Every day, you make decisions that guide you down your financial path.
If you’re unsure of which choices you should make with your money, you are not alone. Knowing who to turn to during the good times, bad times, and all other moments in between can be invaluable when trying to reach your financial goals. Based on your past decisions, current situation, and plans for the future, you can utilize trusted resources to choose your own wealth adventure! Use this article to determine which paths may be best for you going forward.
What is financial counseling and who should you trust?
There are many resources that can be found on the internet, but finding reputable, secure counseling can be challenging. Seeking financial guidance can be easier if you reach out to your financial institution to see what services they offer or who they recommend. Usually, your credit union or bank will have a partner organization or offer counseling in house. If you do choose to research possible counselors online remember that if they seem too good to be true, they probably are. Red flags would include promises of making debts disappear or raising credit scores through vague practices and for a large fee. A counselor may charge a fee, but they will work alongside you to impact your entire financial picture. If they are only promising to get rid of a past due account but are not interested in discussing your budget, there’s a good chance they may be neglecting other parts of your personal finances.
Who needs counseling and why?
Do you only take your car to a mechanic for a tune-up when it stops running or do you go in for regular maintenance? Part of being a car owner is being responsible for regular oil changes, tire rotations, etc. The same concept can be applied to your finances. Financial counseling is important not only for money struggles but also for large life changes that can affect your finances. Are you expecting a child and need to restructure your budget to afford daycare? Did you get a large bonus and are debating which debts to pay down? These situations may not seem dire but having someone knowledgeable to talk to without fear of judgement can help you feel more confident in your financial choices.
What is financial planning?
Once your debt, budget, and savings goals are underway, you may start to wonder where financial planning comes in. Financial counselors help fix past mistakes and get your spending under control. A planner will help you shape your financial future by discussing your options for saving, investing small or large sums of money, and asset protection based on your needs and life goals. This could mean anything from purchasing life insurance after the birth of a child to managing investments. Try to think of the planning process as that final destination on your financial adventure as this stage usually means you have mastered your daily spending and borrowing habits. If you are looking for a trusted financial planner, ask your local credit union if they offer services or referrals.
Bringing the pieces together.
Once you have followed guidance given by a financial counselor, and are working with a financial planner, your work is still not done. Personal finance requires some vigilance, a little creativity, and a lot of dedication. You can retain the financial freedom you have earned by monitoring your credit history (for fraud or errors), regularly evaluating your budget and refinancing debt when rates are low. To learn more about these and other personal finance topics, visit our education page for more FITMoney articles.