I'm single, no kids, in my 40s. I also invest in my company's 401k so I feel that my IRA can be exposed to a little bit more risk.
The answer is no, well maybe. Gold falls under the prohibited “collectibles” investment category within an IRA. The IRS defines collectibles as Artworks, Rugs, Antiques, Metals, Gems, Stamps, Coins, Alcoholic beverages, and certain other tangible personal property. However, per IRS Publication 590, “Your IRA can invest in one, one-half, one-quarter, or one-tenth ounce U.S. gold coins, or one-ounce silver coins minted by the Treasury Department”. You can also use exchange traded funds (ETFs) that track the price of gold or purchase stocks of companies in the gold industry.
There are a number of ways to gain exposure to gold in your IRA. The pros and cons of doing so were addressed in another thread recently. I recommend that you read through the advisor posts here: http://www.brightscope.com/financial-planning/advice/question/1147/should-i-invest-in-gold
If you want to hold physical gold in an IRA, there are additional complexities that you will need to deal with. You will need to find a suitable, cost-effective custodian with experience in this area. After evaluating all of the costs, risks, and potential benefits, you may conclude that your IRA is not the best account for an investment in gold. This is what we call an asset "location" decision. Feel free to post back with additional questions or comments.
Darren, the only thing I'd add to the other excellent posts is that you would be wise to limit your investment in this speculative asset, via a Gold ETF, to no more than 5-10% of your portfolio. Otherwise, you are speculating, not investing. Gold will probably continue to do well for another year or two, but if you look at its long term history, it has not kept up with stocks.
Of course you can Darren, but it would be very hard and expensive to do so with physical Gold. One of the better ways to get a gold bullion exposure is to invest in an Exchange Traded fund which directly invests in Gold. This may not be advisable in a non IRA type account because the profits could be taxed as a hobby rather than a capital gain.
Gold has done well recently but has not been a good long investment. So have gold as a small part of your portfolio