What is a Self Directed IRA? Start Here

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The Self Directing Philosophy

You are about to discover the secrets used by only 3% of investors.

Are you thinking about self directing your retirement account and joining an exclusive group of investors that are taking control of their financial future?

Self directed IRA’s are a strategy utilized by an exclusive, in-the-know, group of investors. 97% of all IRA’s are invested in stocks and bonds through traditional outlets who rely on commissions for their survival. This is true even though self directedIRA’s have been around since 1974. Although this group is exclusive and on the cutting edge, the secret is slowly being let out of the bag.


  • Self Directing is a decision, a realization that you are the best person to take care of yourself, your family and your business.
  • Self Directing is a journey, one filled with new places, people and experiences.
  • Self Directing is a philosophy, one which you can teach your children and grandchildren so they can live a happy, healthy, confident life, and become financially independent and free.
  • Self Directing is a process when practiced with purpose allows you to achieve real, quantifiable results in your life, your family and your business.
  • Self Directing allows to get control of your retirement, education and health savings accounts and invest in what you want to invest in.


  1. Get Control. When you use a self directed IRA you are in control and you get to make the decisions.
  2. Diversification. You can truly diversify your portfolio by investing in things that are truly “stock market neutral.” That means your investments don’t go up and down everyday when the stock market does.
  3. Tax Benefits. Retirement and other tax advantaged accounts offer the easiest way to score huge tax benefits. The tax benefits range from tax deductions today to tax protection on income and profits to tax free incomein the future. Best of all, by having the opportunity to choose from a variety of accounts you can select the tax benefits you want the most.
  4. Increased Savings. Retirement accounts were created by the federal government and afford an easy way to save, invest and grow your wealth to achieve specific goals.
  5. Cash flow. Many non-traditional alternative asset strategies generate cash flow for income.
  6. Fund your business or investment. One way many investors are funding investments are by allowing private investors to participate in their projects. For many folks, a majority of their investable assets are in their retirement account and this affords them a way to participate in self directing their retirement account while diversifying their investments.


When most people hear about self directing their retirement accounts they quickly understand the amazing returns, security, and protection of doing so and immediately want to open a self directed IRA, Establishing your IRA with a Self Directed Custodian like USelfDirect is the first step.

Once your Self Directed IRA is set up and funded, the next question is, “Now what do I do?” Most custodians answer that question by saying, “Well that’s the self directed part, you need to figure it out.”

For the first time, there is a good answer to that question. USelfDirect is simply the community, the place that makes your Self Directed IRA work. Everything you need you can find here from education to professional resources to networking to find opportunities.

It’s convenient, easy and at your finger tips. Best of all, its absolutely free.

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Understanding Your Goals when Saving for Your Retirement

The first step toward any type of retirement plan is to have a grasp on what your goals are. When would you like to retire and how much will it take for you to have in your portfolio to live the type of lifestyle you imagine? Each person is different and it is important to differentiate plans and strategies depending on the individual.

So to help you understand where you are now and what goals you should set, we have put together some easy-to-use calculators for you. These tools will show you how much money you need to set aside in order to retire the way YOU want to.

The USelfEvaluator – Portfolio Analysis Tool

This tool will help illustrate the difference between traditional portfolios and a self-directed portfolio.

Compound Interest Calculator

One of the most powerful investment forces is the power of compounding interest. Learn about how using it could transform your retirement.

IRA Account Type Analyzer

Traditional? Roth? Learn which type of account will earn you the most money and cost you the least in taxes.

Ok your goals are set, now what?

Once you have an idea of what you want to achieve, it is time to start thinking about what type of investment strategy is going to help you actually accomplish your goals. Many “Investment Firms” claim to cater plans to your every need, but at the root of their service they are offering everyone the same generic product. At the end of the day, you end up investing in the same things that everyone else is investing in… Now how is that designed to fit your specific needs?

A self-directed IRA puts YOU in the driver seat. YOU determine which investments are right for you, and YOU decide how you want to invest in them. Not only can you invest in stocks and mutual funds; you can invest in real estate, gold, raw land, corporations, and much more. Have you ever heard the saying “Invest in what you know?” well a Self-Directed IRA allows you to do just that.

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A Self Directed IRA Offers More Investment Options

One of the biggest reasons why people choose to invest with a self directed IRA is because it is not limited to only stocks and mutual funds. Unlike a traditional IRA or 401(k), a SD-IRA allows you to invest in things that you choose. Here is a list of some of the many different investment types

You can invest in:

  • Real Estate
  • Trust Deeds
  • Corporations
  • Crowd funding
  • Gold
  • Farms
  • Raw Land
  • Stocks
  • Mutual Funds

There are more specific niches of allowable investment types, but as you can see this list already includes much more than other traditional IRA types.

Self Directed IRA types

Not only do you have many more investment types to choose from, you can also select different types of Self Directed IRAs. Choosing the right IRA type can help you save tens of thousands of dollars in taxes, which of course means more money in your pocket when it comes time to retire.

