Baby Boomers Increasingly Having Social Security Checks Garnished To Cover Student Loan Payments

Tyler Durden's picture

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the federal government is increasingly garnishing Social Security benefits to help cover student loans payments owed by baby boomers.  According the Wall Street Journal, a total of $1.1 billion has been garnished since 2001 with $171 million being collected in 2015 alone. 

The government has collected about $1.1 billion from Social Security recipients of all ages to go toward unpaid student loans since 2001, including $171 million last year, the Government Accountability Office said Tuesday. Most affected recipients in fiscal year 2015—114,000—were age 50 or older and receiving disability benefits, with the typical borrower losing about $140 a month. About 38,000 were above age 64.


The report highlights the sharp growth in baby boomers entering retirement with student debt, most of it borrowed years ago to cover their own educations but some used to pay for their children’s schooling. Overall, about seven million Americans age 50 and older owed about $205 billion in federal student debt last year. About 1 in 3 were in default, raising the likelihood that garnishments will increase as more boomers retire.


“I believe this is the tip of the iceberg of what may be to come if we don’t work harder on this problem,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the top Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Student Loans


Of course, the mere suggestion that people should be responsible for repaying debt they've incurred was enough to throw Elizabeth Warren into a tailspin as she described the idea of garnishing social security benefits as "predatory."

The report showed garnishments left thousands with Social Security checks below the poverty line, prompting Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) to call the practice “predatory.” Both lawmakers said they will push legislation to ban it.


But consumer advocates and some congressional Democrats say the government’s tactics have become too aggressive, targeting many borrowers who are destitute and have no hope of repaying. Most Social Security recipients rely on their checks as their primary source of income, other research shows.

Meanwhile, the WSJ points out that Obama's "income-driven repayment" (IDR) plans only serve to make the student loan problem worse.  Since the payment plans only cover a portion of monthly interest payments, debt balances continue to grow over time leaving borrowers with even larger debt balances as they reach retirement age. 

Daniel Pianko, a managing director of University Ventures, which invests in for-profit and nonprofit schools, says the government may be worsening the troubles of older borrowers by promoting programs that set monthly payments as a share of borrowers’ earnings. Payments under “income-driven repayment” programs frequently cover only part of the interest and not the principal, allowing balances to grow.


In that sense, the income-driven repayment programs have the same effect as payday lenders, trapping poor borrowers in a growing amount of debt.


“Every month and every year the loan balances go up, which means by definition this problem will only get worse,” Mr. Pianko said.

We just wrote about another Government Accountability Office report that blasted the Education Department's understanding of basic mathematics and accounting concepts after finding the department drastically underestimated the costs of Obama's student loan forgiveness programs.  The 100-page report entitled "Federal Student Loans:  Education Needs to Improve Its Income Driven Repayment Plan Budget Estimates" found that taxpayers could be on the hook for $137BN of student loans to be forgiven over the coming years as a result of Obama's executive actions on IDR plans.

Student Loans


Oh well, what's another $50 billion or so...we hear a lot of baby boomers vote so better give them what they want.

Baby Boomers 

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29.5 hours's picture

Pathetic. Paying (or not paying) off student loans and old enough for social security...

The government must either print or forgive—and it may be easier politically to print.

Boris Badenov's picture

The interest accrues at 7%, there has been no relief in today's ZIRP world. The interest compounds like a 1980's money market account, only it gets added to the debt.

Joe Davola's picture

So when they kick off, who's the bagholder gonna go after?  Yeah, us saps paying taxes yet again.  So we can either pay for them now or pay it later.

CrazyCooter's picture

ZH should add this infographic to this article:

All this is by design - and in the long run the middle class will be poor and will have all their govy vig handed over to someone else and they will never see a dime.



Citxmech's picture

Baby boomers?  Wasn't even the best grad school only like $1,200.00/ semester in the 70s?  WTF - How could a boomer still owe anything on student loans today - 30 years later?

NoDebt's picture

Much like you don't see breadlines any more thanks to EBT cards, you also don't see Debtor's Prison any more because they no longer have need for the walls and bars.  But I assure you it still exists.


