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4 Places You Can Borrow From If You Need Money During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Maurie Backman – May 3, 2020 at 6:18AM

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Desperate for money? Here are your options right now.

Millions of Americans are struggling financially because of COVID-19. If your income has taken a hit and you're having a hard time paying your bills, you may have a number of sources to borrow from at your disposal. Here are a few to consider.

1. Your retirement plan

Though there's no such thing as an IRA loan, you can borrow money from your 401(k) if you're desperate for cash. Normally, 401(k) loan limits are capped at $50,000, but because of the COVID-19 crisis, that limit has been raised to $100,000, or 100% of your vested balance if you don't have $100,000 in your retirement plan.

Borrowing from your 401(k) has its drawbacks, though. If you're unable to pay that loan back on time and you're not yet 59 1/2, it will be treated as an early distribution. At that point, you'll be subject to a 10% penalty on the amount you've borrowed. But it's an option you can explore if you're truly in a dire situation.

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2. Your home

You don't need to own your home outright to borrow against it; you just need to have enough equity in it. If you do, you'll have the option of taking out a home equity loan or line of credit. With the former, you borrow a specific sum that you pay back over time. With the latter, you get access to a line of credit you can draw against as needed. Home equity loans and lines of credit are relatively easy to qualify for, but be careful -- if you don't repay what you borrow on time, you'll actually risk losing your home.

3. Your bank

If your credit score is in decent shape, you may qualify to take out a personal loan, which is a loan you can use for any purpose. Personal loans can be rather competitive from an interest rate standpoint, but that's not always the case, and the lower your credit score, the higher your interest rate is apt to be. Also, failing to keep up with that loan could damage your credit, making it harder to borrow money affordably when you need to.

4. Social Security

To be clear, there's no such thing as taking out a loan against your future Social Security benefits. But if you're at least 62, what you can do is file for benefits, collect them for a short while, and then undo your application and repay the amount you received in benefits once your financial circumstances improve. Claiming Social Security before full retirement age -- either 66, 67, or somewhere in between, depending on your year of birth -- normally results in a permanent reduction in your benefits. You can avoid that lifelong reduction, however, by withdrawing your application within a year and also paying back every dollar you collected.

Clearly, this strategy has its risks -- namely, that you don't have a lot of time to repay those benefits. But if you're older and struggling financially, it may be worth considering -- with the understanding that you may wind up with a lower monthly benefit for life.

A lot of people need money right now and don't necessarily have the cash reserves in a savings account to get by. If that's the situation you're in, weight the pros and cons of the various borrowing options you have available to see what makes the most sense.

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