments and perform the due diligence. SDIRA holders must also be aware of the rules and regulations for their accounts in order to avoid prohibited transactions. Put simply, an SDIRA is not a ‘set it and forget it’ investment strategy, so it’s important to consider your own interest in managing your accounts.

Can you invest in real estate with a Self-Directed IRA?

Yes, real estate is one of our clients’ most popular investments, sometimes called a Real Estate IRA. Clients have the option to invest in everything from rental properties, commercial real estate, undeveloped land, mortgage notes and much more.

What should I look for in a self-directed IRA provider?

A few key things you want to look for in a potential provider include the ability to support your preferred investment type, expertise, fees, data protection, and servicing times.

Can I invest in my own business with a self-directed IRA?

No, this is considered a prohibited transaction as it is a conflict of interest by involving a disqualified person (you).

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