In the 10 years following college, I had 9 different jobs. I was always trying to find the right fit for me, from teacher to game designer to instructional designer to creative director.
Many of those jobs offered a retirement plan as a benefit, so I ended up with a graveyard of 401(k) money – a little bit here, a little bit there. Because I was in my twenties at the time, I continued to kick the proverbial retirement can down the road, figuring that I’d get to it all “someday.”
Luckily, once I discovered that I could roll my retirement funds into a self-directed account and actually choose where and how I wanted to invest that money – that was my wake-up call.
I discovered that it was fairly easy to roll idle 401(k) money into a self-directed IRA account and to start investing into things like real estate syndications with it. The cash flow distributions would go right back into my self-directed account, and I could watch my retirement funds grow month by month.
Most people have no idea that you can use your retirement account to invest in anything other than the stock market. But with a little research (like reading this article) and ingenuity (taking action), you can use your 401(k) to invest in real estate and ensure you’re building a strong nest egg for your future.
And, if you invest strategically in growth markets, you also have the opportunity to grow your retirement savings at a rate much faster than through standard stock market investing. With careful planning, you could even achieve FIRE (financial independence retire early).
In this article, we’ll share what a 401(k) is, how and why you might want to invest your 401(k) in real estate investments like syndications, things to keep in mind before you do so, and more. So if you’re ready to take your retirement funds to the next level, read on!
What Is A 401(k)?
A 401(k) is a retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer. It lets you save and invest for your own retirement while taking advantage of unique tax benefits.
Most employers offer traditional 401(k) retirement plans with a limited array of investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and index funds. Very seldom do you find employers offering more self-directed retirement plans that allow for alternative investments like real estate.
Because of that, very few people know that there’s an option to roll your 401(k) funds into self-directed retirement accounts, which gives you much more freedom over the types of investments you want to make with your retirement funds.
If you have an old 401(k) from a previous employer, you can easily roll that into a self-directed account, which gives you much more control and flexibility into deciding how to invest those funds.
Income Tax Considerations
One of the biggest benefits that 401(k) plans offer is tax advantages, which can allow you to defer income tax until you reach retirement age.
Depending on how you structure your 401(k), you can either use 401(k) contributions to reduce your adjusted gross income and thus defer income tax, or you can pay income tax now, via a Roth 401(k).
While the latter option doesn’t provide an up front tax write-off, you can enjoy the growth without having to pay taxes down the road.
One thing to keep in mind is that the 401(k) does come with an annual contribution limit, which often changes from year to year. The limit depends on your age (the limit is higher if you’re over 50 years of age), as well as whether you’re a W-2 employee or business owner.
In addition, some employers offer matching contributions for 401(k)s, which can help juice up your retirement savings. For example, for every dollar you contribute up to a certain limit, your employer will match it. If this is something your employer offers, it’s definitely worth looking into.
One thing to note is that a 401(k) is a long-term retirement account and shouldn’t be used as a short-term savings account. When you retire, you can use the money in your 401(k) to help pay for living expenses, healthcare costs, or other expenses, but prior to retirement, you won’t be able to access the money in your 401(k) without penalty.
However, that doesn’t preclude you from choosing how to invest and grow the money in your 401(k), as long as you follow the guidelines and don’t use the funds for personal use before you reach retirement age.
While many people invest their 401(k) funds in the stock market, those investments may not always be the best fit for your investing goals, particularly when you factor in age.
Alternative Investments Via Self-Directed Retirement Accounts
With a self-directed 401(k) or IRA, you can invest your money into real estate, foreign currency, precious metals, crypto, promissory notes, and much more.
Essentially, a self-directed retirement account gives you access to invest and grow this pot of money that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to touch until retirement age.
Since these retirement funds are money that you aren’t able to use for years or sometimes decades, it can be a lower risk way to try some forms of investing, including real estate, to determine whether they’re the right fit for you.
For example, you might test out investing in a real estate syndication via your self-directed 401(k) or IRA, see how it works, then invest additional capital (either cash or retirement funds) once you’ve built out a “proof of concept” and see that it’s working.
