So you’re looking for help with managing your finances. There are plenty of places you can find free financial advice.
But is it worth it? Is there a catch?
Let’s look closer at the pros and cons of getting free financial advice.
The Pros of Free Financial Advice
To state the obvious – it’s free! Many financial counselling services are funded by the government and have no fees, charges or commissions for clients.
There is an abundance of free financial advice available for you to access. The most important thing is finding credible sources. So we’ve compiled a list to guide you:
- Financial counsellors: If you need assistance with your debts, you can receive information, support and advocacy from an independent financial counsellor at Financial Counselling Australia.
- Financial planners: These advisors provide investment advice, and your first consultation with most financial planners won’t cost you anything.
- Government agencies: The Department of Human Services’ Financial Information Service, ASIC’s MoneySmart and the ATO website.
- Mortgage brokers: You can get free advice from a mortgage broker on getting a home loan, saving for a deposit, and even how to make yourself look good on paper to a lender.
- Your superannuation fund: This can be a good source of general advice. Financial calculators can help you to budget and work out the right level of insurance cover.
- Free seminars: The Department of Human Services holds free financial seminars across the country to provide free advice on money management, borrowing to invest, retrenchment and retirement. You can find out more on their website.
- Reputable websites: While there are countless websites that offer financial advice, you want to ensure that you are relying on credible sources only. Along with government agencies mentioned above, there are comparison websites such as mozo.com.au which have financial guides and calculators. The ASX website is a good resource for advice on investing in shares.
- Family and friends: Sharing knowledge amongst family and friends can provide a wealth of financial resources, recommendations and lessons learnt. Do keep in mind, however, that you aren’t necessarily speaking to a professional, and remember that their situation is different to yours, so it pays to do your own research too.
While free financial advice is usually more general in nature (as opposed to more specific advice which often requires payment), you may be able to gain enough knowledge from the free advice to get out of debt.
The Cons of Free Financial Advice
There is merit in the saying, “you get what you pay for”. It is important to be aware of the qualifications of the person providing you with financial advice, whether it is a free or paid service.
You can ask your financial adviser for their representative number, and check it on ASIC’s financial advisers register. This register also lists the types of products that the registered adviser is authorised to provide advice on.
It’s important to be aware of who is paying your financial advisor. Financial planners that are paid by commission may be biased, which could lead to them selling an unsuitable product.
Alternatively, they may have their consultation expenses built into the loan they are selling, which means that it will cost you more in the long run. You can ask your financial adviser how they are paid, and if they get paid for selling you a product (loan).
With concerns of bias in mind, you may find that you aren’t able to take free financial advice seriously.
Either way, do your homework, and only act on advice that you trust and that makes financial sense for your individual situation.