With our nation at 17.5 Trillion dollars in debt (source: debtclock.org) and growing, is it any wonder where the Government will strike next to begin collecting more and more revenue. With tons of people behind on payments on their student loans, there is a new phenomenon that people collecting social security need to be on guard for . . . that your Social Security check can be garnished. Yes, that’s right; you can actually have some of your fixed income in retirement taken away from you.
With more people going back to get a mid life college degree and more parents and grandparents co-signing loans, once your name gets on the dotted line for a federal loan you will be responsible to pay it back one way or another. Back in 2000, only six people were being garnished for delinquent loans and now that number has risen to over 156,000 people. The total garnishments exceeded more than $150 million dollars last year. (source cnn.com)
What can you do if this happens to you?
- You’ll have a 180 day advance notice. It won’t happen overnight. Make sure you request a review within 20 days.
- You should contact the Department of Education and see if you can get your loan out of default. If you can, immediately apply for an income based repayment plan. Those living on a fixed income will get their payment down to virtually zero.
- Apply for a hardship exemption. There is a ton of paperwork, but you might be able to use this to stop the garnishment.
If you are wondering whether or not Social Security can be 100% garnished from you, rest assured that there is some silver lining around this topic. The Government has installed a floor of $750, which means they can take 15% of your Social Security (after Medicare deductions), but it cannot push through that $750 limit. However, that can mean a huge bite out of the wallet for someone living completely on a fixed income from Social Security.
Moral of the story? You may love your children and grandchildren, but be very cautious before you agree to sign on the dotted line. It just may cost you a piece of your Social Security.