Feeling overwhelmed by your money problems? Here’s some free expert help
If it feels as though you’re struggling with money problems, the best thing you can do is ask for help. You’re not the first person to get into debt, and you won’t be the last.
The sooner you get started on fixing the problem, the sooner you can put it all behind you.
It can be amazing how much weight feels lifted off your shoulders once you sit down with someone and lay out your situation. There are many, many people and organisations who are ready right now to help you, and it won’t cost you a thing.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has put together a really helpful list of people and organisations who can help you on their site. Here are some of the most useful ones.
Financial counselling is a free service offered by community organisations, community legal centres and some government agencies. Financial counsellors can help you solve your money problems in all kinds of ways.
They can suggest ways to improve your financial situation, see if you are eligible for government assistance, negotiate repayment arrangements with your creditors, explain your options and their consequences, including debt recovery procedures, bankruptcy and other alternatives.
They can help you apply for a hardship variation, help you organise your finances and do a budget, refer you to other services, for example, a gambling helpline, family support, personal counselling or community legal aid.
They can also help you deal with debts you’re struggling to pay, threatening letters or harassment by debt collectors, debt recovery through the courts, house eviction, disconnection of gas, electricity, phone etc, and uninsured car accidents, taxation debts and unpaid fines.
Use the ASIC site to search for a financial counsellor near you.
National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007
The free hotline is open from 9:30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. When you call this number you will be automatically transferred to the phone service in your state (opening hours can differ in different states). Calls from mobile phones may incur a fee from the mobile phone carrier.
You can also visit the National Debt Helpline website for information and resources that can help if you’re struggling with debt.
Credit and debt advice services
Other organisations can also provide a range of credit, debt and legal services to help you:
- New South Wales – Financial Rights Legal Centre 1800 007 007
- Tasmania – Consumer Credit Helpline (Hobart Community Legal Service) 1800 232 500
- Victoria – MoneyHelp 1800 007 007 and Consumer Action Law Centre 03 9629 6300
- South Australia – Consumer Credit Law Centre 08 8342 1800
- Western Australia – Consumer Credit Legal Service 08 9221 7066
For people in other states and territories, some community legal centres and legal services offer financial counselling, and credit and debt help. Visit National Legal Aid for more information or see free legal advice.
Financial counselling for rural businesses
The Department of Agriculture runs a Rural Financial Counselling Service to support primary producers, fishermen and small rural businesses that are suffering financial hardship. Call 1800 686 175 for details.
Debt consolidation vs Financial counselling
Other businesses provide services to help people struggling with debt but they charge fees and are really debt consolidation companies. They charge their fees either upfront or as a commission on the new loan. ASIC recommends that you 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.
Debt consolidation companies must be licensed by ASIC. Search ASIC Connect’s Professional Registers to check your credit provider has been licensed or you can phone ASIC’s Infoline on 1300 300 630.