Is it Better to Have Stocks or Bonds in an IRA?

Is it better to have stocks or bonds in an IRA

An Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, offers many tax advantages for investors. Stocks and mutual funds held within an IRA do not incur immediate taxes; dividends and reinvested returns do not incur annual tax liabilities either.

Bonds can be an attractive investment option for conservative investors nearing retirement age, providing steady income and helping to protect portfolios against market fluctuations. But be wary: investments may lose value in an unpredictable market environment.


As well as stocks, bonds and mutual funds, IRA accounts can contain other investments like real estate or ownership in local businesses or partnerships. But such assets can be challenging to value accurately; to provide accurate valuation information each year to their IRA custodian is necessary.

Stock allocation is generally suitable for investors of any age provided that it meets with their risk tolerance and investment goal timelines. But as you approach retirement age, it may be wise to reduce exposure so as to provide for a healthy fixed-income allocation for income needs in later years.

NerdWallet can help you locate an online broker or robo-advisor with the features to manage your IRA account effectively. Their ratings consider fees and minimums, investment choices, customer support capabilities and mobile app capabilities; as well as whether trading options is possible within certain IRA plans – providing speculation or hedging strategies an edge.


Bond funds and individual bonds are an integral component of a well-rounded investment portfolio, providing steady streams of income while helping mitigate the risk associated with stocks.

However, certain bonds should not be held within an IRA. Municipal (or “muni”) bonds already enjoy significant tax-advantages without needing the extra protection provided by an IRA. Also excluded is Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities which automatically adjust their principal value based on inflation.

Investors can still diversify their IRA with low-risk, income-generating investments like certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by FDIC member institutions, although be mindful that CD yields are relatively lower compared to alternatives and require a one-year lockup period during which early withdrawal penalties apply. Many online banks offer higher than average 12-month CD rates that may make these assets worth considering for some investors; the main consideration when deciding whether CDs or fixed income assets belong in your IRA is suitability for your overall strategy.

Mutual Funds

IRA accounts can be an excellent way to save for retirement. By investing tax-deferred in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds through an IRA account, you can put away money tax-free for later. Not all IRAs offer equal choices though – some provide greater access than others (for instance a discount broker-run IRA may allow you to buy any kind of investment while bank-run IRAs might only permit investments such as CDs).

Relying on your IRA to purchase low-yield investments such as CDs could negate any long-term gains you might otherwise achieve with another investment strategy. It’s especially important to consider your time horizon before investing – if you need your money within several years, patience may not be in abundance and market fluctuations might become difficult enough for you to ride out successfully before finally arriving at profit.

Diversifying your IRA with mutual funds that automatically reallocate assets towards safer investments as your target retirement date approaches can help protect it, though such funds do carry their own set of risks such as slow trading and higher expense ratios.


Mutual funds remain the predominant choice when it comes to investing IRA assets, but ETFs are quickly expanding their market presence. ETFs typically offer lower fees than mutual funds and more flexibility in how they’re traded.

ETFs offer more flexibility when it comes to your investments than mutual funds, which only trade once each trading day at the close. You may want to purchase them throughout the day in order to dollar-cost average purchases or gain greater control over when and how you buy/sell.

ETFs offer an effective way of diversifying into specific asset classes, like commodities, gold or real estate. And with many online brokerages reducing commission costs for ETFs, buying and selling them has never been more affordable. While ETFs do provide many advantages over mutual funds in terms of tax efficiency, their lower costs often make them less tax efficient as capital gains taxes of ETF investors are typically much smaller compared to those incurred when investing in mutual funds.

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