The Saint's picture
The Saint (not verified) NoDebt Dec 21, 2016 3:07 PM

$1.1 billion down and $205 billion to go.  Increase the confiscation rate.  Then put a lein on their estate.


glenlloyd's picture

If your expensive education didn't provide you with enough extra earning power to pay off the debt incurred for said education then it was a bad decision.

A promise to repay is not conditional either, you knew the risks and in tried and true boomer fashion you wussed out.

bobbbny's picture

The only country in the world where you can go broke by getting sick or educated.

America is truly exceptional.

Robert Trip's picture

Break a leg in that socialist chittehole Canada and it's free.

Break a leg here and you're fucked.

847328_3527's picture

I was frugal in college and also worked while in college then I worked two jobs to pay off my small loans after college.

Puck these deadbeats. Garnish their wages, suspends their licenses, etc ....but also start cutting faculty and forcing schools to assume 50% of the risk of the loan. Then that might begin teaching stuff worth paying for!

nufio's picture

where can i get student loan statistics by field of study? does this exist somewhere?

Manthong's picture

Sorry kids..

When Reagan passed the ommibus theft act in 1983 all I grumbled about was “let me out of this”.

And then medicare was tagged at 3% of all earned income… and then Bush 43 gave big Pharma part “D”

I ain’t no whining baby… i have paid for this crap…        big time

So  now… if you are pissed off about 70% of the federal budget going to entitlements… LOOK AT THE F’Rs who have not paid a cent into the system.

It will take another decade for my "investment" to really start paying back.

..not as if that was the idea in the first place.

..maybe the business guy can make a good deal out of this.


And... and... up to 15% "payroll" tax and a matching "contribution": by employers of 15%....

WTF could be wrong with that   ???????


Déjà view's picture

Not fair...student loans increase cost of education...expected defaulters also drive up student loan costs...

Need funds for $100 ripped jeans, smart phone, daily latte...these 'problems' did not exist many years ago...

t0mmyBerg's picture

While you are to be commended for paying off your loans through hard work, it is beyond outrage that student loans are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.  there should be no debt that is not dischargeable.  many of these people went through the pain and stigma of bankruptcy only to have the student loans, often their biggest non-recourse debt, come right through after them.  the us congress was wrong to make this change 20 or so years ago.  and they are wrong not to correct their error now.  you either pay it off, or you go bankrupt, which should result in a fresh start after the peiod of penance. 

Abbie Normal's picture

By this reasoning, there should be a one-stop bankruptcy kiosk right next to the graduation ceremony.  Get your degree and declare bankruptcy in one simple step.

You don't get to keep your house free & clear after a bankruptcy -- why should your degree be any different?

MalteseFalcon's picture

I agree with t0mmyBerg.

This debt should be dischargeable in bankruptcy going forward.

And lenders should be stuck with any discharged debt - no bail out.

Then no lender would want to make any school loans and the "business" would disappear - immediately and completely.

Then the price of an "education" would drop.

Bemused Observer's picture

I agree...bankruptcy should place a kind of 'lien' on that degree, so any employer checking would see it hasn't been paid for.

But what I don't get is why the hell didn't they just write law saying that you must wait ten years post graduation to be able to discharge the debt? Why go so far as to say NO ONE can discharge student loan debt, ever?

The problem was caused almost exclusively by students in a few high paying fields who wanted to take advantage of the window being allowed between graduation and taking a high paying job, after which ditching the loan would no longer be possible. All they had to fucking DO was close that damned window to the few who were trying to crawl through it. Not tear down the whole fucking house!

glenlloyd's picture

In a way I agree but otoh once you start to subsidize something you get a lot more of it.

There literally would be gobs of students who borrow as much as possible, live high on the hog during school and then discharge / bankruptcy at graduation, if not before. It would become the plan of attack for anyone in school, there is no shame anymore, there's no moral compass, no values, it's what you can get for free and that's it. No one wants to think about the poor tax paying saps that end up footing the bill with higher taxes.

Unfortunately with the govt involved the whole thing becomes a shit pile. Get govt out of education and loans and let's see what happens at the institution level.

Govt facilitation of more borrowing is not a solution to the educational institution problem.

