They say good advice is rarely free. When it comes to financial matters, the best advice is tailored to your situation and will generally involve some kind of cost, whether that’s money or time. Many businesses provide services to help people working through debt issues and are really debt consolidation companies. They often charge fees, either upfront or as a commission, on a new loan.
Financial counsellors versus financial planners
Financial counsellors differ from financial planners because they offer confidential and independent counselling services but are not licensed under the Corporations Act, as they are exempt by ASIC. However, they must still meet certain conditions, including not charging fees, charges or commissions.
Financial planners and advisors, on the other hand, help people manage their assets by offering investment advice. They almost always charge fees and work for business that hold an Australian Financial Services licence.
So, is there a way that you can access reliable financial information without a fee?
The ASIC Money Smart Financial counselling is a free service offered by community organisations, community legal centres and some government agencies. This service helps you find a financial counsellor who can assist with resolving your money problems and give you advice about how to proceed with financial decisions.
Finding a financial counsellor
The National Debt Helpline is a free phone service that can help you to locate a financial counsellor in your state. The hotline is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. The number is 1800 007 007.
You can also go online to access information and resources that can help if you’re struggling with debt by visiting the National Debt Helpline website.
How a financial counsellor can help
Financial counsellors can help in the following ways:
- suggest ways to improve your financial situation
- check if you are eligible for government assistance
- consult with your creditors to make repayment arrangements
- discuss your options and consequences, such as debt recovery methods and bankruptcy
- help you organise your finances and do a budget
- help you apply for a hardship variation
- recommend other services that may help, including a gambling helpline or community legal aid.
They can also help with the following problems:
- debt recovery through courts
- threatening letters or harassment by debt collectors
- debts that you can’t pay
- house evictions, disconnection of services (e.g. gas, electricity, etc.)
- uninsured car accidents, taxation debts and unpaid fines.
Getting help with credit and debt advice
The following organisations services can assist you with a range of credit, debt and legal counselling in your state:
New South Wales: Financial Rights Legal Centre
Western Australia: Consumer Credit Legal Service
South Australia: Consumer Credit Law Centre
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