Some of these SD-IRA types are:

  • Self Directed Traditional IRA
  • Self Directed ROTH IRA
  • Self Directed SEP IRA
  • Self Directed Individual 401(k)

Which account is right for you? Don’t worry, we have an IRA Type calculator that will help you find the right fit for you.

Which IRA Account is right for me?

To learn more about Self Directed IRAs, including which transactions are not allowed, head over to our SD-IRA Basics Page.

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Transferring or “Rolling over” an existing account into a Self Directed IRA in 4 easy steps!

Step 1: Select a Self Directed IRA custodian

In most cases, your current IRA or 401K provider does not allow for a self directed IRA option. That means that in order to have a self directed IRA, you will need to select a new IRA provider that does, in fact, offer the self directed IRA. There are many of these providers, or “Custodians,” out there too. USelfDirect is not a custodian, but we do recommend using Horizon Trust Company. Ultimately you will need to choose a company that is right for you, however, Horizon Trust offers competitive fees and top-of-the line customer service. They even have customer service staff that will help you with every step of the transfer process. More info about Horizon Trust Company can be found HERE.

Step 2: Liquidate your current account

Once you have a custodian picked out, the next step will be to liquidate your current IRA or 401k. This generally means to remove the money in the account from being invested in any active investments like a mutual fund or any stocks. This usually requires some paperwork to be filled out and a phone call to be made to your current custodian. This is one of the benefits of working with a custodian like Horizon Trust. Not only do they help you fill out the paperwork correctly (which saves you a ton of time and headache) they will also make the phone call to the current custodian with you to ensure all questions are answered and that the liquidation takes place correctly. The liquidation process can take about an hour or a couple days depending on what paperwork has to be returned and what calls need to be made.

Step 3: Open your Self Directed IRA

Well, step 2 and 3 actually happen at about the same time. Once you have initiated contact with a self directed IRA custodian and begin the liquidation process you will then start setting up your new Self Directed IRA. Generally there is a account set up fee and an annual maintenance fee charged when you open the account. Most custodians allow you to pay that fee with the money from the IRA that you are transferring over or from a credit card. The advantage to putting the fee on the card is that you keep more money in your Self Directed IRA and that fee is tax deductible. Once your Self Directed IRA is open there is usually a waiting period for your funds to completely transfer over which depends on your current custodian. Every custodian is a little different and generally transfer periods could last 7 to 45 days.

Step 4: Invest

Once your account is set up and the funds have arrived then there is no time to waste, start earning interest! As we have talked about before in the “Investment Options” section, there are TONS of different strategies you can now take part in with your Self Directed IRA. Understanding these different strategies can be a little daunting at first. If you would like to learn more about speaking with a licensed investment specialist that can help steer you in the right direction, follow this LINK.

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Opening a Self Directed IRA: What to know and what to expect.

Much like most major financial decisions, opening a self directed IRA will require thought and planning. Not only are you choosing a different kind vehicle for your retirement, you are choosing a different way to drive it. Having a self directed IRA means that you have made the choice to have a self directed retirement and as the famous saying goes “With great power, comes great responsibility.” But don’t worry, with great power comes great results too. We have put together some of the main topics you should know about and consider when opening a new Self Directed IRA.

Not all self directed IRA custodians are created equal

Opening a self directed IRA means that you will have to use a special type of IRA custodian. Each of these custodians has a different amount of experience, services, and fee schedules. Ultimately, you should choose a custodian that you feel comfortable with and have done research on. We encourage you to do your own research as well, but we also recommend that you take a look at Horizon Trust Company. Their customer service is unmatched and their fee schedule is very competitive. Plus, the CEO, Edwin Kelly, is one of the nation’s leading experts on all types of IRAs. More information on Horizon Trust can be found HERE.

Choose an investment strategy that makes sense to YOU.

A self directed IRA offers many more investment options than a traditional IRA. You can invest in real estate, gold, corporations, raw land, and/or stocks. You have probably heard famous investment gurus say “Invest in what you know” right? Well we agree, and that is why the self directed IRA is a better investment vehicle option for people. Using it can allow you to invest in the things you know and understand.

Expect to pay fewer fees when getting started.

When opening an account for the first time there will most likely be some start-up fees. This is typical with any type of IRA or 401K, self directed or not. One important thing to consider is that with a self-directed IRA you are the one calling the shots; that means that you won’t be paying a commission to a financial advisor. Typically, self directed IRAs have lower fees for that very reason.

Learn as much as you can before getting started.

To help you do this, USelfDirect has a FREE downloadable e-book that is dedicated to self-directed IRAs. Titled “Self Directed, Self Made Success,” the digital book covers many areas that include: what a self directed IRA is, how it works, what tax benefits can be had, personal success stories, and more. Download your copy and start your self-directed success story today.

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