Is my social security and pension exempt from debt collectors garnishing?
I was forcibly retired last year and am paying 8 credit card bills -1 in collection - with an income of ss and pension only. I can't do it anymore. What do i do?
Is my ss and pension exempt?
It sounds like you are asking what will happen if you stopped paying on all, or maybe just the account you already have in collections. The quick answer is that your social security income cannot be garnished at the source, and most pensions are exempt from garnishment too. You would first have to be sued, and a judgment entered in court, before there is any risk to your money from a debt collector. And what risk there is, given the sources of the income, would be when that money is on deposit in your bank account, so in the form of a bank levy.
If your situation reaches a point where you have to be concerned about how a debt collector will go about trying to collect on a judgment, you would then look to how much of your stuff (money in bank account, wages, personal property, car) is protected by state law. The amount of protection you have from creditors in your state may surprise you.
What state do you live in?
Bank Account and Wages – Limiting Your Risk from Debt Collectors
Before you react to how much risk you have if a creditor sues you in order to get paid, consider whether that can be avoided. Your not able to pay all 8 credit card debts today, so something has to give.
What if your credit card payment could be lowered, and fixed at a more affordable monthly amount?
Add up all of your credit card bills and then calculate what 2% of that balance is. Is that amount much lower than what you are paying out to all 8 cards today? If it is, you are paying higher interest rates. If those rates are lowered (and fixed), would you be able to pay that amount consistently on your fixed income? If yes, read through the credit counseling section of my debt relief guide.
If roughly 2% of your consolidated credit card balances is out of the question, what about negotiating lower balance payoffs? Your credit card debts can be settle for less than what you owe once they reach a certain level of delinquency. If you are not making monthly payments to your credit cards, and saving up all the money you can instead, how long would it take you to pool together about half of your credit card totals?
If your answer is less than 24 months, settling these credit card bills may be the answer to avoid bankruptcy. Keep in mind that some creditors will accept settlement far lower than 50%. The review post about what major credit card lenders settle for is fairly accurate. Use that as a beginning guide to how much money you will need to settle with your banks.
You can post a list of your different creditors in the comment section below, with the balances as of today, and I can offer feedback about negotiation targets, timing, and prioritizing creditors who are the most likely to sue. Settling with the right creditors early can limit your risk of bank levy and property liens.
Put the Debt Behind You with Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
While bankruptcy is something most people want to avoid at all costs, I usually find they have not assessed the costs at all. While we talk about your credit card bills being affordable with credit counseling, or by settling for less above, chapter 7 bankruptcy is typically the ultimate in affordability.
Chapter 7 could cost you less than 2k from start to finish (I have seen costs less the 1300). You are able to discharge those credit card debts (and other bills), and once discharged, you remove any and all risk of being sued, or any type of bank levy, garnishment, and property liens.
You have to qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy using an income means test specific to your state. And just like there are state exemption laws that protect you from debt collectors, there are state exemptions for what you are allowed to keep in a chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your stuff is valued at more than the exemptions in your state, you may look to a chapter 13 bankruptcy where you repay some, or all of the debt, over probably 5 years. But when it comes to people having to consider chapter 13, I have often found those folks to be the best candidates for settling the debts for less instead.
What if you just didn’t pay, and did nothing?
Some folks with too many bills, and not enough income and assets (like limited to social security), will stop making payments all together, and wait for whatever comes. If sued, and a court judgment entered, they already know they are not at risk because; their car and other personal belongings are protected by state law; they are not working in order to be garnished; wages are low enough in their state to be protected; live in a state where wage garnishment is not allowed; and funds like social security that are exempt are the only moneys deposited into their bank account.
Some people may feel that doing nothing is better than filing for bankruptcy, and there are many times I will agree. Check out this interview I did with Eric Olsen, Executive director for HELPS. Eric and his team are available to help seniors, those receiving disability and VA benefits, in order to protect themselves from all manner of debt collection:
This was a pretty long winded answer to a short question. My goal with this page is to bring the state exemptions from extra ordinary debt collection into focus. Anyone with questions or concerns about this topic can post in the comment section below. Please include the state you live in.
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