I struggled with the topic for this post because there are different types of financial counseling one might need, yet it would involve more than one person typically. The truth is that most people need financial counseling in one way or another, sometimes multiple ways. Whether it’s to make money or save money or not get penalized in some fashion because of how you used your money.
Make sense? If not, don’t get discouraged, because here are 5 reasons why you might need financial counseling, and what type of counseling you might need.
1. You need to be put on a budget.
Do you make pretty good money yet never seem to have enough to last you until the next time you get paid? Are you making little money and struggling to survive?
You need someone to help you set up a budget. Only by setting up a budget can you possibly know how much money you actually have to spend, where you’ve been spending it, whether you have enough left over to save or buy things you need or want that are outside of the budget and, believe it or not, find some peace of mind.
It could be an accountant who you go to for help, or maybe an independent person who works with you to help you to set up a budget. For a little more per month you can employ them to pay all your bills for you if that’s something you keep forgetting to do, although it would probably be smarter to set it up with your bank to auto-pay your bills… if you’ve done your budget and actually have enough money each month to take care of them.
2. You have your own business.
When you’re a business owner with employees or a sole practitioner, you want to spend your time marketing and working your business. You don’t want to have to spend time keeping track of receipts, trying to figure out quarterly taxes and the like.
The best part about having someone else tracking these things is that it frees your time up so you can concentrate on your business, no matter what it is. You can pay someone to manage your books and expenses. You can pay someone to process your payroll.
You might also need a business consultant to help you figure out what else you can push off on others. For instance, you might want to find out if you can afford someone to do some housekeeping, cut your grass, shovel your snow, answer your phones or even pick up your dry cleaning. You might even need someone to help write your content if you have a blog. 🙂
3. You’re being hassled by bill collectors.
In this case, you’re not sure if you have enough money or not, but the pressure’s growing. Your first step should be Consumer Credit Counseling, which is in every major city. They’ll help you look at all of your bills to see if you’re making enough to pay your bills and still survive or not. The best thing about them is their evaluation is free.
Of course, we have to use that word budgeting again because it’s the first thing CCC or anyone else will do. If you’re lucky these folks will also call your creditors and try to work out deals on your behalf.
Any good financial counselor will do the same for you, even though it’s something you can do for yourself. The difference is that they’re not going to be emotionally involved and most of the time they’re going to know what to say to someone to help get you the best deal possible.
4. You want to put extra money away or start investing.
You may not need someone to help you put your money into a savings account but these days that’s little comfort and won’t help you increase your money any. If you’re talking about investing, either in something small like a CD or an aggressive money market account, you’re definitely going to need some kind of financial counselor.
I’ve known a few people over the years who felt that they had enough knowledge to invest on their own, and in today’s world it’s pretty easy to set up your own account at one of many investment companies online, although you need to be ready for a host of fees that will eat into your profits. Some people do very well… but it’s not often sustainable. It’s best to have a money manager who spends all their time reviewing the market and making the best decisions on your behalf.
This is one area where you need to make sure you can trust the person you hire to manage your money for you. There have been way too many stories about people like Bernard Madoff, along with athletes and musicians who have had the wrong people managing their money, not to do your homework in finding someone reputable. The best piece of advice is to interview more than one investor and make them prove how good they are by showing you their own portfolio… at least a good piece of it.
5. You want someone else to handle all of your money and just give you what you can spend, like an allowance.
It’s too bad you can’t always have your mother around to take care of these things, isn’t it? Accountants are great for this type of thing, but if your needs are relatively small and you can find one you can trust, find a bookkeeper instead.
However, you need to be smart about this one. Let someone else write out all your checks for you but you need to be willing to sign them all. This gives you the opportunity to see what you’re paying and keeping a handle on your money.
A good bookkeeper should be able to produce a monthly report of every bill they wrote up and had you sign, produce your bank statement matching up with each check, along with total amounts so you can keep track of everything and know whether you’re being cheated or not. Truthfully, if you’ve gotten to this level you might not even look at those reports, but at least you’ll have all your paperwork if you ever decide you need to hire someone else to audit your books.