Money advice doesn't need to cost you — try these 7 free resources
Of the many things you can learn at school, financial wellness—or how to handle money and understand how money affects your well-being—is not prioritized nearly enough.
Research from the Thriving Wallet (a partnership between Discover and Thrive Global) found that some 90 percent of people say money affects their stress level, with 65 percent who say their financial difficulties are piling up so much they can’t overcome them. Meanwhile, nearly 45 million Americans carry outstanding student loans, and nearly half of all Americans carry credit card debt and struggle with debt management. Since money is such a universal source of stress, that we neglect financial wellness as part of our education is a real shame. Dealing with these stresses can be a terrifying, isolating experience.
But you don’t have to tackle your money problems alone—nor should you. Whether you’re on campus, in a big city, or out in the suburbs, a myriad of in-person and online resources exist that can give you free money and financial advice, help you devise a plan to get out of debt, and safeguard yourself against future problems.
The seven resources listed below are free, confidential, and can really make a difference, wherever you are:
1. Make an in-person appointment
The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE) is a nonprofit built to help people across the country better manage their money. Over the past 13 years, CFE has helped more than 100,000 people reduce over $150 million in debt. The nonprofit and its financial advisors use a Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) model to help users to consolidate debt, to build up a better credit score, to create a budget, and to learn how to start saving—and it’s all confidential.
Check to see if your city offers FEC services and make an appointment here.
2. Hop on a quick call
If your city does not offer in-person counseling (or the prospect of an actual meeting to talk about debt makes your skin crawl), you have plenty of at-home options to help protect your financial future.
Consider the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), a nationwide organization that has been helping people get out of debt since 1951 through an array of services. Users take an online assessment and are then paired with an advisor. The NFCC can work with your creditors to consolidate debt payments into one monthly payment, helping eliminate collections calls and prioritize payments. It also offers counseling, helps with budgeting, and more.
Calling a counselor is confidential and does not affect your credit score. Make an appointment here.
3. Send an email
Sometimes it feels impossible to connect with an actual human being when it comes to getting financial help, but this list from the Financial Planning Association identifies real people who are eager to help you out, all organized by state.
These certified financial planners and providers offer pro bono services to anyone who can use some guidance in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This service is designed to be short-term, “no strings attached,” financial planning advice, and is best suited for one-off questions about your debt or loan payments and for advice on the best ways to go about paying it off.
4. Be wise on TikTok
If you’re already on this platform, you’re one step ahead! But instead of mindlessly scrolling your “For You” page, try searching terms like “#payingoffdebt” and “#personalfinance.” Or follow some of the many helpful accounts, like Tori Dunlap (@herfirst100k) and Parii Bafna, where you can find bite-sized financial planning advice in language we all can understand and actually implement.
5. When you don’t need compound interest mansplained
Looking for a space focused on female financial freedom? Savvy Ladies is the place to look. Designed specifically for those who identify as women, this nonprofit offers one-on-one phone sessions through its helpline, informative webinars, and a monthly newsletter to keep you in the loop on opportunities for assistance and important information for your arsenal on financial wellness and safety.
6. Get help knocking out debt faster
If credit card debt is your issue, consider using a debt consolidation service like Tally, an app that takes stock of all of your credit cards and can offer you a line of credit at a lower interest rate. If you’re eligible, Tally pays off your other creditors and, in turn, sends you one consolidated bill per month that covers all of your existing bills as a repayment plan. Even if you decide not to use the app, testing it out won’t affect your credit score, and it can have a huge positive impact on your bank account. You'll soon start to see improvements on your credit report.
Learn more about Tally here and about other debt consolidation apps here.
7. Connect with people who’ve been through it (i.e., virtually everyone)
This might seem fairly obvious, but if you’re stuck in a spiral over how much debt you’ve taken on, you might not be able to see what’s right in front of you: That you’re not alone. You undoubtedly have other people in your life who have either been through it or are currently going through it, too.
If you’re reluctant to share what you’re going through with the people you know IRL, you can join one of the many online groups and forums where people discuss debt advice and tactics for getting out of it, as well as offering moral support as you take on your own.
You’re not alone in this, and you will get through it.
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