In a divorce, one spouse may receive retirement assets from the other via a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). The advisor and the client need to think carefully about where to place those funds.
Obviously, the easiest thing would be to roll them straight into a mutual fund or similar vehicle. The procedure is simple, reliable and not paperwork intensive. However, not all clients prefer the “easy” route, and that’s especially true when it comes to retirement investing.
Popular in some areas is the move to self-direction. A self-directed IRA or 401(k) allows the investor to place retirement funds in assets other than market products. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know when a client decides to go self-directed and how you can keep a hand in managing those assets.
What drives a client to a self-directed IRA?
The answer to this question can be found in the most popular non-market asset: real estate. Usually, the average self-directed investor purchases a small property (think vacation home or multi-family) and then rents it out. The equity in the property plus the monthly rental income provides the return on the investment. From this perspective, a conservative rental provides a steadier and often more profitable income than a mutual fund. That can sound especially appealing after coming out of a divorce.
How does a self-directed retirement account work?
Currently, there are three popular options for self-direction. The first is the custodian model. In this model, the custodian acts as the middleman for the IRA and handles all investments and transactions. Whenever the account holder wants to purchase, manage, renovate or sell the property, she fills out paperwork and the custodian executes the transaction. This model is ideal for third-party placements, i.e., when the investor just provides the funds and somebody else takes care of the work.
In more typical situations, where the investor will be managing the property personally, custodian is not the way to go. The constant transactions, payments and management of a property can lead to a ton of custodial paperwork, which is expensive and frustrating. In those cases, the checkbook model is preferable.