I do not want to hear about the boo hoo I can't discharge the debt on my degree in basketweaving..Fuck that!

not dead yet's picture

The reason student loans were made non dischargeable is due ever increasing numbers of kids filing for bankruptcy right after graduation. This in an era where bankruptcy and lack of responsibility was frowned upon. Today when no cares about being responsible for debts and bankruptcy carries no stigma it would be guaranteed that 100%, including the rich kids, would file bankruptcy upon graduation.

Very few kids go to college only because they can get a loan. Every day in the media we are bombarded with the college meme. Some are in your face go to college or you will be a loser or go to college and make millions more than those who don't. Then there's all kinds of mild references to college throughout the day in all types of media that eventually sink in and get a kid salivating for college or he's going to miss out on something special and will regret it the rest of his life. In sports they are always playing up which college someone went too. Parents are programmed by the education industry that they are incompetent failures if their kid does not go to college. Teachers even play up the college propaganda. Mention to teachers the dearth of technical high schools and most will snear "schools for dummies". Propaganda by the education industry has mainly caused this problem as they want to put your kids in their seats as young as 3 and give them absolutely no skills but plenty of liberal arts bullshit and indoctrination by the end of high school. In the meantime they put out a piss poor product while they reap the benefits of bigger salaries and ever more administrative positions. Plus making consultants and testing outfits rich with taxpayer loot and no doubt getting kickbacks in the process, like with the book scam. Thus even if there was no government loan program kids would still line up to fill college seats. 

Kids now go as young as three with all day kindergarten. Recess and gym classes have been cut out or shortened. In my day homework was rare now the norm is at least 2 hours of homework every night, some kindergartens are giving homework, and the real intense parents make them study also on the weekends. We have lengthened the school day and the school year. Yet when the kids get fat because they sat on their butts doing school work for 10 to 12 hours a day the truly ignorant come out of the woodwork blaming food and pop machines in schools. By starting kids this early they develop emotional problems and any leg up they get starting early is lost in a few years. Kids now have an epidemic of bad eyesight because they sit doing schoolwork for 10 to 12 hours a day inside and never get to develop their full vision. It's very possible that by starting kids early and forcing long days of learning mostly bullshit that many eventually rebel and no longer care about school or grades thus high dropout rates and crappy test scores. Many of the questions on some of those tests are bullshit trivia that no one grounded in reality would call an education. Snowflakes can be traced to education industry recommendations to not ever let your kid get a job, and give him all the money he wants, because he might like the money and not go to college and to never criticize a kid and always find something to praise even in their worst behavior.  Add that to the constant mention of college in all forms of media we have kids clammoring to get into college and the result of ever increasing tuition. Not only is the education industry doing a crappy job of educating your kids they are also endangering their physical and mental health. If the education industry had their way, and they have constantly mentioned it, you would be in their seats from shortly after birth up until the day you died. The arrogant attitude than one can only learn in their classroom.

Bemused Observer's picture

They could have solved the original problem of graduates declaring bankruptcy without taking all student loans off the table. The majority of those deadbeats were in high-paying fields like law and medicine...simply by forcing those fields to wait ten years post graduation to wipe the student loan debt would have pretty much taken care of that particular issue. Most of those graduates would NOT have been willing to forego ten years of high-paying work in those fields to ditch their student debt...they were doing it because it was convenient and easy. They were a small group taking advantage of a loophole, close the loophole.

No, as always, we get a shotgun blast of a solution that hurts EVERYONE, does NOT solve the original problem and instead creates several NEW problems, and has the kind of crude punitive tone and simple associations that appeal to low-information moral indignants.

You know, it IS possible to pinpoint a particular problem and address it without applying broad general 'fixes' to the whole structure. One can rid the pool of mosquitoes without draining it completely. And those student loan mosquitoes could have been eliminated without leaving everyone else high and dry.

GodSpeed_00's picture

You can't "work your way" though college anymore. That's an old idea. If you're making enough to pay the sky high tuition while paying for shelter, food, clothing and study materials then you probably don't need to go to college in the first place. 

Abbie Normal's picture

Even in Canada, it isn't so much breaking the leg that will bankrupt the patient.  After leaving the hospital, it's the lost wages, prescription meds, physical therapy, etc. that's NOT COVERED by Canada's national healthcare system that leaves the patient's finances in a hole.

LMAOLORI's picture



Illegal aliens get their medical care FREE in the U.S.  The people fucked here are the taxpayers.

