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Can Your Social Security be Garnished?


Garnishment is an avenue of last resort for creditors. Most of us would be less than thrilled to take a person’s income against their will, much less have our own earnings taken away. Real people don’t take the income from of another person’s labors, unless necessary. I am not so naive as to believe that there has never been anyone who didn’t need to be treated harshly.

Knowing that garnishment is an option for people in financial trouble, it is also important for everyone to understand that the law is not so harsh as to take every penny of a person’s livelihood. This is more so for the nation’s senior citizens, and even more so for people in Florida.

Today’s subject, garnishment of Social Security, is a particularly touchy subject. Far too many American seniors are totally dependent on Social Security for their financial independence. For those people, taking all or part of their monthly benefit would assure that they became wards of the State. Fortunately, Federal and State laws have considered that very possibility.

I am just going to throw this into the mix, but in my opinion, Florida has done an excellent job over several decades to make the lives of older people more comfortable by protecting necessary assets and income. By doing so, more of Florida’s retirees are self-sufficient, and less of a societal burden because of these protections. Can you poke a hole in that system? I cannot.

Since we are writing to a mostly-Florida audience, I decided to concentrate on Florida’s laws. This topic came up recently because my Research Department found an article that indicated something I did not know or understand. The article said that only $750 of monthly Social Security is protected from garnishment. Could that be true?

Checking the articles’ veracity, here is what I found:

  • First, no creditor can simply garnish any of your income; they must first sue you, and they have to win
  • In all states, Social Security is at least partially exempt from garnishment
  • Usually, Social Security can only be garnished for child support, alimony, and (you probably guessed it) federal taxes.
  • Florida is more protective than most States, and protects all Social Security retirement benefits (as well as most Social Security Disability payments)

As if we needed another reason to live in Florida, this can be added to the list. Senior financial protection is a complex problem, and scammers are everywhere. We appreciate any and all help the State of Florida provides.

Van Wie Financial is fee-only.  For a reason.