Is an IRA a Mutual Fund?

An Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, allows savers to contribute money at their own pace and amount, before investing it in stocks and bonds as desired.

ETFs and mutual funds both can make excellent additions to an IRA portfolio, but each has unique operational nuances that should be taken into consideration before making an informed decision about which option best meets your portfolio needs.


An Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, is an account used by investors to store assets including stocks and mutual funds that are subject to market risk; such investments may fluctuate in value from time to time; however, IRAs generally experience less dramatic movements than other accounts.

Investments made into an IRA grow tax-deferred until they’re withdrawn upon retirement, although traditional, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs require that investors begin taking required minimum distributions by age 70 1/2 to avoid incurring an expensive tax penalty.

Mutual fund companies generate income through dividends, interest income and capital gains when selling securities throughout the year. Mutual fund companies distribute this money back to shareholders either in cash form or reinvested into additional shares depending on how long a shareholder held their share in the fund; depending on this factor they could either have to report it as ordinary income or capital gains when filing their tax returns. By February 15 each year they must send them Form 1099-DIV reporting earnings they need to report.


Consider all costs related to opening an IRA, such as account setup fees and transaction charges from brokers and variable broker transactions fees. It could be more advantageous in certain circumstances to cover these expenses from outside your IRA to maximize tax-deferred growth potential.

Cost of Fund Asset Management Annual Expense Ratio The cost associated with managing a fund’s assets is typically expressed through its Annual Expense Ratio; the higher this figure is, the less money can be returned annually to shareholders by way of dividends or returns.

Investors should pay careful consideration to storage fees. Any precious metals held in an IRA must be stored with an approved depository that charges an annual storage fee, typically in the range of 0.5-1% based on its value; similarly, custodians also typically impose fees – clear information regarding this costs must be readily available in order for consumers to make informed decisions and avoid unnecessary expenditures.


Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) offer investors various investment options that may be held within them, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and individual stocks and bonds. Mutual funds are particularly appealing as they offer professional management and diversification while generally taking on more risk than other investments and aren’t covered by FDIC coverage.

Index funds tend to make an excellent choice for an IRA due to their lower expenses and long-term goals, though investing in funds that charge a 12b-1 fee (payable to financial professionals who assist you in making investment decisions) could raise your overall expense ratio.

Alternative assets available to be invested in an IRA include real estate, private equity and crowdfunding opportunities. While not as liquid as stocks, bonds and mutual funds, these types of investments may require stricter rules and regulations as they could potentially generate unrelated business taxable income (UBTI). Fortunately, more custodians now allow these unconventional investments into self-directed IRAs.


Once an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) is closed, investors must transfer its assets into an individual retirement account (IRA). Custodians provide different investments such as mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stocks and annuities for their customers to choose from when selecting an IRA custodian.

Investors with an IRA do not owe taxes on any earnings (dividends and capital gains distributions) earned by their fund, provided they don’t withdraw them from their accounts. When funds pay capital gains distributions or dividends, their net asset values decrease; which may impact your overall investment decision in that fund.

Investors with Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) may incur commission fees on buy and sell transactions as well as 12b-1 fees to cover financial professional assistance, which are added to the fund’s expense ratio and could help explain why some IRA investments tend to be more costly than retail shares available outside of an employer-sponsored plan. Over time, this difference in fees could amount to thousands of dollars more spent.

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