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Money troubles? Help is at hand

If you’re struggling to make ends meet or having trouble repaying your debts, it’s vital to seek help before things spiral completely out of control. One person who may be able to help is a financial counsellor.

Basically they help people having financial difficulties or those who want to avoid a crisis situation. You don’t have to be on the brink of bankruptcy to see a financial counsellor. The sooner you get help the better.

Financial counselling services are available in each state and wonder of wonders it probably won’t cost you a cent – a free service is generally offered by non-profit organisations. The Salvation Army’s financial counselling service is Moneycare.

According to Moneycare it can help if you are:

• Having difficulty paying debts

• Being harassed by creditors or debt collectors

• Facing legal action regarding your debts

• Dealing with car repossession

• Worried about eviction from your home

• Having budgeting problems.

The same goes for most financial counselling services. The best way to find out whether a financial counsellor can help is to call them. There is a free financial counselling hotline you can call to help you locate a counsellor near you. The number is 1800 007 007 and it is open from 8.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. You can also do an online search at moneysmart.gov.au.

When you go to see the financial counsellor, make sure you have all the relevant information about your financial situation with you.

This includes details of your family income, a list of all your debts and any relevant loan documents and details of any outstanding bills. This will help them get a true picture of your position. While a financial counsellor can’t give you the money you need to get out of trouble, they should help you come up with a plan to help improve your financial situation.

According to MoneySmart financial counsellors can:

• Help you organise your finances and do a budget

• Suggest ways to improve your financial situation

• See if you’re eligible for government assistance

• Negotiate repayments with your creditors

• Explain your options and their consequences, including debt recovery procedures, bankruptcy and other alternatives

• Help you apply for a hardship variation

• Refer you to other services, for example a gambling helpline, family support, personal counselling or community legal aid

It’s also worth noting a financial counsellor can’t ??? help you consolidate your debts. “Other businesses provide services to help people struggling with debt but they charge fees and are really debt consolidation companies,” warns the MoneySmart website. “They charge their fees either upfront or as a commission on the new loan.

“Be cautious and find out what services you are getting from these businesses and how much it will cost you. You may be able to get the same services from a financial counsellor for free.”

Written by Maria Bekiaris

Maria Bekiaris

Money deputy editor Maria Bekiaris has been with the magazine since 2001 when she started as a writer/researcher. She writes on a variety of personal finance and investment topics and has contributed to magazines such as Australian House & Garden, Good Health, Mother & Baby.

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