A reader earns only $11,000 a year, but she's being garnished $300 a month.

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Question: I just received a letter stating my student loan that has been in default is to be offset. I am working. I’m also already facing wage garnishment for child support arrears. I barely make $11,000 a year and they garnish $300 each month for my arrears.

My question is: Can the government garnish my wages at the same time garnishment for my arrears ? Or will they wait until I pay my arrears off? If they don’t do that, I won’t have anything left to live on!

— Angie in Texas

Steve Rhode answers…

You are living through a tremendously stressful situation with your student loan debt, Angie. I wish I could wave a wand and make that pressure from the Federal Government vanish. What I can offer you is good information about how to stop student loan garnishment and a plan forward.

1. Look into an offset

An offset is typically a tax refund intercept, unless you’re also getting federal benefits like Social Security. The tax refund intercept is easy to deal with — just don’t get tax refunds. You should adjust your withholding, if any, to get more money in your pocket each month and not in a refund check. Thus, you can avoid the IRS intercept and you’ll have more money to cover your expenses each month.

2. Repayment plans

Now that’s a short-term solution. For more of a long-term solution on the federal loans, you can get into a $0 monthly payment plan that will prevent you from having defaulted loans. In fact, I just recently answered a reader question that dealt with this.

I’m not an attorney. You’d need to speak to an attorney licensed in Texas for specific legal advice, but it appears in Texas you can have up to a wage garnishment that’s up to 25 percent of your disposable income — but not more than 30 times the minimum wage.

If you did get a federal student loan wage garnishment, it would come in the form of a letter and be called an “Administrative Wage Garnishment.” Open it. The letter will instruct you on how to appeal the garnishment to hopefully get it suspended.

3. Modification

Texas will allow you to modify your mandatory child support garnishment if you can demonstrate the garnishment doesn’t allow you sufficient income to live on. To modify how much they garnish your wages,  talk to the court or a licensed attorney in Texas. Another solution may be to look into debt consolidation, which can include child support arrears.

Thank you for letting me help you find a way forward, Angie.

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