Here's a little secret that not many people seem to know: gold keeps its value. The reason the "cost" of gold tends to fluctuate is because it's always in keeping with the fluctuations in inflation. You can buy U.S. gold coins in 1-ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and 1/10-ounce varieties. The same principle is true of silver, which is available in 1-ounce coins. Gold and silver have been a measure of value for thousands of years; when stock markets crash, they rise in value. Same is true when inflation spikes and the value of the dollar is worth less. Coins may not have interest to offer, but when you go to cash them in - especially at the rate that inflation is going - they're going to be worth more than when you bought them.
Similar to coins, you can also buy precious metals by the bar. Your self-directed IRA custodian will arrange to have it stored for you for a small fee. You do have to consider how this will be affected by the fact that those who reach age 70 1/2 have to start taking required minimum distributions from their traditional IRAs.
You could choose to go through a private mortgage company, who will match you to a borrower and you will essentially be their banker. Your loan is secured by whatever property the borrower chooses to buy, and you get to collect the interest - it's a fairly simple investment. Some don't quite like the fact that you don't get to capitalize on any increases on the property's value, should they occur. At the same time, it's much more low-maintenance than owning the property yourself, and your investment is backed by a physical asset, which is attractive.
Discussing private mortgaging, leads us to the other side of the coin: buying property straight-out. Of course, this is more complex; you've got to make sure your IRA is worth enough to cover the expenses of taxes, property maintenance, and the like. Be aware that buying property for personal use with an IRA is not legal, save for stipulations for first-time home buyers. You also don't get to capitalize on a number of tax advantages when you buy a property with an IRA. However, being a landlord to renters or renting it out as a vacation property can be very lucrative.
Author Bio: Sean Carter is an experienced writer who has contributed to numerous blogs all across the internet. His main areas of interest are finance, business and traveling the globe.