No. of Recommendations: 2
In the short term there should be no problem. Not to sound callous, but $45,000/yr translates to $2500-$2800 a month take-home pay depending on effective tax rate. $400/mo is less than 15% of that. Does she have some big pile of credit card debt or something that's also draining the money? (In this case, bankruptcy might still help). Because a single person can easily live on that much money. That's the good news. The bad news is, it's going to get worse.

The real problem is: Presumably she is going to want to retire sometime in the next 5 years or so, and she'll have to live on Social Security - which means a serious drop in income. I, obviously, don't know what the reduced income will be, but you need to if you are going to come up with a retirement plan. Everything really will depend on that. Now, possibly you can negotiate some sort of settlement to the loans, but the thing is, $80K is a pretty huge debt, and while they're probably willing to negotiate, it's not at all clear to me that a mutually acceptable settlement can be reached. So I'm going to assume that the whole "negotiate a settlement she can afford" thing doesn't work out, and propose a plan B.

It sounds like her employment history is not one of high wages, and thus her Social Security payments are going to be low. Obviously, there's no savings, so your mother is in for a tough retirement. But then, going into retirement with a negative net worth and a low Social Security payment is just not great no matter how you slice it.

As mentioned, Social Security can only be garnished for government debt. The government will not guarantee that much student loan debt, so presumably most of it is private student loans. If you can pay off the government loans today, when she has relatively high income, you're probably better off in the long run, since she could be facing a garnishment for those. So it seems to me like what you could be stuck with is:

Figure out what the monthly Social Security income is going to be
Find an apartment that she can afford on the social security income (possibly affordable senior housing)
Cosign the apartment lease for her, otherwise there will be some stupid-huge security deposit
Ignore the debt and she pays for everything with cash/check/debit

Since the student loans are unsecured and she won't have any garnishable income, the student loan debt would just be there forever but there would be nothing the lender can do about it. Your mother's credit rating would drop very low and she would effectively be kicked out of the credit system - but she wouldn't have to pay back the loans.
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