Problems with money can leave a lot of us feeling overwhelmed, and often isolated. Our relationship with money is complicated, and talking about it is even more complicated.
Knowing where to turn isn’t always obvious; but you’re never alone in dealing with a difficult financial situation.
If you feel as though you might be suffering from financial anxiety, you can read up on our explainer here.
People suffering from financial anxiety can access support from financial counsellors. According to Financial Counselling Australia, financial counsellors are “qualified professionals who provide information, advice and advocacy to people in financial difficulty.” Their services are free and confidential.
“Financial planners and advisers provide advice to people who have money to invest. Financial counsellors work with people who are in debt or are not able to meet their ongoing expenses,” says Financial Counselling Australia.
Who might need financial counselling?
“Think of a financial counsellor as equivalent to a doctor or hospital emergency department. If you’re sick or injured, you might go to a doctor, or to the emergency department,” says Max Phelps, founder of Golden Eggs and author of ‘Getting Your Money $hit Together’.
“If your finances are feeling overwhelming or you’ve been hit by something dreadful, it’d be better to talk to a financial counsellor before speaking to a debt collector.”
Financial counselling might be particularly helpful to those in particular situations like negotiating owed money to creditors, making an insurance claim, understanding credit history and what financial government assistance might be available.
“Financial counselling is really for people struggling with bills, have debt collectors on their backs or being evicted, or have maybe had a car accident with no insurance,” Phelps says.
“There’s a good chance that there are some underlying issues which have led to the financial stress, so financial counsellors are there to listen.”
Breaking it down
According to Phelphs, although 70% of people report having some money worries, their worries can be broken down into four categories–and “only a tiny proportion are in such a giant hole of debt that they feel like they are drowning, and urgently need financial counselling.”
Phelps identifies these as urgent, occasional, short term and long term.
“Most people would benefit from talking to a financial planner or money coach, who can help eliminate the occasional, short term and long term money worries,” Phelps says.
“These are more like personal trainers than doctors. Personal trainers help us set goals, show us the tools and techniques we can use to reach them, and then hold us accountable. A money coach does the same.”
“Occasional worries are when we’re worried if we’ve got enough in our account to cover the next direct debit or credit card bill”, he says, “and short term worries are when we get a temporary hit to income or a temporary extra expense, like doctors visits or dentist bills.”
“The long-term category refers to when we’re worried about our future–wondering if we’ll ever be able to retire, or if we’re keeping up with our peers.”
If you need help now
If financial counselling can’t wait, click here for access to ASIC’s up-to-date list of resources. We’ve also listed a few resources below.
National Debt Helpline
Phone: 1800 007 007: The National Debt Helpline is available from 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday through Friday. Calls from mobile phones may incur a fee from the mobile phone carrier.
You can also visit the National Debt Helpline website for information and resources.
Lifeline Crisis Support
Phone: 13 11 14: If you need urgent crisis support, call Lifeline’s 24/7 hotline.
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