Let's quickly review why an IRA makes sense, even though you may think it has some disadvantages:
SUGGESTION: Penalty-free (and tax-free from Roth IRAs) withdrawals are allowed from IRAs for qualified first-time homebuyers up to a $10,000 lifetime limit. In addition, penalty-free withdrawals are allowed for qualified education expenses.
SUGGESTION: Under the rollover rules, you may withdraw money from an IRA temporarily and redeposit the full amount within 60 days in the same or a different IRA, qualified employer plan, 403(b) plan, or 457 plan without tax consequences. This provision can be an alternative if you need a short-term loan. But use this strategy with extreme caution. Generally, if you don't repay the loan within 60 days, you'll pay income tax and a 10% penalty on the amount borrowed, and you can't put the amount back into the IRA. Also, such rollovers may not be made more than once per year from each IRA (but an individual is not limited to the number of IRAs he or she may have). If you just want to transfer your IRA, and do not need to take possession of the funds, use a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer, which is easier and not subject to any frequency or time limitations. Your new trustee will handle the details and paperwork for you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You cannot borrow against your IRA account as you can with a 401(k) plan. You also cannot use the account to secure a loan.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Unlike qualified retirement plans, the money you have in an IRA may not necessarily be protected from your creditors. Depending on state law, some courts have ruled that an IRA can be reached by creditors.