Three Main IRA Providers
The purpose of a traditional individual retirement account (Traditional IRA) and many of its variations (ROTH IRA, 401K, SEP IRA,
SIMPLE IRA, etc) has always been to have a safe place for people to save and grow their nest egg, which they will use during their retirement years.
There are three main, popular sources for a retirement account in the United States today: employers, banks, and brokerage companies. Let's consider
all thee options.
Most people get their first individual retirement account (usually it's Traditional IRA, ROTH IRA or 401(k)) with their employer. We believe that employers, when
they offer some kind of matching contribution, are the best place to keep an IRA for the majority of people.
Retirement accounts at the banks are the safest places for IRAs. This is the case not because something could happen to your retirement account at your employer or at the
brokerage firm - they both have an equivalent of the bank's FDIC insurance. Rather, it's because banks usually don't provide customers with easy ways to invest in
risky assets, like stocks. This also saves investors from another danger - overtrading. These are two main ways bank IRAs save a lot of people from wild stock market
crushes, company bankruptcies, and, most importantly, from themselves - the powerful human emotions of fear and greed that often lead investors to financial ruin.
Advantages of the Brokerage IRA
The world we live in now is changing faster than ever. New challenges arise all the time. For example, we now have to be concerned with what would happen if the dollar
were to devalue due to unsustainable debt in the U.S. economy, or what would happen if the Eurozone were to collapse. The old prudent way of keeping
cash in a safe place might turn out to be disastrous in that case - it offers no protection for your money in an inflationary environment.
For this reason, we believe that the best, safest place for IRA today and in the future could be a brokerage account. It provides the flexibility to quickly move between
various investments and cash. If some sort of inflationary news were to suddenly come out, cash could quickly be moved into precious metals ETFs,
inflation-protected bonds, or other inflation-protected assets. This is usually not possible with a bank- or employer-maintained IRA.
Danger of the Brokerage IRA
Of course, the downside of a brokerage IRA is that account holders could be tempted to invest or even trade stocks or other assets they don't know much about.
This is probably the most common way with which otherwise prudent and financially savvy people lose their hard-earned money.
Being very disciplined, careful, educated, and maybe even hedged with your investments is paramount. We can't stress enough how important it is to know
exactly what you are doing in this area. The price of making uneducated, rushed, emotional decisions could be your life savings. Remember - never gamble
with your retirement money, protect yourself by always having a clear exit strategy out of any investment, and stick to that strategy.
Safest Companies for IRA
The safest places to open IRA account in 2014 are the biggest brokerage houses in the country:
TD Ameritrade (review), and
Etrade (review). Make sure to read their reviews before opening an account.
Related article: Best brokerage firms for IRA
This article was updated on 3/24/2014.