Don't Fall For The Wrong Self-Directed IRA-Fees Will Break Your Heart!

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During the month of February, there’s a lot of focus on love, hearts, friendship, and— yes, self-directed IRAs. Besides googling what to buy your significant other, everyone’s researching how to open an account to get that tax break before April 15th rolls around or how to transfer their account to save on fees. As a marketer, I’m always curious what people are looking for during holidays and national events— they influence people in ways you wouldn’t expect. It’s interesting to see what influences search trends, but what does this have to do with self-directed IRAs and fees?

People start searching for “IRA Contributions” in December, (unsurprisingly) peaking in April, reaching its highest around the tax deadline. Searches for similar IRA establishment terms also follow the same trend, peaking at the tax deadline.


“IRA Contribution” Google Trends

This is also the time when financial institutions— banks, self-directed IRA custodians, administrators, and anyone providing retirement services focus on providing incentives for investors to open or transfer their IRAs. Some of these promotions include cash bonus, fee account establishment, no fees for the first year, etc. Wow! Sounds great, huh? 

The Honeymoon's Over—Overlooked Self-Directed IRA Costs & Fees

Great! You took advantage of a promotion and opened a self-directed IRA. But are there really any savings? If you are establishing an IRA for the first time, this may have been a good option. Personally, I would take advantage of the cash bonus offered by some custodians. However, don’t forget that there are ongoing fees to keep the account open and, usually, these are withdrawn from the account— so that cash bonus you just got might be a break even. Still, it’s not a bad option if the fees are lower than the bonus you receive, especially if you already were already considering a self-directed IRA for alternative investments.

If you already have an account and you’re moving your retirement savings to a new provider that allows more investment options, there may be fees associated with closing your current account. For example, some custodians charge termination and other fees to get your assets ready to leave their institution. This needs to be taken into account when considering bonuses— are you really saving any money?

Relevant: How to Avoid the Worst Kinds of Self-Directed IRAs


Before You Say “I Do”— Compare IRA Providers

Before settling with just any self-directed IRA custodian, explore your options. Conduct due diligence by asking as many questions as possible— ideally, you only do this once. Separating from your provider can be time-consuming and costly, with the account closing costs and other fees adding up. Don’t make the mistake of rushing to open an account— you might regret it later. Use this [template] to help you do the research, to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Here’s what really matters:

  • How long has the provider been in business?
  • How do employees rate them?
  • What are their BBB ratings?
  • Are there lawsuits pending?
  • Are they audited regularly? If so, by what entity?
  • When was their last audit completed?
  • What is the annual recordkeeping fee?
  • What is the team’s experience?
  • What is the cost to buy or sell your investment of choice?
  • Do you make all of the investment decisions?
  • Do they offer more than stocks, bonds, and mutual funds?
  • What is the cost to close or transfer your account?
  • Are they financially stable?

Just like any positive relationship, your trust should be earned. You’re putting your future in their hands, and you want to know your savings are well taken care of. When it comes to your retirement, it’s essential to do thorough research on any company and its fees.

Meet Your Match— Example of Potential Savings

At IRAR Trust Company, we aim to keep fees low no matter the season. It’s not a one-time, yearly promotion (though we do those too). We want our clients to be satisfied with their choice of provider, and to become long-term, happy IRAR clients for as long as it makes sense for your retirement strategy and types of investments. We aren’t just trying to get you in the door— we want you to make sure a self-directed IRA with IRAR is the right choice for you.


We keep our fees low and charge our clients on a per-asset basis, rather than based on account value. As your IRA grows, why should you be charged more? We get that, and we try to make it easy for all our clients to save for their financial future.

Save on SDIRA Fees Chart.jpg

Graphic based on an account with a value of $250K, including one real estate asset.  Additional fees may apply depending on the assets in your account.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when selecting an IRA custodian to invest in alternative assets. Do your homework. Some providers will offer you irresistible bonuses to open your account with them— but what lies beyond, once you’ve submitted your paperwork? It’s important to check the ongoing fees and costs for your account, to see if you’re actually saving with your new self-directed IRA custodian. What are their transaction fees? How is their service? With a little bit of searching, you can find the answers— and the true “Mr. or Mrs. Right IRA Custodian” you deserve.

Do you have any questions about opening an account, fees, or anything else self-directed IRA-related? Our experts would love to help! Please feel free to reach out to one of our self-directed IRA Specialists, we’d love to assist. And by the way… Happy Valentine’s Day!

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