Similar to that of a "payday loan," retirees are being offered pension advances with alarmingly high interest rates — rates often higher than those on credit cards.
While financial products like pension advances, which promise quick cash, may appear enticing, keep in mind that the long-term costs are largely hidden from the borrowers.
In an effort to protect your pensions and retirement security, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, sent a letter to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) requesting documentation and information that could help the Committee identify Americans who may have been targeted by lenders offering lump-sum payments, with potentially illegally high rates of interest repayment, in exchange for a stake in the borrower's pension benefits.
In the letter, Harkin wrote, "Pensions are the bedrock of economic security in retirement for millions and millions of middle-class families. But now, it appears that there are some financial operations trying to siphon a profit off of people's retirement benefits. These unscrupulous companies are offering to buy pensions for a lump-sum. That may sound like a good idea to someone who is facing financial challenges, but long term, it can actually leave them worse off down the road. I hope this bipartisan investigation will shed light on the scope of this issue and uncover the companies that are taking advantage of our nation's pensioners."
Read the full text of the letter.
Here's more useful information: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Investor Bulletin - Pension or Settlement Income Streams: What You Need to Know Before Buying or Selling Them
The Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts released a new report titled "Retirement Security Across Generations: Are Americans Prepared for Their Golden Years?," which provides a glimpse into the uncertain situation facing those who are approaching retirement age.
The report explores the retirement security for different age groups and examines how the Great Recession affected the wealth and retirement security of baby boomers as compared to younger and older age groups.
This research reveals that younger age groups face the greatest prospect of downward mobility in their golden years.
Among the many significant findings in the study is that Americans born after 1955 carry more debt than have previous generations, and that this age group faces a severe decline in living standards upon retirement.
Read the full report.
How PBGC is changing the narrative on Retirement Security
From J. Jioni Palmer, Director, Communications and Public Affairs:
J. Jioni Palmer
Director of Communications & Public Affairs
I've always been fascinated by storytelling: The Harry Potter series, This American Life, Grimm, The Twilight Zone, The New Yorker and just about anything by Walter Mosely. Books, movies, radio, print or online periodicals, fact or fiction, it doesn't matter. Interesting characters and a compelling narrative rivet me.
I also particularly like watching commercials and I'm constantly amazed by the brilliance of ad writers who can develop the scene, introduce relatable characters and tell a complete story in 30 or 60 seconds. Beyond hawking products or pushing ideas, I find commercials offer interesting insights on the zeitgeist of a particular demographic, culture or society.
Today, in almost any hour of evening television, sandwiched between myriad commercials for insurance companies and the latest solution to make housecleaning a breeze, you'll see spots about encouraging the viewer to plan for retirement.
One really resonates with me because it echoes a true story we at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation tell a lot lately: people are living longer but retirement security isn't keeping pace. In the commercial, the narrator asks people to place a blue sticker along a timeline next to the age of the oldest person they've ever known. Not surprisingly, there are many dots ranging between 80 and 110. The spot closes with, "How do you make sure you have enough money to enjoy all of these years?"
Disclaimer: Neither the author nor PBGC endorses the products or services of the sponsor.
Since its inception in 1974, PBGC has been at the forefront of protecting the retirement security of the American people in defined-benefit pension plans offered by private companies. Now, most people probably don't know the agency exists, let alone think about us until the business they work for goes belly-up and they hear talk that the pension they've been looking forward to is about to evaporate.
Fortunately, PBGC does exist, and the safety net it provides allows most workers and retirees to keep the full promised benefit they've earned over many years.
Many companies still offer pensions — and with them, retirement income that you can't outlive. Generation Xers and Millennials with in-demand skills can target jobs with pension plans — but what's the fallback?
Too many don't know. If we filled a room with all of Generation X and Y, and then separated the room in half, less than half of the people on one side of the room would have made saving for their retirement a top priority, according to research from LIMRA, a research, consulting and professional development organization for insurance and financial services companies.
PBGC protects pensions. So, what is a pension? To most people, a pension is a retirement arrangement in which your employer promises you a regular payment from the day you retire, for as long as you live. The amount of your pension usually depends on how long you worked for an employer and your salary with that employer. Ask a retiree, "What is a pension?" and they may say,
"A pension is the $400 per month I receive for my many years of service at Acme Widgets. My pension helps to supplement the $600 per month I receive from Social Security and my retirement savings."
Normally, employees must work for an employer for a certain time period before the benefits they have earned belong to them. After they have done so, they are considered "vested" in those benefits. Today, in some pension plans, you are fully vested after five years on the job. In others, it takes you seven years to become fully vested - but you become vested in increasing portions of your benefit starting at three years. If you've worked for more than one company long enough to become vested in multiple pension plans, you can receive more than one pension payment.
Renting a new apartment? Buying a house? Applying for benefits from a government agency? If so, someone may ask you to prove your income.
If you get a retirement benefit from PBGC, we'll be happy to verify the amount you receive. Mail us your request in writing, and we'll send income verification to you or a third party (like a landlord or mortgage company).
To protect your privacy, we have to be sure you authorize us to send out this information. So you or the third party will have to follow a few simple steps. You can find complete instructions on our Income Verification Procedures webpage.