Why Pension Advances Are a Really Bad Idea

Photo (cc) by ifindkarma

People do crazy things when they’re desperate. But here’s a move that takes even desperation too far: selling the rights to your pension.

Why not cash in your pension?

A pension advance, as salespeople call it, doesn’t sound too bad, sort of like borrowing on your 401(k), right?

Wrong.

And, just to be clear, it’s not a good idea to borrow from your 401(k) either. But at least 401(k) loans are subject to lending rules that protect borrowers.

Not so, apparently, with pension advances, in which a company offers you a lump sum of cash now in exchange for the right to your pension checks for a period of time. These deals are unusually expensive for people using them to get their hands on quick cash.

The rules aren’t clear

It’s not clear what authorities, if any, oversee companies that offer pension advances.

The Government Accountability Office, in reviewing the industry’s business practices, recently contacted eight federal agencies with possible authority over pension advances. Each had reasons why it wasn’t conducting oversight or educating consumers.

“Federal laws clearly prohibit military retirees from assigning their pensions and the Internal Revenue Service code that covers private pensions also prohibits the practice,” says a Forbes article. Nevertheless, pension advance companies continue marketing to pensioners.

Interest rate: 46 percent

The GAO found 38 pension advance companies nationally. All were Internet-based, and at least 21 were affiliated with each other.

Their pitches may appeal especially to people in financial distress or those who, because of poor credit, can’t get a bank loan. The Federal Trade Commission explains how the deals work:

Pension advances, also known as pension sales, loans, or buyouts, require you to sign over all or some of your monthly pension checks for a period of time — typically five to 10 years. In return, you get a lump sum payment, less than the pension payments you sign over. So, unlike other types of cash advances or loans, taking out a pension advance means signing over money you need to live on.

The GAO describes the costs for consumers:

For example, the effective interest rates on pension advances offered to the GAO during its undercover investigation typically ranged from approximately 27 percent to 46 percent, which were at times close to two to three times higher than the legal limits set by the related states on the interest rates assessed for various types of personal credit.

Ask these questions

The advances are funded by investors who are looking for profit and an income stream. They, too, stand to lose money, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority warns.

The FTC lists six questions to ask if you are considering selling your pension rights. Among them:

  • What are the tax consequences for taking an advance?
  • Will you be required to purchase life insurance naming the pension advance company as the beneficiary?
  • Has the company been the subject of complaints?

Consider these seven alternatives

If your back is against the wall, here are seven safer sources of emergency cash:

  • Try credit unions and banks. Don’t assume you can’t get a loan from a credit union or bank without first investigating. Lenders’ standards and policies have relaxed some since the post-recession credit crunch. “Some banks may offer short-term loans for small amounts at competitive rates,” the FTC says.
  • Tap your 401(k). If you’re like most Americans, you’re going to need all the money you can get in retirement. Borrowing against it could lose you valuable growth. It’s risky, too: If you lose your job, you’ll have to repay the whole thing within 60 days. Nevertheless, it’s safer and undoubtedly cheaper than selling the rights to your pension.
  • Talk with a finance company. Also called small loan companies, these typically charge higher rates, but they do make small, short-term loans, often serving borrowers with weaker credit.
  • Shop around. Beat the bushes for the lowest possible cost of borrowing. Compare the APR (annual percentage rate) of each loan you’re considering and choose the lowest rate.
  • Hit up family. It’s miserable to ask family members for a loan. But the embarrassment is better than an old age spent eating out of garbage cans.
  • Get inventive. There are many ways you may not have considered to scare up hundreds and possibly even thousands of dollars. These tactics probably won’t solve the immediate problem if you need money fast, but they’ll help you pay back a loan faster. You’ll find dozens of ideas by searching Money Talks News.
  • Tighten your belt. Even careful money managers can be hit by a true emergency for which they’re unprepared. But if your problem is more the result of careless spending, take heart: You probably can save quite a bit by trimming fat from your budget.

After you’re back on your feet, build an emergency fund to help keep the wolf from the door in case you’re in financial trouble again.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Common Expenses That Have Skyrocketed for Seniors
10 Common Expenses That Have Skyrocketed for Seniors

Retirees must stretch their dollars further and further these days — no thanks to these costs.

15 Things You Should Always Buy at Yard Sales
15 Things You Should Always Buy at Yard Sales

You can save a ton of money — especially if you spot any of these items.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

The Most Common Reason That Older Adults Fall Down
The Most Common Reason That Older Adults Fall Down

The good news: It’s possible to avoid potentially devastating falls.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

4 States Where Taxes on Social Security May Fall Soon
4 States Where Taxes on Social Security May Fall Soon

These states are considering reducing — or even eliminating — income taxes on Social Security benefits.

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.