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Can I Take a Loan From My Pension Plan?

Understanding Pension Loans

A pension loan refers to a loan taken against your pension fund, which generally implies receiving a lump-sum payment in exchange for assigning a portion or the entirety of your future pension payments to the lender. Although the idea might seem attractive, especially during financial hardship, it is essential to understand the complex nature and potential drawbacks of these loans.

Are Pension Loans Permissible?

Pension loans are not universally permissible. While IRS regulations do not explicitly prohibit them, such loans often hinge on your pension plan's specific stipulations and the financial health of the fund itself. Furthermore, due to the significant financial responsibility pensions carry — to provide retirement income for the lifetime of an employee and potentially their spouse — pensions are often inflexible regarding loans or early withdrawals. Small businesses and partnerships, however, might find it feasible and beneficial to include loan provisions in their plans.

Risks and Drawbacks of Pension Loans

Despite their potential to provide immediate financial relief, pension loans come with their share of risks and drawbacks. Firstly, the pension loan industry is unregulated in the United States, leading to a lack of standardization and potential for unfair practices. There are concerns that lump-sum advances on your pension can lead to disadvantageous repayment terms, significantly reducing your monthly income during retirement.

Moreover, personal finance experts and governmental agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) strongly advise against loans against pensions due to their potential long-term financial implications. It's also important to note that certain pensions, such as military pensions or veterans' benefits, are legally protected against being taken as collateral for a loan.

The Lure and Reality of Pension Loans

Imagine you're a 65-year-old retired government employee receiving a steady monthly pension. However, due to unexpected expenses, you need more money than your pension provides. An online advertisement offers a lump-sum advance on your pension payments — a tempting proposition. But it's crucial to remember that while such an arrangement can provide immediate liquidity, it can also lead to a significant decrease in your retirement income and potential financial stress in the future.

Alternatives to Pension Loans

Given the risks associated with pension loans, it is highly recommended to explore alternative financial solutions if you find yourself in need of funds. These could include personal loans, home equity loans, or a loan against your 401(k) plan, among others. Before deciding, it's essential to carefully consider each option's pros and cons and potentially seek advice from a financial advisor.

Although it may technically be possible to take a loan against your pension plan, the inherent risks, potential loss of retirement income, and the fact that pensions are designed to provide a steady income during retirement make it a risky proposition. It's recommended to consider other options and professional advice before resorting to a loan against your pension.


Generally this won’t be an option that your plan allows, but the IRS has approved it if the employer wants to. Generally speaking, you cannot.

Hypothetically, if allowed in the plan document, and if the pension fund had enough of a surplus to handle such withdrawals, the IRS might find it permissible. The laws concerning such loans are the same for all qualified accounts, such as 401(k)s.

An enrolled actuary would need to help you define when a loan might be allowable in particular deferred benefit plan. A Pension’s main goal is to pay out in retirement for the duration of the obligation, which may be your life and possibly the life of your spouse. Because of the massive liability they shoulder, pensions are inherently rigid and uncompromising when it comes to loans and withdrawals.

Very small employers, however, such as partnerships, may find that including loan or early withdrawal provisions in their plan is possible and advantageous to them. Some companies might allow a loan against your pension, but this is very rare, so don’t count on it.

What Happens if I Withdraw Money From My Pension Plan Before I Retire?
What are Required Minimum Distributions?

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