Ten percent of middle-aged Americans have their wages slashed by debtors, NPR reported last week, and over $50 billion in consumer credit card debt will likely be added to America’s existing debt in 2014, according to a recent study by CardHub.
The average American-consumer household paid off about $350 in credit card debt at the beginning of the year, says CardHub, making a total of $32 billion. Unfortunately, the second quarter was not as impressive and Americans are tracking to gain almost $55 billion in card debt by the end of the year.
But Americans are doing more than just accruing debt. Many surrender up to a quarter of their wages to creditors, NPR said. When debtors don’t pay off their debt, creditors can take them to court to demand payment from their wages.
“One in 10 working Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 are getting their wages garnished,” reported NPR, “often over an old credit card debt, medical bill or student loan.”
Federal law shields 75 percent of a worker’s paycheck—or 30 times minimum wage if it’s more — according to a study by the National Consumer Law Center. But that 75 percent could end up being pretty small. Especially since this kind of action happens most among the “middle-aged, blue-collar workers and lower-income employees,” said NPR.
According to the NCLC study, a worker could get pay cut down to $217.50 a week, “less than half of the federal poverty guideline,” if you’re a family with four people.
But not every state is the same. The NCLC study broke it down by state. New York protects 90 percent of wages and Texas doesn’t let debtors garnish wages at all, while Utah follows the federal limit of 75 percent.
This usually happens after a court hearing, but the Environmental Protection Agency found its way around that rule in July, reported Forbes’ Chris Prandoni.
So at least most creditors have to ask first.