Actively trading in an IRA may be a way for some people to attempt to manage risk and potentially increase their income stream in retirement—while enjoying certain tax-deferred benefits.
When building a retirement portfolio that includes an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), some investors slide over to let the financial professionals take the wheel. They’re okay with letting the experts map the course, speed, and risk. Other investors, especially those who trade stocks (or even futures) in other types of brokerage accounts, may prefer to keep at least one hand on the controls.
The traditional model of asset management—the idea that investing for retirement is synonymous with long-term and slow growth—might not resonate with some investors. When markets are volatile, all it takes is a big down day to lose faith in a buy-and-hold approach. For many traders, options are now an integral part of their strategy to potentially generate income and manage risk. Taking advantage of the liberalization of retail trading, they believe they’ve found the sweet spot where flexibility and responsibility intersect—that is, where the select tax benefits of IRAs meet active asset management.
As a refresher, IRAs can be created from scratch or from a workplace 401(k) rollover. The main appeal of leveraging more sophisticated strategies in an IRA is the potential to let profitable trades rest in the account tax-deferred (usual IRA tax rules apply). That leads to the second draw: the realization that a shorter-term trading horizon can tuck into a longer-term plan for pursuing a secure financial future.
As with anything you trade, be aware of the potential benefits, risks, and limitations of trading options within an IRA before you get started. Although Uncle Sam is on the side of retirement savers, he’s not going to toss out the rule book altogether. Here are a few of the things you need to keep in mind:
Some brokerage firms offer IRAs that can be approved to implement certain stock options strategies. Options can be used in an attempt to set up strategies that can help you potentially profit from rising or falling markets. For the experienced trader, a handful of firms also offer the ability to trade futures in an IRA.
Qualifying to trade options and futures in an IRA requires pre-approval from your broker. Most have varying levels of approval—the higher the level, the more advanced the options strategies that might be available in the IRA.
A lot depends on your personal risk tolerance level. One starting point might include selling (writing) covered calls or cash-secured puts. From there, higher-level approval could bump you to buying call or put options. In some cases, highest-level authorization allows options spread strategies with defined risk profiles. You’ll need to check with your broker to see which strategies might be available for your account. You may have enough flexibility to come up with some pretty creative options strategies in your IRA where you can still aim to manage risk and potentially generate income.
As a potentially tax-advantaged way to invest, your IRA is meant to help you save for retirement. You may want to consider sticking with strategies generally viewed to be higher-probability options trades for funds earmarked “retirement” and leave the riskiest of risk-taking for other accounts. But always remember, options trading, even in an IRA, involves significant risk and is not suitable for everyone. When you’re the one in the driver’s seat, the decisions are yours.
A long call or put options position places the entire cost of the options position at risk. Should an individual long call or long put position expire worthless, the entire cost of the position would be lost.
Spreads and other multiple-leg options strategies can entail substantial transaction costs, including multiple commissions, which may impact any potential return.
A rollover is not your only alternative when dealing with old retirement plans. Please click here for more information on rollover alternatives.
Futures and futures options trading is speculative, and is not suitable for all investors. Please read the “Risk Disclosure for Futures and Options" prior to trading futures products.
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