This can be a great way to gain more control over your portfolio, hedge against inflation, and ensure your 401(k) funds are growing for you as efficiently and effectively as possible.
How To Invest Your 401(k) In Real Estate
If you’re looking for ways to maximize the growth of your 401(k) over time, real estate investments can be a great option. However, in order to invest in real estate, you’ll need to ensure that you have a self-directed retirement account (traditional 401(k) accounts are typically fairly limited on the types of investments you can make).
A self-directed 401(k) retirement account can be used to invest in a variety of different real estate investments, including rental properties and real estate syndications.
Investing In Real Estate Syndications
Passive investing through real estate syndications can be a particularly good fit for investing your 401(k) funds, as they require minimal active participation in the day-to-day management of the property and thus are very hands-off investments.
On top of that, real estate syndications often have a timeline of five years or more, which make them the ideal for retirement accounts, since those typically aren’t funds you need immediate access to.
Find A Self-Directed Custodian
To invest your 401(k) in real estate, you’ll want to first roll your funds into a self-directed IRA or 401(k). There are many self-directed custodians out there, so a quick Google search will point you in the right direction.
In particular, you’ll want to pay attention to fees (both upfront fees as well as ongoing annual fees), look into what types of investments you’ll be able to make, and learn what the process of investing will be with each custodian you’re considering.
For example, with property purchase documents, or a PPM (private placement memorandum) in the case of a real estate syndication, you’ll want to understand your custodian’s process for signing.
If you want our recommendations on self-directed retirement account custodians, you can reach out to us here.
Roll Your Existing 401(k) Into A Self-Directed Retirement Account
The rollover process usually takes some time (10 days to several weeks), so you’ll want to account for that. In other words, if you want to invest in an opportunity that’s closing tomorrow and haven’t yet started the rollover process, you may have to wait for a future opportunity.
Once you’ve completed your rollover, the world is your oyster! Your self-directed 401(k) will give you the opportunity you invest your retirement savings as you see fit, including into real estate investments.
Finding Investments For Your 401(k)
With a self-directed 401(k), you’re not stuck with traditional, pre-made mutual funds. You can mix and match stocks, bonds, and even assets like real estate investments to create a portfolio that suits your retirement goals.
A self-directed 401(k) really gives you the freedom and control to invest your retirement funds as you see fit, whether you want to try crypto or a real estate investment. This diversification and control can really help you maximize growth and ensure you reach your retirement goals.
For example, when you put your 401(k) funds into real estate investments like syndications, particularly those with a value-add component, you have the opportunity to grow your funds through an real estate investment that’s independent of the greater market and thus could provide downside protection.
Just keep in mind that you may need to be an accredited investor to qualify to invest in certain syndications, and any returns (cash flow or proceeds from a sale) from investments made with your 401(k) need to go straight back into the retirement account, not to you, your trust, or any other entities.
In fact, most custodians will have a very specific way for you to make your distribution checks out to, to ensure they go directly into your retirement account.
The Benefits Of Diversifying Your Retirement Funds Through Real Estate Investments
When it comes to investing for retirement, there are a lot of options to choose from. For many people, real estate investments are a great way to build long-term wealth. Here are some of the biggest benefits of investing your retirement funds in real estate:
1. Real estate investments are tangible assets that you can see and touch. This makes it a more concrete investment than stocks or mutual funds, which can be harder to understand and also give you less control.
2. Real estate investments tend to be much more stable than the stock market. Even during economic downturns, the real estate market often remains strong. The value of real estate generally remains steady or increases slightly, particularly areas with strong job growth and population growth. This can help you weather any market turbulence and still come out ahead in the long run.
3. When you purchase real estate with your 401(k), you have the potential to earn income from rental income. You can also increase your equity in the property through making improvements and renovations. This can provide a nice source of income that’s independent of broader economic shifts.
4. Real estate investments offer the opportunity for significant tax breaks. Depending on how your 401(k) is structured, you’ll want to check with your CPA on how to best leverage these tax advantages for your unique situation.
If you’re looking for a solid investment for your 401(k) funds that will help you achieve your retirement goals, real estate investments are definitely worth considering and could help you customize your retirement investing and potentially reach your retirement goals faster.
