Start My Answer

Can pensions be garnished?

Dena Standley | October 19, 2022

Summary: If you retired with debt, you might be wondering if your pensions can be taken by debt collectors. Here is SoloSuit's guide to wage garnishment, pensions, and your rights as a consumer.

Ahh, retirement. Many of us imagine reclining on nice, sandy beaches with Hawaiian shirts, holding a fruity little drink with a paper umbrella in it while relaxing and enjoying time off. Retirement is a beautiful goal and aim to have; you performed years of service leading up to a retirement where you can rest easy knowing that your earned benefits, such as your pension, are owed to you and cannot be taken from you.

However, a scary reality is that if you face extensive debts and obligations, your pension can be garnished by collectors to satisfy any standing debts you have. Regardless of their retirement status, individuals with large debts are commonly approached by creditors to settle these obligations. If these debts are not repaid on time, creditors may opt to take you to court to collect these unpaid debts.

Thankfully, for the most part, pensions are protected from creditors or debt collectors in the same way that social security benefits are. However, your debt collectors may be able to acquire some of your pension income through other collection methods that do not involve directly accessing your pension.

When can debt collectors pursue my assets?

Debt collectors have the right to take you to court if large unpaid debts are owed. If your account is in collections, and if collectors are successful, a court order can be used against you to recover this owed money.

If a creditor or debt collector files a lawsuit against you, make sure you take immediate action to preserve your rights. SoloSuit can help you file an Answer and guide you through fighting debt collectors in the courtroom. Debt collectors can confiscate your bank account, garnish your earnings, and sell your non-exempt property and assets.

If the debt collectors get a court order to garnish your bank account, the pension placed in your bank account may not be safeguarded if it does not meet the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974's provisions (ERISA). Essentially, these provisions require that if pensions would like to be protected, they must meet a certain standard regulated by this statute.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974

While most company pensions comply with ERISA, some private pensions, such as IRAs and Roth IRAs, do not. Once these pensions are put into a bank account, they may be in danger.

In addition to the safeguards provided by ERISA, each state establishes its own limits on the amount of money that is shielded from creditors. Under this protection, creditors and courts are not permitted to take funds directly from your pension plan. Your personal pension plan will not be accessible to creditors or the courts for any reason.

Under the ERISA, your pension funds are safe in that account, but you should be aware of specific instances in which creditors or courts may be able to obtain some of your pension funds.

When can my pension be garnished?

When might a creditor or a court order a garnishment of your wages or pension? Essentially, your pension account is its own separate protected entity. Creditors and authorities cannot access your personal account to take your retirement funds. Money in your individual bank account, on the other hand, is a different story. Pension capital that has been deposited into your account may be taken away. In other words, your pension can't be garnished before it's given to you, but it can be garnished after you've received it.

Although pensions are theoretically a type of income, your retirement funds are legally protected. Your pension funds are intended to assist you in paying your bills and purchasing whatever else you may require to live comfortably. If your pension funds are not included in this category, a court may decide that your extra pension funds can be used to pay off obligations.

State laws vary on wage garnishment

Different states have varying laws for wage garnishment practices and the extent that personal assets can be seized. Understanding the risks and benefits of allowing debts to go unpaid and what actions a creditor can take against you to force payments can help you make wise financial decisions.

Respond to a debt collection lawsuit

Despite the fact that debt collectors normally have a difficult time seizing your pension, you should be prepared to deal with them and arm yourself with the knowledge and resources to protect your assets.

Every year, ten million people in the United States are sued for debt. Because they can't figure out how to reply and only have up to 35 days to do so, 90% of them lose by default.

The first step to winning a debt collection lawsuit is to respond with a written Answer using these three steps:

  1. Answer each claim listed in the Complaint document: The first and most important section of your Answer should focus on responding to the claims listed in the Complaint document. You can admit, deny, or deny due to a lack of knowledge. Most attorneys recommend denying as many claims as possible.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses: An affirmative defense is any legal reason that a debt collector's case is invalid. A common affirmative defense to mention in a debt lawsuit case is the statute of limitations on debt. If the statute of limitations on a debt has passed, the debt collector cannot sue you for the debt. There are several other affirmative defenses you can bring up to strengthen your side of the case.
  3. File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the party suing you: After you've drafted your Answer, you should file it within the court's deadline. The deadline to respond to a debt lawsuit is anywhere from 14-35 days, depending on which state you live in. Make a copy of the Answer and send it, via USPS certified mail, to the attorneys representing the debt collector or creditor suing you.

Here's where SoloSuit can help!

To learn more about these three steps, check out this video:

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

Get Started

We have answers.
Join our community of over 40,000 people.

