If you’re feeling overwhelmed by rising interest rates and struggling to make ends meet, you don’t have to suffer alone.
The two national, not-for-profit services run free financial counselling helplines and chat services, to help individuals and small businesses navigate a way through financial hardship.
“We have seen the monthly repayments on a $500,000 mortgage rise by almost $980 since May 2022,” says Financial Counselling Australia CEO Fiona Guthrie. “That’s a massive chunk out of anyone’s budget and we are now seeing the fallout from this money coming out of people’s budgets. They are finding it harder to pay for other essentials – groceries, school fees and energy bills – and are feeling overwhelmed by news that further increases are in store.”
Ms Guthrie said it had taken some time for the cost-of-living pressures sparked by the rate rises to filter through, but the increase in calls to the National Debt Helpline had been pronounced in January and February, with a 29 per cent surge in calls and website visits compared with the same period in 2022.
“Financial counsellors are reporting that many people’s savings have now been eaten up, the mortgage buffers they managed to build up during COVID have been eroded and they are now struggling due to hefty increases in their mortgage repayments.
“We are also seeing tenants not only facing higher costs generally, but also grappling with hikes in their rent as landlords raise costs to cover their increased mortgage repayments.”
Ms Guthrie urged people to reach out for help from financial counsellors who could help people prioritise their expenses to weather the storm and help businesses deal with bill and cashflow challenges.
Financial counsellors provide free, confidential and independent advice. They know what support and options are available for a business owner or individual.
“We want people to know we’re here, we care and we’re free,” said Kirsty Robson, a counsellor who works with Consumer Action Law Centre for the NDH in Victoria. “We can help you prioritise your expenses to reduce the chance of missing that rates instalment or missing a rent payment.”
SBDH general manager Helen Davis said we tend to forget about small businesses being battered by rising rates, but many of them are going through the very same challenges as the wider community.
“Behind every small business is a person for a family, many of whom are really doing it tough and having to juggle competing personal and business expenditures,” Ms Davis said.
“We can go through their debts and cashflows to identify their options to help create a smoother and less anxious path ahead.”
Anyone in financial hardship can access financial counselling for free, without travelling anywhere or waiting for a face-to-face appointment.
Financial counsellors provide advice on a wide range of financial matters, including:
- Assistance accessing government grants and other relief
- Difficulties paying mortgages, rent or utility bills
- Negotiating with banks and other credit provider
- Accessing Centrelink payments
Anyone struggling financially can contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or visit ndh.org.au. Small business owners and sole traders can call the Small Business Debt Helpline on 1800 413 828 or visit sbdh.org.au.
CONTACT: Mike Bruce 0403 920 189 or [email protected]