There is no limit on how many places you can hold your assets in an individual retirement arrangement. You can spread your assets in an unlimited number of accounts, at an unlimited number of banks or other financial services companies, or you can hold all your IRAs together with one company. It is up to you. The restrictions apply to contributions, withdrawals and asset classes.
Banks offer up to $250,000 per account holder of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insurance. This can help protect your IRA if the bank holding the assets should collapse. Credit unions also offer similar protection via the National Credit Union Association. Some investors like this protection, but it is insufficient to cover IRAs greater than $250,000. If you want to protect your entire IRA under FDIC or NCUA depositor insurance, you will need to use more than one institution.
If you are concerned about risk, you can also use an insurance company to hold your IRA in the form of one or more annuities. You cannot hold life insurance in an IRA, but you can hold annuities, which are contracts with an insurance company to provide future income. Annuities come with contractual guarantees, although the specific guarantees vary with the kind of annuity. Of course, the guarantee is only as good as the financial strength of the annuity issuer. But each state maintains a guaranty fund to protect annuity holders against an insurance company becoming insolvent. The amount of protection varies by state. Fixed annuities help you avoid market risk, although at the cost of some potential growth, if markets do well.
Another possible haven for your retirement account assets is U.S. Treasury bonds. Bond prices fluctuate with interest rates, but the prompt payment of interest and repayment of principal is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government. Risk is considered minimal provided you hold the bond to maturity.
You can contribute up to $5,000 to any combination of IRA accounts in any calendar year, provided you otherwise qualify based on earned income requirements. If you are age 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000 in "catch-up" contributions. You can divide them among many different accounts at many different companies. But you may have to pay account fees on smaller accounts, which can drive up expenses if you have many different accounts.
Leslie McClintock has been writing professionally since 2001. She has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Senior Market Advisor," "The Annuity Selling Guide," and many other outlets. A licensed life and health insurance agent, McClintock holds a B.A. from the University of Southern California.