Unique, self-directed IRA investments run the gamut — from goats and cows to tree farms

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Have you ever thought about investing in a rock-and-roll fantasy camp, dressage horses or an office building in Shanghai? Well, some investors are doing these things and saving on taxes at the same time.

These intrepid souls are venturing far off the trodden path through self-directed IRAs. Of the $7.6 trillion that Americans have invested in IRAs, $152 billion is in that segment, according to Pensco Trust Co. of San Francisco.

Self-directed IRAs give investors a chance to diversify their portfolios while pursuing a passion. “We tell our clients to ‘invest in what you know and love,'” says Christopher Orr, institutional manager at Pensco.

But unique self-directed IRA investments generally aren’t appropriate for investors with a net worth under $1 million, and beware that you can easily lose much or all of your money.

The trustees who handle these accounts won’t give you advice about the quality of your investment. You have to do your own due diligence or pay someone else for counsel.

There are also fees. For example, Millennium Trust Co. of Oak Brook, Illinois, levies $50 to open an account, a $350 annual account fee and a $125 annual holding fee per asset for accounts under $2 million, along with an assortment of other charges.

Here are some of the most unique self-directed IRA investments people have pursued.

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