If you’ve ever found yourself in debt or struggling to pay your bills, would you know what to do?
If you are ever unfortunate enough to find yourself in this position, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly proved how easy it is to go from being financially comfortable to being in over your head, it is worth remembering that there are a number of free services available to provide assistance.
It is especially important to steer clear of debt consolidators who charge an upfront fee or get a commission for their services when you might be able to get the same help for free.
CRIME STATISTICS: We need a strategy to protect older adults from violence
One of the most important places to turn is the National Debt Helpline.
The National Debt Helpline is a not-for-profit service that helps people tackle their debt problems.
They offer a free, independent and confidential service to try and get your finances back on track without trying to ‘sell’ you a solution.
DOORS SHUT: Bank closures leave older Aussies in the cold
You can visit the National Debt Helpline website for step-by-step guides on how to fix common debt problems, such as what to do if you can’t pay your energy bills, internet or phone bills, mortgage, credit cards, or payday loans.
You can also call 1800 007 007 and talk with professional financial counsellors and if your matter is more complex, they can refer you to your closest face-to-face financial counselling service.
The counsellors will also put you in contact with whatever services you require, such as legal services, crisis food and accommodation services or health services.
DODGY SALES TACTICS: Leading insurer to offer $35m in refunds
When you call, try to have the following information to hand:
- details of your income
- a list of all debts
- copies of (or information about) all loan agreements
- details of current and outstanding bills
- copies of (or information about) any court documents you have received
- letters about bills and debts that seem urgent.
What a financial counsellor does
Financial counsellors are skilled professionals who will guide you through your options and help you plan your way out of debt.
They can assist you by:
- doing a full assessment of your financial situation
- providing advice on how to negotiate with your creditors, government agencies and utilities
- providing advice on your options and rights
- referring you to other services when needed, such as emergency relief, legal and health services.
Other sources of information
ASIC’s MoneySmart website provides information managing debt, including details about how to:
- check your credit report to confirm the information is accurate and fix any mistakes
- find free financial counselling services in your state or territory
- find free legal advice services in your state or territory
- make a repayment plan if you’re struggle to pay the debt.
Many industries (such as banking, telecommunications, energy, water and insurance) have their own ombudsmen dispute resolution schemes.
Legal proceedings against you generally cannot be started while a matter is being considered by an ombudsman.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) handles complaints about banking, credit, loans and debt collection, life insurance, superannuation, financial planning, insurance broking, stockbroking, investments, managed funds, timeshares, general insurance, finance and mortgage broking.
Have you ever needed financial help to pull yourself out of debt? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?
If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.