Can I Trade Options in My Roth IRA?

There are opportunities to trade options using Roth IRAs, but investors must follow many of the same rules that apply to traditional IRAs.

From the time they were introduced, Roth IRAs were quickly adopted by many Americans. The appealing features: you pay taxes on contributions, but generally not on withdrawals, and not on capital gains in the future. It’s a good option for those who expect taxes to be higher after retirement. However, there’s even more that you can do with a Roth IRA.

MP900422543In Investopedia’s article,“Trading Options in Roth IRAs,” the use of options in Roth IRAs and some important considerations for investors are examined. Unlike stocks themselves, options can lose their entire value if the underlying security price doesn’t reach the strike price. This makes them much more risky than the traditional stocks, bonds, or mutual funds that are typically in Roth IRA retirement accounts.

Although risky, there are situations when they might be good for a retirement account. Put options can be used to hedge a long stock position against short-term risks, by locking in the right to sell at a certain price. Covered call option strategies can be used to generate income, if an investor is okay selling her stock.

Many of the riskier strategies in options aren’t permitted in Roth IRAs, because retirement accounts are designed to help individuals save for retirement—not become a tax shelter for risky speculation. Investors should understand these restrictions to avoid issues that could have potentially costly consequences. IRS Publication 590 has several of these prohibited transactions for Roth IRAs. The most important is that funds or assets in a Roth IRA can’t be used as security for a loan. Since it uses account funds or assets as collateral by definition, margin trading usually isn’t allowed in Roth IRAs to comply with the IRS’ tax rules and avoid any penalties.

Roth IRAs also have contribution limits that may prevent the depositing of funds to make up for a margin call, placing more restrictions on the use of margin in these accounts. In addition, the IRS rules imply that many different strategies are off-limits, such as call front spreads, VIX calendar spreads and short combos. These all involve the use of margin.

It’s also important to note that different brokers have different regulations, when it comes to what options trades are permitted in a Roth IRA. The brokers permitting some of these strategies, have restricted margin accounts, where some trades that traditionally require margin are permitted on a limited basis.

A word of caution: these strategies depends on separate approvals for certain types of options trades, and some may not be permitted. Traders need to have substantial knowledge and experience to avoid taking on too much risk. Remember that Roth IRAs were not designed for active trading. An experienced investor may be able to use stock options to hedge their portfolios against losses, or generate income. However, if you are using your Roth IRA funds as a speculative tool, you may want professional input to ensure that you are not creating problems with the IRS, or putting your retirement at risk.

Reference: Investopedia “Trading Options in Roth IRAs”

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