Have Debt? What Financial Counsellors Want You To Know

Have debt problems, here’s what Financial Counsellors want you to know. This is important information to help you and anyone you know, get help and support for financial hardship and debt problems.

Financial Counselling is a free, independent and confidential service that can be obtained by simply calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. It is a service available to anyone who lives in Australia and is challenged with personal budgeting or has a debt concern.

In the current climate of cost of living, demand for affordable and safe housing, high inflation and interest rates we see the increase in demand for financial counselling services. At the same time, the importance of overcoming the challenge for people to become aware of what financial counselling is and how to access it, is also increasing.

As FCAN Inc., the Peak Body for Financial Counsellors in NSW, we are dedicated to bringing awareness to financial counselling services in the hope that more people can get the help they need with their financial hardship and budget or debt challenges. We interviewed 10 Financial Counsellors from across NSW, Australia to gain insight into why people see Financial Counsellors. We asked them key questions:

  • Why won’t people see Financial Counsellors?
  • What do you wish people knew about Financial Counselling?
  • Why do people see Financial Counsellors?
  • What’s the best part about being a Financial Counsellor?
  • Why it is important to have Financial Counsellors?
  • How do Financial Counsellors help people?
  • What are some of the myths about Financial Counselling?
  • Who are Financial Counsellors?

Why won’t people see Financial Counsellors?

Understanding why people won’t see Financial Counsellors helps us to consider these issues and work out ways to overcome them.

What we uncovered from our interviews with Financial Counsellors is, a big reason that people won’t come and see a Financial Counsellor is because they feel ashamed and embarrassed. They are reluctant to talk to anyone else about it for that matter too. What Financial Counsellors want them to know is that Financial Counselling is a confidential, free and independent service they can access.

Unfortunately there is a stigma attached to asking for help. As Financial Counsellors there’s a collective want to let people know that they see asking for help as a sign of strength.

When someone comes to see a Financial Counsellor, it’s an opportunity for Financial Counsellors to help by way of sharing options with people that they may have not realised on their own. The options Financial Counsellors share could make all the difference to a person’s situation and how they deal with it.

According to the Financial Counsellors interviewed, they think probably the biggest reason people don’t see Financial Counsellors is the fact that they don’t know that Financial Counselling is there and available for them. Compounding this issue, once they do know about Financial Counselling, they don’t know Financial Counselling is a free service. 

It’s always hard to put your hand up for help particularly when you’re not sure how your request for help is going to be received. While this reason may be a valid concern, when it comes to Financial Counselling, Financial Counsellors are non-judgemental and here to work alongside people to help empower them to resolve their financial issues.

Other people have this misconception that Financial Counselling may only be for the poor or that they’re not eligible because they’ve had a house and a business and good jobs and haven’t been on welfare for instance. 

For some people it’s not accessible if they come from a culturally or linguistically diverse background.

According to Financial Counsellors interviewed, they notice there’s a lot of stigma that Financial Counselling would indicate that you’re not good at managing your money. But that’s not the case because anyone can end up in hardship.

As Financial Counsellors they cannot stress enough that Financial Counselling is available for anyone who finds themselves in financial hardship.

What do you wish people knew about Financial Counselling?

Financial Counsellors are passionate people. A key thing that stood out in the interviews is that they wish people would know that Financial Counsellors exist and that they can come and ask for help and that they shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

“I’d love people to know that there’s lots of options that they may not realise that could help them.” 

I wish people knew that Financial counselling is free. It is probably the first and most important thing and once they know that, I’d love them to know that it’s unconflicted and independent.

Financial Counsellors will journey alongside you, all decisions rest with the client, they are not going to be told what to do.

Financial Counsellors are community based. Most Financial Counsellors work and live in the community that they serve. 

A Financial Counsellor is non judgmental. You can present your circumstances as they are and you’re not going to be judged by the situation that you’re currently in.

Financial Counsellors know lots about lots of different legislations, specifically credit laws. 

I wish people would know that if you’re going to look for Financial Counselling you come as early as you can.

Financial Counsellors love to help people and that’s why they get up and that’s why they do it every single day.

Why do people see Financial Counsellors?

People come to see Financial Counsellors for lots of different reasons. It can be there isn’t enough money coming into the household to get by. There might be sudden ill health where they’ve lost their job. 

There might have been a relationship breakdown or a family breakdown, when there’s been a change in their circumstances and they need help to get back on their feet.

