A gold IRA or precious metals IRA is an Individual Retirement Account in which gold or other approved precious metals are stored, as opposed to paper currency or paper-based assets. It functions in the same way as a regular IRA, only instead of holding paper assets, it holds physical bullion coins or bars. Companies selling precious metals IRAs often work with a private IRA services entity to act as a custodian for their clients, which may have its own fees and account restrictions. Precious metals IRAs are usually self-directed IRAs, a type of IRA allowing more diverse investments to be held in the account and giving the holder more control over those investments. Although most gold IRAs are self-directed IRAs, many other types of retirement accounts are eligible to be converted into a gold IRA, including Roth IRAs, Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), and 401(k)s. The four precious metals allowed to be held in an individual retirement account are gold, silver, platinum and palladium, provided they are in the form of IRS-approved coin or bar products. Since gold is the most commonly purchased of the four, the overarching term “gold IRA” is used most often in the industry to mean a retirement account containing any combination of precious metals. Depending on the portfolio contents and which metal is being marketed, the terms “precious metals IRA”, “silver IRA”, “platinum IRA”, or “palladium IRA” may also be used. Investors often use precious metals as a long-term hedge against inflation, making them an attractive addition to a retirement portfolio. In order to create one, the former retirement plan must undergo either a transfer or “rollover” process, which is IRS-approved and tax-free if the individual qualifies and all rules and regulations are complied with. The tax free gold IRA may be stored in an IRS-approved depository, and investors may have their metals shipped directly to them or liquidated for cash, depending on the depository and the company that sold the plan.