According to the Financial Counselling Foundation, 15% of Australian households are experiencing money stress. As one of the nations with the highest household debt, many families are hurting. If this is your current situation, financial counselling could help change your life.
What is a financial counsellor?
Financial counsellors are professionals that help clients deal with financial topics like budgeting, debt and saving. They can support people struggling with bills and who feel overwhelmed by debt, but they cannot offer legal advice.
Financial counselling, like marriage therapy or health coaching, helps unearth and resolve the social, psychological, familial, economic, and emotional forces that influence your relationship with money. The process of financial counselling serves as a mirror, reflecting back on how you see the world and how you view money.
Financial counsellors may help reveal subconscious beliefs about money that are guiding your decisions and behaviours, or help you discover how aspects of your relationship with money likely date back to when you were a child. For example, you may have heard statements like ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ and developed a belief that money is finite. In later years, this might manifest in forgoing that dream overseas trip or staying in a job you don’t love, out of fear of getting further into debt.
The great news is that we can always rewrite our money stories so they enable us, not limit us.
What financial counsellors do
Financial counsellors are versed in several financial topics. Here’s what a financial counsellor can assist you with:
- Understanding basic financial principles and money management skills.
- Assessing your financial situation and helping you to develop financial goals.
- Prioritising which debts to tackle first.
- Creating a budget and plan for your money.
- Helping you save money and build an emergency fund.
- Explaining the financial hardship options available.
- Specific advice to tackle unpaid bills and fines.
- Legal consequences of unpaid debt.
- Advocating for you and negotiating with Government agencies, your landlord, utility providers, debt collectors, and other creditors.
- Lodging complaints.
- Information about bankruptcy and insolvency
- Referrals to broader services, such as legal aid, personal counselling, or emergency relief.
This practical, fundamental support is crucial to your financial health. It’s the best place to start when you’re in fight-or-flight mode. Beyond the free, non-profit community associations available to help you get back on track, there are private financial therapists.
Financial therapy can help uncover:
- Money blocks and motivations.
- Reasons for overspending.
- Money-related spouse conflict.
- How your childhood is affecting your ability to achieve wealth.
- Unhealthy money habits.
- Self-care around money.
- Issues sticking to budgets.
- Strategies to build financial resilience.
It’s just as much about your mental health as it is about your monetary health. Financial counselling that deepens your psyche will enable long-term wealth and wellness. It’s where you really get to know yourself.
What financial counsellors don’t do
It’s a counsellor’s job to empower you. A good financial counsellor is also a mindset coach. You’ll see the benefits extend beyond your financial health.
But there are things they can’t do. Financial counsellors can’t offer legal advice and aren’t a replacement for a bank, accountant, or financial adviser. In addition, they can’t:
- Complete tax returns.
- Provide investment advice.
- Organise debt consolidation services.
- Lend money.
- Repair your credit score.
Financial counsellors usually have psychological or behavioural qualifications and are more focused on levelling you up as a person, through mastering your finances. If you go with a private counsellor, always check their credentials, qualifications, and past clients.
How to find a financial counselling
One of the best ways to seek financial counselling is through the not-for-profit organisation Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) website. They can help you find a financial counsellor in your state or territory that is a certified professional.
In addition, you can contact the National Debt Helpline and Commonwealth Financial Counselling to find free and confidential financial counselling services in your area.
You can also use Moneysmart.com.au’s search map to find local support.
These service workers are non-judgemental and there to help a growing number of Australians in a financial crisis. So, lean on all the free, Government and community support available to you. Put out any fires, get your money management plan in motion, and then consider working with a private, qualified financial mindset coach to unpack the emotions and negative habits.
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