You might not have wanted to click on this article. Thinking about debt can be a little scary and overwhelming, and all too hard. But we want you to know you’re not alone, and help is available.
Anyone can find themselves in financial stress at one time or another, through no fault of their own. Rising costs of living, relationship breakdowns, falling ill, being retrenched, a natural disaster, moving house. Life happens. And when it does, you might find yourself struggling to make that car loan repayment on time or take care of that utility bill.
A report released in April  revealed that more than a third of Australians are just trying to stay afloat until the next payday.
Credit card debt can be one of the biggest debt issues for some people. The findings of a report published by ASIC in July  are a sobering reminder that we’ve amassed more than $31 billion worth of debt on our plastic. And that’s only the amount accruing interest. This means that the average Aussie credit card account (and there are 14,000,000 of them) is in the red to the tune of over $3,000. At first glance, this may not seem like all that much, but debt can slowly build and build until it feels so big we can hardly stand to open our credit card statements.
If you can relate, you are definitely not the only one.
But there’s one thing you could do in this situation that would make you breathe a whole lot easier and sleep more soundly, that you may not have thought about. You could have a chat with a financial counsellor.
Just like that kind friend or relative who’s always willing to let you bend their ear when you’re in need of some wisdom, a financial counsellor is someone non-judgmental who can offer free and confidential advice on your financial situation. And even more than that, they’re also highly skilled, qualified, professionals whose guidance is completely confidential and unaffiliated with any financial institution. Unlike a financial planner or a debt consolidator, a financial counsellor will never charge you for their services or push a particular product so beware if you encounter an organisation or business trying to do just that.
There are around 800 financial counsellors nationwide. Each year they help over 230,000 people either over the phone through the National Debt Helpline, or face-to-face through not-for-profit community organisations.
Financial counsellors can and do change lives. There are many ways  in which they can help, including advocating and negotiating on your behalf with creditors; informing you of your legal rights on credit, bankruptcy and debt collection; working with you to develop a money plan; referring you to other relevant resources; helping you better understand your situation and the options available to you; and providing some emotional support. All without costing you a cent for the service.
With this kind of support at your fingertips, there’s really no reason why anyone should wait until the situation is dire before talking to a financial counsellor. Prevention is always better than cure so seeking advice from a financial counsellor should be part of any savvy pre-emptive strategy, rather than as a reaction to a circumstance where the going has suddenly gotten real tough. It doesn’t have to a big or complex issue, it could just be a question that will help you navigate the circumstances you are in.
Financial counsellors assist people from all walks of life for all sorts of reasons without any judgment. So there’s no need to feel ashamed or delay contacting one. If you think you might be experiencing financial hardship, or if you want to avoid such a situation, then it might be worth having a chat to one.
Visit the National Debt Helpline  website for more information.
Bank Australia is committed to only providing loans and credit to customers who can afford to repay debt. Customers who are struggling with credit and loan repayments are encouraged to contact our Hardship Team on 132 888 or visit https://bankaust.com.au/support/hardship-support/
3. We arrived at this figure by dividing the total outstanding balance of credit card debt of $45 billion (as reported in the ASIC report cited above) by the number of current, open credit card accounts (14,000,000 – also as reported in the aforementioned ASIC report).
4. https://www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au/getattachment/Corporate/Publications/Reports/Financial-Counselling-Makes-a-Difference-A-Collection-of-Case-Studies.pdf (see p. 4)