The Merovingian's picture

That figure is made up almost exclusively of PARENTS who co-signed/guaranteed their children's student loans. There is a lesson there for any who care to pay attention.

cbxer55's picture

Uhhh. Let's see. Don't have any kids in the first place, if you can't afford them? HAHAHAHA!! Good luck with that one. 

I don't have any. But I stayed single until I was 34, and married a woman who had one already and had no desire to have another. Thankfully. And now, after 20 years married, I'm single again, and have ZERO interest in having kids. MAJOR PITA!!!!

Didn't go to college either. Went to work immediately after graduating high school. Never looked back. Too late to bother with that shit now. 

not dead yet's picture

You're totally right about the boomers being suckers co signing loans for their ungrateful kids. But the snowflakes and douchebags will ignore this and boomers other huge accomplishments as they blame the boomers for their own failures resulting from their poor decisions. Plenty of douchebag sites out there making big bucks off these suckers as they reinforce the idea that their lives suck because of boomers.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) glenlloyd Dec 21, 2016 8:49 PM

I bet some can pay but won't, they feel like Bernie "college should be free"

fbazzrea's picture

true boomer fashion you wussed out.

i take umbrage with this statement--and the artist rendering Baby Boomers as spoiled babies demanding their social security and medicare "entitlements".


1) Baby Boomers have funded the previous generation's (Greatest Generation) social security and medicare benefits.

2) Baby Boomers have paid their entire lives to honor their half of the contract with the USG--up to 39.6% federal income tax and up to 14.4% medicare taxes for self-employment. for those not good with maff, that's 54% BEFORE the entire spectrum of taxes including property, fuel, sales, blah, blah, blah... 

3) Baby Boomers no doubt will be asked to take a cut on their PAID-IN benefits to prevent the successive generations from being "overtaxed" to support Baby Boomers' benefits since the sorry ass commie pinko politicians have gone and spent OUR money.

4) Baby Boomers are supporting a growing number of their children and grandchildren because the sorry ass commie pinko politicians have gone and spent OUR money foolishly on wars, socialist wealth redistribution and corporate welfare. These younger generations through no fault of their own are denied meaningful employment for the most part despite their growing school loan balances. Who's going to pick up the tab? Baby Boomers.

I'm not complaining. And neither are any others that I can see. But when we start getting attacked like we're a no-account generation of sloths and spoiled brats...



Antifaschistische's picture

they said it was deducted from Disability income for over 50'ers.

That means, the UBER fatties with their rubber stamp doctors that hand out handicap stickers like candy are getting dinged $140 per/month.

That means fewer hoho's from Wal-Mart.


johngaltfla's picture


GOOD! Let the fuckers eat EBT cards.

fbazzrea's picture

it is a REAL problem. i know several people drawing disability pensions who are quite capable and DO work, but for cash. 

it's increasingly difficult for me to stomach the fact that they draw a taxpayer-funded retirement because they didn't take care of themselves and are now obese, diabetic and "handicapped."

those of us who have strived to maintain our health thru diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle are rewarded by paying for their foolish behavior.

Twee Surgeon's picture

Agreed, it exists without walls. As far as I understand it a Contract is a Document between two or more parties and involves Risk to both parties, the Risk is that one parties might lose if things don't work out as planned but the risk belongs to both ends of the deal.

The problem is that when an Institution or government is doing the ( Alleged ) Lending, not a single fucker goes home at night and loses sleep about the 'contract' or if it is fraudulent from inception.

The Debtor or Lendee is also the future tax payer ? However, the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go astray and debt becomes un-payable at extortionate interest rates while the 'government approved institution' is in full cahoots with an 'Open Border Policy' that diminishes the value of everything in the Nation.

It is fundamentally Demented and Perverse, it is not very subtle Entrapment and a Deliberate take down of the West by the Bankers.

If a Debt can not be re-payed, the Assets of the Debtor go to auction and the slate is cleared. Bankrupt. All that's left is a car, a tent and the toolbox / wardrobe so that Individual or Family X can Start again and the government workers can go home and not give a fuck about anything but themselves, as usual.

This will not happen though as the seething greed and lust of the Public Servants is palpable.

