Pensions are under attack for workers and now for retirees. Beware the companies who promise seniors "fast cash" for their pension payments.
August 14, 2013

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Aggressive marketers are targeting seniors' pensions for their next effort to strip away what little they might have in the way of assets. As if it weren't bad enough that conservatives have found ways to destroy pensions during the working years, now their Wall Street pals are working hard to steal your pension payments after they begin.

Pension advances work like payroll advances. In exchange for an immediate lump sum, the retiree signs over their pension payments until the "loan" is paid in full. Of course, the "loan" carries interest rates which are in the same range as payday loans - 27 to 106 percent. Prime targets are veterans and prior payday borrowers.

Some of the concern on abuse focuses on service members. Last year, more than 2.1 million military retirees received pensions, along with roughly 2.6 million federal employees, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Lawyers for service members argue that pension lending flouts federal laws that restrict how military pensions can be used.

Mr. Govan, the retired Marine, considered himself a credit “outcast” after his credit score was battered by a foreclosure in 2008 and a personal bankruptcy in 2010.

Unable to get a bank loan or credit card to supplement his pension income, Mr. Govan, now 59, applied for a payday loan online to pay for repairs to his truck.

Days later, he received a solicitation by e-mail from Pensions, Annuities & Settlements, based in Wilmington, Del.

Mr. Govan said the offer of quick, seemingly easy cash sounded too good to refuse. He said he agreed to sign over $353 a month of his $1,033 monthly disability pension for five years in exchange for $10,000 in cash up front. Those terms, including fees and finance charges, work out to an effective annual interest rate of more than 36 percent. After Mr. Govan belatedly did the math, he was shocked.

For slimy Wall Streeters, this is a match made in heaven. Strip them of their assets while they're working, then jump in on their retirement to grab that, too. Oh, and if you can sell those "advances" to wealthy investors as investments, even better. Guaranteed returns, no risk, because those pension payments are guaranteed for the lifetime of the borrower.

That's the selling point, by the way. That lifetime guarantee. Salesmen will tell borrowers the lender takes the risk out of their pension by giving an advance equal to a part of their guaranteed payments. To mitigate that risk, they often require the borrowers to take out a life insurance policy and name the advance company as the sole beneficiary. It should come as no surprise that the salesmen marketing these loans are also licensed to sell insurance which the borrower will pay for while giving up their pensions.

Pension advances have not escaped scrutiny by consumer watchdogs, thankfully. The CFPB has their eye on them and warns seniors to steer far away from them. In fact, they encourage seniors who have encountered sales pitches for them, or have actually gone ahead with them, to visit their site and share their story.

If you know seniors who have been approached, or if you have been approached by salesmen marketing these products, the CFPB has some advice:

These loans are nothing more than Wall Street's greed and hunger for more ways to relieve the middle class, veterans, and the elderly of their assets. Spread the word.

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