The rising cost of living and successive interest rate hikes could make it tough to make ends meet, leading to financial distress. If you’re finding it challenging to pay your bills or afford your living expenses, it could help to get in touch with a financial counsellor for free and confidential help with your money issues.
What is a financial counsellor?
A financial counsellor is a trained professional who provides free and confidential advice and support to people experiencing financial difficulties.
According to the National Debt Helpline, financial counsellors have extensive knowledge of credit, bankruptcy and debt collection laws. They are also well-versed with the social security framework, grants and concessions available to help people in financial distress, and how you can access free dispute resolution through independent dispute resolution schemes.
Therefore, to work as a financial counsellor, you must have completed a Diploma of Financial Counselling and be eligible to be a member of a state-based financial counselling association.
How can a financial counsellor help you?
A financial counsellor is an expert who works with you to help you better understand your financial situation and provides guidance on how to improve it. Furthermore, A financial counsellor will analyse your situation to offer personalised advice on controlling your finances. They can help you:
- Develop a budget that takes into account your income, expenses, and debts
- Understand your spending pattern to reduce money wastage
- Provide you with tips on how to manage your money more effectively
- Negotiate payment plans with your creditors and advice you on debt management
- Help you apply for hardship assistance with your lender if needed
- Point you to any relevant professionals who could help with your situation
It’s important to note that a financial counsellor will only explain and advise you on the best course of action but not deal directly with your money. They may also put you in touch with other specialist support services such as family support, legal aid and gambling.
Are financial counsellors the same as financial advisors?
No, Even though financial advisors and financial counsellors both provide advice related to personal finance, they offer different services to their clients.
Financial advisors typically provide investment advice to help clients achieve their financial goals. They usually charge a fee for their services and may receive commissions on the products they recommend.
On the other hand, financial counsellors provide free and confidential advice to help people manage their debts and other financial difficulties. Financial counsellors do not offer any investment advice or recommend specific financial products.
Where can I find a financial counsellor near me?
You can find a financial counsellor near you by contacting the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. The helpline provides free and confidential advice to help you manage your debts by connecting you with a financial counsellor.
Are financial counselling services free in Australia?
Yes, financial counselling services are free in Australia. Financial counsellors provide their services free of charge, as the Australian government and some other organisations fund them.
Additionally, counsellors must keep your information confidential and only share it with your consent, unless there’s a legal requirement. So you could speak to a financial counsellor about your financial difficulties freely without fearing being judged or criticised by others.
It can also help to inform your lender or other credit providers about your financial issues. For instance, if you think you won’t be able to make a home loan repayment, inform your lender about it and check whether they can help you overcome your situation.
It may sound surprising, but most lenders are open to working with their clients to avoid loan defaults. Your lender may offer you a repayment holiday or reduce your repayments for a few months. However, none of these options can reduce your debt, which is why it’s important to only borrow money that you can afford to repay. A mortgage broker can help you understand your options, whether you’re looking for a new home loan or need help managing your ongoing loan. You could also ask a Hashching expert for their opinion.
By Vidhu Bajaj,
Hashching Content Writer