Navigate financial difficulties with a financial recovery plan
Financial Counsellor Zachary Wildy, who specialises in the financial needs of remote and Indigenous clients, believes being realistic and practical with your expectations around your financial position is important no matter where you live.
August 2020 – 9.5 minute read
Key takeaways from this article:
- The role of a financial counsellor
- Other available financial help
- What’s involved in a financial recovery plan
- Resources and tools
- Top tips for managing money
Our QandA with Zachary Wildy helps explain the role of a financial counsellor and the information, tips, and resources they can bring to individuals and families who may be experiencing financial issues.
What’s the role of a financial counsellor?
Zachary: Formally, the role of a financial counsellor is to provide information, advocacy, and referral services to individuals and families experiencing financial hardship. Put more simply, financial counsellors help people to find solutions to their money problems.
This could involve anything from helping people with budgeting or learning money management skills, all the way through to more complex matters like advocating for debt waivers or assisting someone to file for bankruptcy and helping them find hardship assistance. Where needed we will refer people to other services for support, e.g. with mental health, domestic violence, or drug and alcohol issues.
Our primary focus is on addressing root causes to hardship and building the financial capability and wellbeing of our clients and helping them to achieve a more comfortable and sustainable financial position. We often work collaboratively at regional, state, and national level with other financial counsellors and agencies to advocate for change in the more systemic drivers of financial difficulty.
We asked Zachary to tell us about where he works?
Zachary: Broome Circle is a not-for-profit organisation that has been operating since the late 1980s when a group of local women began meeting together to overcome feelings of isolation that they were experiencing living in such a remote place.
Since then, Broome Circle, which operates across the Broome Shire in the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia, has grown to be one of the most prominent organisations in the region. It not only receives funding for a number of formal programs, which span community development, childcare, volunteering, and financial capability, but also hosts and supports a number of community-based activities and initiatives.
Of the formal programs at Broome Circle, the Money Support Hub is the largest. The Hub employs two full- time financial counsellors and four financial capability workers. The Money Support Hub supports the Broome community by providing both walk-in and appointment-based sessions five days a week, and runs workshops both in-house and in conjunction with other community organisations and services.
The Money Support Hub also conducts regular outreach services to the Indigenous communities of Ardyaloon, Beagle Bay, Bidyadanga, Djarindjin, and Lombadina.
Is there other available financial help?
Zachary: Aside from the support of a financial counsellor or financial capability worker (more on how to get in touch with one of these later!), there is plenty of help available for people wanting to take control of their financial position.
A great starting point is ASIC’s MoneySmart website. This provides a huge amount information, tools, and resources that will not only help those experiencing financial difficulties, but also those who want to improve their financial literacy.
These days, most banks, finance companies, telcos, and utilities companies will have a dedicated financial hardship/financial assistance line that offers a range of options to address common financial problems. (You can contact Westpac on 1300 558 724).
How can people find a financial counsellor in their local area?
Zachary: One way for people to find a financial counsellor in their area is to call the National Debt Helpline (NDH) on 1800 007 007. The NDH can not only find you a financial counselling service but can also provide information and support.
What’s involved in a financial recovery plan?
Zachary: A good financial recovery plan should really be about bringing things back to basics and focusing on essential expenses, specifically housing, food, and health care.
Yes, it is important to make sure that your bills and debts are paid, but it is more important that you and your family have a roof over your heads, food in your stomachs, and are of good physical and mental health. Furthermore, once these costs are budgeted for, it is easier to see where your energy needs to be focused regarding other areas of your finances.
Separating wants from needs, prioritising expenses, and finding ways to either increase income or decrease costs are all critical to recovery.
What do people forget to do when it comes to looking after their money?
Zachary: Many of the issues that I assist people with stem from a failure to properly plan for the “curve balls” that life will inevitably throw at them. Financial planning based on “blue sky” scenarios is extremely common.
Sadly, it’s not always “blue skies” and being prepared for when things may go wrong is important, which is why managing your finances and having some money aside can really help.
How do you build relationships with your clients?
Zachary: Building strong relationships with clients is simple: just be genuine and show people the respect they deserve. Seeking financial help can take a lot of courage, so it’s important that people are treated with dignity.
How do you provide support as a financial counsellor around money matters?
Zachary: For many of my clients difficult or uncertain times simply mean that it is much harder to make ends meet. When incomes are reduced or expenses increase, affording mortgages, rent, servicing interest rates and personal debt, paying bills, and day-to-day cost of living expenses become a challenge.
Meeting expenses becomes a juggling act.
Consulting a financial counselling service can help by assisting people to untangle these problems. By helping clients to refocus on the expenses they think they should be prioritising, conducting budgets, and creating action plans to address debt, this can simplify the problem, reduce financial distress, and provide the client with the peace of mind they need to address any root causes.
What are your tips for managing money?
1. Stay calm – Although this is easier said than done, there are plenty of resources and supports available to people experiencing financial distress that can help. The main thing is that you make time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and explore the options available to you.
2. Seek help if needed – There is support available to people experiencing financial hardship, so if you are struggling to make sense of things on your own, reach out to those that can help. ASIC Money Smart website is a great start, and you can get in touch with a financial counsellor by calling the National Debt Helpline (NDH) on 1800 007 007. Most banks and other financial institutions now also have dedicated financial assistance lines that can provide support if you are going through challenging times.
3. Look after yourself – Yes, money is important, but it is not everything. Your health, happiness, and your relationships with the people that you care about are far more important. Make time to spend with your family and friends; eat well and get exercise; try and make sure you’re getting enough sleep; continue to enjoy hobbies that you like; congratulate yourself when you have small wins. If things get tougher, speak to your GP who can help you with a referral to a counsellor, or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help.
Resources and tools
Zachary: Regular budgeting is important when time are tough financially, as it puts your income and expense down in clear, black and white terms, reducing some of the confusion that can be caused when people just “wing it”. As such, access to an automated budgeting tool can be very useful (many of these can be found online). In the absence of this, a pen and pad will do the trick.
As I’ve mentioned previously, ASIC’s MoneySmart website is also a great resource and provides comprehensive information and resources for a range of simple and complex financial issues.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, having a good emotional support network (friends or family) or some sort of recreational release (e.g. sport or a hobby, music, meditation, etc) is critical. It is important that we have people and activities in our life that remind us that money is not everything.
You may find these useful
Things you should know
This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.
© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.