When financial counsellors are better than planners


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When you find yourself in financial difficulty, a financial planner isn't the right person to help you.

They typically only want to see you if you have lots of money. So who do you turn to?

Last year around 11,000 Australians received free financial assistance from professional financial counsellors at Moneycare.

money trouble

Spread over 85 sites throughout Australia, Moneycare conducted 658 financial capability workshops for people who had run up debts and needed help.

Moneycare is one of the many significant social services run by the Salvation Army but it is relatively unknown. Participants enthuse about how Moneycare's supportive counsellors have helped sort out their difficult financial circumstances, describing the counsellors as "professional" and "compassionate".

For the past 10 years credit card debt has been the most common debt but personal loans, electricity bills, car loans, Centrelink debts, mortgages, phones and fines also plunge people into financial difficulties.

Soaring rents - making up around 37% of Moneycare's average client's income - and sharp increases in electricity prices have been tough for people. Moneycare's clients had an average debt of $91,018 over the 2016-17 financial year and an average total income of $35,672.

One couple explained: "You (Moneycare's counsellors) stood up for us in a situation that was completely out of our control. Very few people in our lives have helped us the way you have. You are an invaluable resource to our society and should be recognised for the vital service you provide for people in such stressful and difficult situations."

The Salvation Army has launched its Red Shield Appeal and this weekend is the national door knock.

The Salvos have a target of $73 million to fund projects such as Moneycare as well as 40,000 meals for the hungry, more than 17,000 beds for the homeless and looking after 7000 people who have addiction problems with alcohol, drugs or gambling.

"Over the last four years, $15 billion has been stripped out of the Federal Budget for essential welfare services in the community, whilst people on the lowest incomes continue to go without food and secure housing," explained Ian Darling, film maker of the documentary Oasis, at the launch of the Red Shield Appeal.

"We have such a long way to go."


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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.