Often they may also have rental arrears or difficulty buying food for their family. Some people come for the early stage budgeting. Other people come at the end of the road and they’re looking at bankruptcies. 

Other people see Financial Counsellors who have lost income because of illness or the recent floods and fires. The reason to see a Financial Counsellor can also be due to other stressors such as domestic violence, marriage breakdown or divorce, or another type of relationship breakdown.

People might have some financial legal issues. They might be struggling to pay a bill. They might even have some fines. There really are so many reasons people can come to see Financial Counsellors. The important thing to note is no financial issue is to big or too small for someone to reach out for help.

What’s the best part about being a Financial Counsellor?

I really love the way that, together we can come up with solutions that the person themselves had never thought of or didn’t know existed. 

The biggest thing that shines through with the interviews of Financial Counsellors is their passion for what they do.

I think every day is a bit satisfying, seeing the relief on people’s faces because they’ve finally taken control of the situation. And I like the fact that financial counselling is very much time bound in general, and you can get concrete results that can turn someone’s life around. Literally.

Consistently the common connection with each Financial Counsellor is their connection to the outcome they provide.

The most satisfying part is the outcome hope that we provide. It’s really satisfying to be able to help someone and not render an invoice.

Why is it important to have Financial Counsellors?

Now more than ever, is a time that Financial Counsellors are needed the most. Given the current economic situation we’re in, with the rising cost of living and the Reserve bank putting up interest rates, this has brought new challenges. Rents going up, groceries, increases in the price of food at the supermarket, fuel, energy, there are many stressors.

A lot of people have been affected by natural disasters. The economy as a whole is not doing so great. And there’s people out there who need a helping hand to see that light at the end of the tunnel. It’s really important that people who are particularly under stress know what their options are in a non judgmental environment.

I can’t think of any other profession that is so focused on the best outcome for an individual. That’s a completely free and professional service. Financial Counsellors can give people time to breathe and to work out a realistic way forward.

How do Financial Counsellors help people?

Listening is a super power that Financial Counsellors focus on having and developing consistently.

As a Financial Counsellor, I think I’m able to help people in many ways. One of the main ways is that we listen. I think for people who come to see us, a lot of them have never told their story to anyone. No one comes to a Financial Counsellor and says, look, the rest of my life, brilliant, because my finances are in a mess.

One of the biggest benefits of Financial Counselling is helping people who really do not know which way to turn as far as a financial problem is concerned. Sometimes people think it’s pay or not pay, but there’s a range of options that we can work with. Financial Counsellors help identify what the financial issues and the support services that might be needed.

And sometimes that means that Financial Counsellors negotiate with creditors, government agencies. It’s important to note that Financial Counsellors can only help as much as what the person wants to help themselves. Financial Counsellors can help them with a plan, and then help them implement that plan and work through with them to improve their financial situation.

What are some of the myths about Financial Counselling?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is people are expecting Financial Counsellors to know all of the answers, or to make decisions for them, whereas we’re really very much about providing the options. 

People can sometimes think Financial Counsellors are going to tell them what to do, how to spend their money, what they shouldn’t be spending their money on. Financial Counsellors don’t do that. Financial Counsellors gather information to help people make informed decisions.

People think they have to pay money to see Financial Counsellors, but Financial Counselling services are free. And because they’re free services, people often think that there’s a catch. There isn’t. 

Probably the biggest myth we have at our Financial Counselling agency is people ring up and they think we’re financial advisors. But in actual fact, we don’t give advice, we give options. 

There is a perception amongst some that Financial Counsellors are miracle workers who can just sort of snap their fingers and waive debt. This isn’t the case. Financial Counsellors help gather facts and information so circumstances can be reviewed and options can be fully considered. 

Many people think that Financial Counsellors are just the budget people. But, as much as Financial Counsellors love a good money plan, there’s a lot more to our Financial Counselling role than that. A budget helps to tell a story and that’s a great place to start so all options can be considered.

Who are Financial Counsellors?

A Financial Counsellor is a free, independent professional.

A Financial Counsellor is somebody who’s non judgmental, empathic and a problem solver. A Financial Counsellor helps people who are experiencing financial difficulties and they basically will lay out what the options are that a person has in that situation, what the pros and cons of those various options are and we incorporate some financial, business and accounting skills and perhaps, provide advice, listen to your stories, and work alongside you.

Financial Counsellors are there to walk alongside people, to look at what is important to them, and to help them navigate the way forward.

To get support and book in to see a Financial Counsellor contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.