The quest for yield is sending investors into some unusual places, with some even turning to lending out their own funds to those who can't —or don't want to—borrow from traditional banks.
Private lending has become an increasingly popular tool that wealth managers are steering their clients toward.
Often referred to as peer-to-peer lending, investors can participate in several ways. They can use private equity firms, wealth management advisers or web sites, all of which can aide in screening prospective borrowers who take out loans for anywhere from a few days to years. And there's no limit to how little or how much you can lend.
The industry is regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission, which enhanced its oversight in 2008, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
With yields extremely low on all fixed-income instruments outside of junk bonds, peer-to-peer lending offers return that many bonds simply don't provide. (Read More: How the Fed Is Pushing Investors to Buy Junk Bonds
"For some investors this is a great alternative," said Kimberly Foss, founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif. "It's not something that's a money market alternative, but it's a great way to get a great yield without too much more additional risk."
Foss would know - in addition to directing her clients toward private lending she has committed her own money.
Since entering the space she said her annualized return has been 7.7 percent on loans made to a variety of borrowers with varying levels of credit quality.
Lenders can get 15 percent interest or more for lower-quality borrowers, an onerous rate to be sure but less than predatory fly-by-night payday lenders and many other nonbanking institutions, and even less than some credit cards.
Consumer credit has been on an upswing over the past three years and currently stands at $2.75 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. That's a gain of 13 percent since the 2009 bottom. Credit increased at an annualized pace of 6.2 percent in October, the most recent month for which data is available.