I was checking out my various IRAs the other day and was struck by how much better I feel about my self-directed IRA than I do my traditional (stock-based) IRAs. Most people’s retirement savings are invested in the stock market (including the majority of mine). But when I compare that with my self-directed IRA which is investing in hard money lending, I can’t help but notice how differently I feel about them.
Yes, stocks historically have risen over the long term. I know this. But I also am acutely aware that I have no control over the prices of the stocks I hold. About the only control I have is which stocks to buy and whether or not to reinvest any dividends they might pay. So each month, I check the value of my stock portfolio and I’m fairly detached from the experience. Stocks went up in value? Yay. But I know they could drop again tomorrow. Gains are transitory, at least in my mind. As the adage says, you’ve never made (or lost) money until you sell.
But with my hard-money lending IRA, I get a check each month for a couple hundred dollars. That’s real money I see coming in each month. It can’t be taken away again by a news report of a product recall, class action lawsuit, or some other random event outside my control. It’s cash in hand. Now the possibility exists that my loan might be defaulted on, but with the loan-to-value limits I use for my lending criteria, I know even if that happens, I’m still pretty well protected.
I know there is no such thing in investing as a sure thing or a guaranteed return, but the returns my HML-based IRA are generating feel much more real to me than my stock-based returns.