A storm is coming. Student loans are just another symptom, like swollen Lymph-nodes on the day a rider comes to your village and says the black death has arrived in the town in the next valley. The Toxipuss has long arms.The Restoration of Dueling might be helpful or things are going to get ugly.

Son of Loki's picture

Colleges and/or faculty salaries should also be on the hook for a large portion of the student loan. Taxpayers had nothing to do with the formation of the contract or acceptance of the risk so why should we be sodomized? Same with Bank bailouts and mortgage bailouts.

ebworthen's picture

No such thing as debt, except for us Serfs.

Banks/Corporations/Insurers bailed out, Citizens screwed.

You think your I.R.A./Pension/Savings are safe?  Think again Peasants!

Wall Street and Washington want your money, your kids, your life, your kids life!

NoDebt's picture

"How could a boomer still owe anything on student loans today - 30 years later?"

I can answer that.  Some people just don't ever make it financially and have never paid a dime of those loans back (nor do they have a desire to if they could).  The interest on the loan just keep clicking, year after year.  Others, in a more recent phenomenon, are sucked in by co-signing for deadbeat children/grandchildren.

Either way, my sympathy level for them is low.

Urban Redneck's picture

I blame the deadbeat kids.  (Especially with today's job market, tutition costs and preferred majors)

But I also never though too much of my peers, so I could see some of them actually being deplorable enough to dig themselves into that hole. 

de3de8's picture

Two points, the article does say some portion attributed to kids loans (co-signer). Nothing like those kids leaving their parents high and dry. Other point is the absolute numbers are relatively low, 170k+/- out of population of 3.3m.

glenlloyd's picture

Parents know full well what the risks are when cosigning for the student loan. My sister cosigned for one of her sons loans and now she's left holding the bag and not a lot of money to make good on it.

Robert Trip's picture

Tiny violin award for her.

Son of Loki's picture

This is the "Entitlement generation" who think they deserve eveything for free or at least get things easily. I see it all the time and it's no wonder these employers hire Chinese or Indians who are qualified and work hard since too many American kids are lazy or simply stupid.

Success at any endeavor whether it be a job or life, takes alot of work.

sparksmass's picture

I think most of these people received so called "PLUS Loans" that are "student loans" given to parents, whose kids also got all the student loans they could, but it wasn't enough, so they get the parents in debt too.

Citxmech's picture

I missed the part about co-signing.  Makes more sense that way - but, unless they're co-signing for their grandkids, that's still pretty ridiculous.  The day my 35-40 year old child wants me to co-sign for an educational loan for them they would be due for a rude awakening.  

cbxer55's picture

Hell, I graduated in 79, and was told if I wanted to go to college, I'd have to pay for it myself. As it should be, btw. Parents shouldn't have to foot the bill for a "kid' who is 18 years of age or older. No way, no how. 

looseal's picture


Now take this learned behavior down to the next generation.  No fixed retirement plan offered by employers  No ability to manage an IRA. Reduced SS if it still exists.  

Bobbyrib's picture

Uncle Sam will be seizing IRA's from the people. They recently put restrictions on brokerages for what can be invested in by advisors in IRA's, so the brokers don't claim too much in fees. When the government gets protective of its citizens in this day and age watch your fucking wallets. Believe it or not criminals like stealing.



What's a Constitution? /sarcasm. Sadly, we will all know what a MyRA is in no time.

ebworthen's picture

NoDebt - I get it, I was raised to be responsible and pay my debts.

However, after 2008, and really 1972, there is no such thing as money or debt.

It's all free, except for us Serfs.  Honestly, you folks who are paying your debts and bills are tax donkeys (I'm barely keeping up).

There are 2% of the population not under the thumb of Wall Street and Washington.  Where does that lead?  Roll the guillotines.

LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD's picture
LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD (not verified) Citxmech Dec 21, 2016 3:28 PM

"WTF - How could a boomer still owe anything on student loans today - 30 years later?"

Yeah, unbelievable. No doubt that they have their McMansions and new cars every three years.

I'm not that old but I went to a state school for undergrad then worked while going at night for my Masters (the company paid all of my tuition). I'm starting to feel like a dumb shit, paying off my $10,000 of student loans in 1 1/2 years. I could have had others pay for my loans when the government re-assigns them to the tax payers.