Things To Keep In Mind When Considering Real Estate Investments For Your 401(k)
Before you add a real estate investment to your self-directed IRA or 401(k), there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you maximize your growth and reach your overall investing goals.
First, consider your risk tolerance. Even though real estate investments tend to be less volatile than the stock market, they are still an investment, meaning there’s a chance you could lose money.
Keep in mind that, generally speaking, real estate investments that project higher returns (say, a development deal or a fix-and-flip) also tend to come with higher risks.
Second, think about your time horizon. If you’re still decades away from retirement age, you might have a greater appetite for risk when investing with your 401(k).
However, if you’re looking to start utilizing those funds within the next few years, you might look for more conservative real estate investments.
Third, be sure to do your homework. Research the market, talk to other investors, and reach out to our team to get a sense of whether investing in real estate, or specific types of real estate investments, are right for you.
With a little thought and planning, investing in real estate with your 401(k) can be a great way to reach your financial goals.
Tips For Success When Investing In Real Estate With Your 401(k)
Many people think that real estate investments are only for the wealthy, but that’s not true! With a little bit of research and planning, anyone can start investing in real estate. And there’s no better place to start than with your 401(k).
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Decide what type of real estate investments you’re looking for. Are you interested in single-family homes, multifamily homes, or commercial properties?
2. Decide how involved you want to be with your investments. Do you want to roll up your sleeves and do the work, for the chance of potentially higher returns, or would you rather sit back and have someone else do the work as with passive investing?
3. Evaluate your risk tolerance. Are you comfortable with a higher risk/higher reward investment, or do you prefer a more conservative approach?
4. Research the market. What are property values doing in the area where you’re considering investing? Are there any trends that you’re aware of?
5. Build your team. This is one of the most important steps in making sure that your real estate investments are successful. Ensure that you have a good CPA, as well as a network of peers, and perhaps a financial advisor or coach – all of whom understand your investing goals.
Following these tips will help you get started on the right foot when investing your self-directed 401(k) in real estate. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can be well on your way to achieving your financial goals!
FAQs About Investing Your Self-Directed 401(k) In Real Estate
You’ve been thinking about investing your self-directed 401(k) in real estate, but you’re not sure where to start. Here are a few frequently asked questions that may help you get started:
What are the benefits of investing in real estate with a 401(k)?
There are many potential benefits of real estate investments, including the potential for long-term capital growth, income from rental properties, and the opportunity to build equity.
When investing in real estate with a 401(k), you get to tap into both cash flow and appreciation while investing with funds that might otherwise be sitting idle for decades or earning a nominal return via the stock market.
By diversifying your retirement funds with real estate holdings, you gain more control over the investments in your 401(k) and can also learn about various types of real estate investments while using capital that you don’t need immediate access to.
What types of real estate can I invest in with my 401(k)?
Generally speaking, you can invest in any type of real estate property with your 401(k), including residential properties, commercial properties, and land.
However, there may be some restrictions depending on your particular 401(k) plan, and there may be different tax implications depending on whether the investment is leveraged (aka, whether there’s a loan on the property).
Be sure to check with your plan administrator to see what types of investments are allowed and with your CPA to understand your tax situation.
How do I know if investing in real estate is right for me?
As with any investment decision, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The best way to determine if real estate investing is right for you is to consult with a financial advisor and/or tax professional who can help you assess your individual situation and goals.
In addition, be sure to do your own research and due diligence before making any investment decision.
Investing your retirement funds in real estate is a great way to diversify your portfolio and build wealth for the future. Although there are some risks involved, the potential rewards far outweigh them.
Here at Goodegg Investments, we are all about helping you build sustainable and long-term wealth so you can build a stable nest egg while also making an impact in the world.
If you’re ready to invest right now, whether with your personal funds, through an entity, or through a self-directed 401(k) or IRA, we invite you to check out our open deals page to learn more about our current or upcoming opportunities.
If you’re not yet ready to invest but are curious about how all of this works, we invite you to dip your toe in the water with us through our free 7-day email course – Passive Real Estate Investing 101 – or to get a free hardcover copy of our book – Investing For Good.
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