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I wanted to transfer a few stocks from a regular brokerage account into my self directed IRA. Both accounts are at Chase bank. They told me I can't do that, I'd have to liquidate first. Is this normal? Could I transfer these stocks to an IRA at another institution?

Your bank is giving you correct information. Assets may enter and leave IRAs as cash only. Once assets are inside an IRA, you may move them to another IRA as long as the new IRA custodian accepts that asset. For example, suppose you had a stock fund in an old IRA that the new IRA custodian never accepted, then they may refuse to accept it for the new IRA.

In the case you outlined, you have stocks in a non-retirement account. The custodian for your IRA told you assets must enter IRAs as cash. They're giving you a good story.

Internal Revenue Service, Pub 590, Individual Retirement Agreements (IRAs):

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