08/18/2014 04:28 pm ET Updated Oct 18, 2014

Will My Social Security Be Garnished for My Student Loans?

Huffington Post Reader Question

Dear Steve,

After graduating from college with approximately $150,000 in student loan debt I worked in my field for 9 years all the while faithfully paying about 50% of my income to repay my student loan debt.

After 9 years I found myself unemployed and then underemployed. I am currently repaying on an income-based plan. This monthly payment does not even cover the interest much less any of the principal. I am currently 48 years old. I know this is a debt I have to repay but I just don't realistically see a way that I will ever be able to do that. I am not financially able to settle but I cringe at the thought of carrying this debt for the rest of my life.

My question is, will this debt follow me to my death whether it be 50 or 100 years old? Is there a set amount of time that this type of debt can be collected on? Can Social Security benefits and retirement income be garnished?


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Dear Ruth,

It is not clear from your question if these are federal or private student loan debt. Your statement about an income based plan not making a dent sounds suspiciously like a private loan interest only approach.

If these are private student loans then your Social Security can't be garnished. If they are federal student loans and you go into default then your Social Security can be garnished.

But if these are federal student loans you've got some good options for getting these loans under control and depending on your income in retirement your loan payment could be as little as $0 per month in the future. You should click here to learn about your federal student loan options.

As far as a set amount of time a private student loan would be subject to the statute of limitations in the state you live in. You would need to meet with an attorney who is licensed in your state to discuss specifics. There is no limitation with a federal student loan.


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