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From the desk of the COTA Victoria Financial Counsellor – helping protect your rights

Have you, or someone you know, been doing it tough and getting behind with the utility bills? Or perhaps it’s the mortgage or rates? Are you worried that you won’t have enough money this fortnight to pay the car registration and insurance?

Or maybe you signed up for a phone plan and then the first bill came – wow, you had no idea that you would be charged so much. That’s not what the salesman said. You were told that this plan would save you money, not cost you an arm and a leg.

Are you scrimping on food or turning the heater off and going to bed early to keep warm and save money on gas and electricity? Or maybe you are going to the library or the shopping centre where it’s cooler – you can’t afford to run the air conditioning at home.

You worry about the bills and don’t want to answer the phone or open your mail. It’s all too hard.

There is help out there though – get support and advice from a Financial Counsellor. Financial Counsellors are funded primarily by government and their services are free and confidential.

A friend may suggest that you “consolidate your debts”. Be cautious and find out what services you are getting from these businesses and how much it will cost you. And, before you sign up with a debt consolidator, book an appointment with a financial counsellor.

HINT: The federal government, through the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), offer excellent information and resources on their Money Smart website about debt consolidation and money management.

Did you know that a financial counsellor can help you with all of the issues mentioned above?

We are able to help you get a clear understanding of your financial situation. We will listen to your concerns, talk over ways that you can start to get on top of your money problems. If you are worried about contacting your creditors we can (with your permission) advocate on your behalf.

COTA Victoria now has a financial counsellor available on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Call COTA on 9655 2100 to book a free and confidential appointment.

TIP: If you prefer to advocate for yourself with creditors remember the words ‘financial hardship’ and always ask to be transferred to the specialist financial hardship team.

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