There was a time in my life, certainly during all of my childhood, when my mother (and I as a young adult) could not afford to pay for a personal physician. Her options: Go without her and her children seeing a doctor, relying on do-it-yourself home remedies, or rely on free clinics and emergency room services. Of course, she knew that gaining access to the best medical care, while not always available, was in the best long-term interest of herself and her family.
Similarly, many of us know that we need financial advice from qualified professionals, but we often feel we cannot afford it. However, just as with health care, in the long run, you really can’t afford to be without solid financial advice and planning with help from an expert. So, your ultimate goal should be to create a budget that will allow for you to pay for a consultation with a certified financial planner or chartered financial advisor at least once or twice a year. In the meantime, however, know that there are free and low-cost “clinics and emergency room” options available to you, and you should aggressively pursue them, rather than take no action at all to manage and improve your finances.
Here are three options:
See what’s offered by the government. Many local, state, county and federal agencies have websites, programs and even free one-on-one counseling resources available to its citizens. For example, New York City offers resources via its Office of Financial Empowerment at NYC.gov. Check to see what’s available where you live by checking the websites for your city, county and state.
Find a counselor accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. I consider this the emergency room for people in deep trouble with their credit, lots of debt, or other financial challenges, but you don’t have to wait for a financial crisis to take advantage of their services, which are either free or very affordable, depending on your situation. Find a counselor by going to DebtAdvice.Org.
Take advantage of Financial Planning Days, a program which offers free one-on-one counseling and seminars from certified financial planners and other financial advisory pros, who are volunteering their time at no cost to you. Go to FinancialPlanningDays.org for dates and locations.
A recent survey of attitudes about financial planning by TIAA-CREF reveals that while many people know they need financial planning, many fail to get it because they fear they can’t afford it. Don’t let that be you. Taking advantage of free and low-costs resources available to you today could be the key to you improving your financial situation enough to pay for the expertise you need to protect your financial health in the long run.