You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now or are just looking for support, we're here for you.

Ask a Question

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

How to answer a summons for debt collection in your state

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.

Guides on how to beat every debt collector

Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.

Win against credit card companies

Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.

Going to Court for Credit Card Debt — Key Tips

How to Negotiate Credit Card Debts

How to Settle a Credit Card Debt Lawsuit — Ultimate Guide

Get answers to these FAQs

Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.

Why do debt collectors block their phone numbers?

How long do debt collectors take to respond to debt validation letters?

What are the biggest debt collector companies in the US?

Is Zombie Debt Still a Problem in 2019?

SoloSuit FAQ

If a car is repossessed, do I still owe the debt?

Is Portfolio Recovery Associates Legit?

Is There a Judgment Against Me Without my Knowledge?

Should I File Bankruptcy Before or After a Judgment?

What is a default judgment?— What do I do?

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills — What Do I Do?

What Happens If Someone Sues You and You Have No Money?

What Happens If You Never Answer Debt Collectors?

What Happens When a Debt Is Sold to a Collection Agency

What is a Stipulated Judgment?

What is the Deadline for a Defendants Answer to Avoid a Default Judgment?

Can a Judgement Creditor Take my Car?

Can I Settle a Debt After Being Served?

Can I Stop Wage Garnishment?

Can You Appeal a Default Judgement?

Do I Need a Debt Collection Defense Attorney?

Do I Need a Payday Loans Lawyer?

Do student loans go away after 7 years? — Student Loan Debt Guide

Am I Responsible for My Spouses Medical Debt?

Should I Marry Someone With Debt?

Can a Debt Collector Leave a Voicemail?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

What Happens If a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

Can You Serve Someone with a Collections Lawsuit at Their Work?

What Is a Warrant in Debt?

How Many Times Can a Judgment be Renewed in Oklahoma?

Can an Eviction Be Reversed?

Does Debt Consolidation Have Risks?

What Happens If You Avoid Getting Served Court Papers?

Does Student Debt Die With You?

Can Debt Collectors Call You at Work in Texas?

How Much Do You Have to Be in Debt to File for Chapter 7?

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Washington?

How Long Does a Judgment Last?

Can Private Disability Payments Be Garnished?

Can Debt Collectors Call From Local Numbers?

Does the Fair Credit Reporting Act Work in Florida?

The Truth: Should You Never Pay a Debt Collection Agency?

Should You Communicate with a Debt Collector in Writing or by Telephone?

Do I Need a Debt Negotiator?

What Happens After a Motion for Default Is Filed?

Can a Process Server Leave a Summons Taped to My Door?

Learn More With These Additional Resources:

Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.

How to Make a Debt Validation Letter - The Ultimate Guide

How to Make a Motion to Compel Arbitration Without an Attorney

How to Stop Wage Garnishment — Everything You Need to Know

How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector (Ultimate Guide)

Defending Yourself in Court Against a Debt Collector

Tips on you can to file an FDCPA lawsuit against a debt collection agency

Advice on how to answer a summons for debt collection.

Effective strategies for how to get back on track after a debt lawsuit

New Hampshire Statute of Limitations on Debt

Sample Cease and Desist Letter Against Debt Collectors

The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah

West Virginia Statute of Limitations on Debt

What debt collectors cannot do — FDCPA explained

Defending Yourself in Court Against Debt Collector

How to Liquidate Debt

Arkansas Statute of Limitations on Debt

Youre Drowning in Debt — Heres How to Swim

Help! Im Being Sued by My Debt Collector

How to Make a Motion to Vacate Judgment

How to Answer Summons for Debt Collection in Vermont

North Dakota Statute of Limitations on Debt

ClearPoint Debt Management Review

Indiana Statute of Limitations on Debt

Oregon Eviction Laws - What They Say

CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review

How to Write a Re-Aging Debt Letter

How to Appear in Court by Phone

How to Use the Doctrine of Unclean Hands

Debt Consolidation in Eugene, Oregon

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills? What to Do Next

How to Make a Debt Settlement Agreement

Received a 3-Day Eviction Notice? Heres What to Do

How to Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection

Tips for Leaving the Country With Unpaid Credit Card Debt

Kansas Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection

How to File in Small Claims Court in Iowa

How to File a Civil Answer in Kings County Supreme Court

Roseland Associates Debt Consolidation Review

How to Stop a Garnishment

Debt Eraser Review

Do Debt Collectors Ever Give Up?

Can They Garnish Your Wages for Credit Card Debt?

How Often Do Credit Card Companies Sue for Non-Payment?

How Long Does a Judgement Last?

​​How Long Before a Creditor Can Garnish Wages?

How to Beat a Bill Collector in Court