Understanding Self-Directed IRAs

Understanding Self-Directed IRAs

Taking control of your finances by opening up the possibilities of investing retirement funds in things you know and understand is appealing on a lot of levels. Midland Trust makes those investment opportunities possible through self-directed IRAs.

What is an IRA?

An IRA is an individual retirement account set up to allow individuals to save for retirement with tax-free growth or on a tax-deferred basis.

The account types offered include Traditional, Roth, SEP, and SIMPLE IRAs and 401(k) plans.

What is a Self-Directed IRA?

A self-directed IRA is different than a traditional IRA by the nature of what you can invest in. These IRAs are still Traditional, Roth, SEP, and SIMPLE IRAs and 401(k) plans but they offer investors a broader choice of options for investing the money in those accounts.

In other words, self-directed IRAs put you, the investor, squarely in control. Regular IRAs handled at large financial institutions place limitations on what you can invest in; investment opportunity stops at the products they sell, typically leaving you with Wall Street stocks and bonds.

Here's a quick video that covers the basics.

HubSpot Video

Self-directed IRAs give you the power to choose your own investments with minimal restrictions and no strings attached. Self-directed IRAs investing is expanded to real estate, futures, forex, private equity, hard money lending, promissory notes, precious metals, hedge funds, and more. The few limitations of a self-directed retirement plan as defined by the IRS are collectibles and life insurance.

Like regular IRAs, all types of retirement accounts are offered: Traditional, Roth, SEP, and SIMPLE IRAs and 401(k) plans. With a self-directed IRA, all income and gains are tax-deferred until you take a distribution, and in a Roth IRA, all income and gains to the account are tax-free.

At Midland, we pride ourselves on having no hidden fees. We also do not ever work on a percentage of your return.  We offer both an asset-based and value-based fee schedule for plans that hold multiple assets or high-value assets, and we guide you to the most advantageous schedule along the way.

With control comes responsibility. You are making your own investment decisions; Midland does not provide you with investment options or advice. You as the investor bring your investment choice to us, and our role is administrative. We ensure your retirement money is kept in a separate account from your personal funds; we ensure compliance with IRS requirements; we provide tools to you so that income and expenses related to the IRA all flow through the IRA. Midland is not a fiduciary; we do not provide investment advice. 


Types of Self-Directed IRAs

Real Estate

  • Invest in single-family homes, multi-unit homes, apartment and condo buildings, commercial properties, improved or unimproved land, Trust Deeds, REITs and tenant in Common (TIC) Interests.
  • All rental income and expenses related to the property flow through the IRA, allowing the IRA to maintain its tax-advantaged status.
  • Real estate owned by a retirement account must be for investment purposes only, not for personal use.

Futures Contracts

  • Four Categories: Agricultural, livestock and meat, energy, and metal.
  • Invest in standardized contracts for the purchase and sale of financial instruments or physical commodities. A commodity is a good such as wheat, gold, beef, corn, or oil.


  • Best known as the foreign exchange market includes banks, investment management firms, and retail forex brokers and investors.

Precious Metals

  • Invest via a commodity exchange, providing liquidity for investors and through precious metal dealers. You can also directly hold physical gold in your retirement account, stored in a third-party depository.
  • Applicable metals include gold, platinum, and silver that meet specific fineness requirements.


Many other alternative investment options are available through a self-directed IRA including private equity, cryptocurrency, hedge funds, hard-money lending, and LLCs. And if you'd like to simplify your finances and invest in traditional investments like stocks and mutual funds, we can accommodate those as well. The list goes on and on, if you can dream it the odds are you can invest in it.

There are many things in our lives we have no control over. From weather to traffic to the constant way that life changes much is beyond our control. This is why having a say in how we invest our money is so attractive to many people.

Starting Your Self-Directed IRA Journey

Midland is the perfect place to begin your self-directed IRA journey. In business since 1994, we have been focused on investors and financial professionals achieving their financial goals through alternative investments.

Start today by filling out a Midland account application online at apply.midlandtrust.com.

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