Financial Counseling 101

Financial Counseling 101

What is Financial Counseling?

Financial counselors help people learn to manage their own financial resources. As a process, financial counseling involves at least two people--the person who counsels, and the person or persons being counseled.

Financial counseling usually extends over a period of time, since most true change does not take place immediately. Ultimately all decisions are left to the person being counseled.

Financial planning involves setting financial goals and objectives, developing an action plan, and using assets to implement the financial plan.

Financial counseling, on the other hand, involves reorganizing financial management attitudes and practices so assets can be found for financial planning purposes. Financial counseling may be needed before financial planning can take place.

Financial counseling typically involves financial problem solving, setting immediate and long-range goals, cash flow budgeting, record keeping, and perhaps debt restructuring through negotiation with creditors.

Who Needs Financial Counseling, and When?

Whenever a change occurs, planned or unplanned, financial counseling may be needed. Better yet, seek financial counseling when change is anticipated, such as a new job or move to a different location, or retirement. Since change is inevitable, the need for financial counseling exists for almost everyone at some point in life.

Why is Financial Counseling Needed?

Often there is more than one reason to seek financial counseling. Many people lack the knowledge and skills necessary for successful financial management.

Personal financial management is generally not part of our education; most of us learn to manage finances through the school of "hard knocks" or personal experience, and from observation of how others manage money.

There are four financial reasons that motivate people to seek help. First are income-related problems, including unemployment, layoffs, underemployment, illness or accident, family abandonment, retirement, death, divorce, and irregular income.

Expense problems are the second of the four financial reasons to solicit financial advice. Expense problems include the lack of a financial "cushion" to help during an emergency, unplanned increases in regular and irregular expenses, and change in a person's or family's situation. Such changes include divorce, a new family member, a new home, or a different job for a breadwinner.

The third financial reason is credit use or general debt management. Using credit as an alternative source of income, setting up housekeeping, impulsive/compulsive spending, lack of sales resistance, and uninsured property loss are some of the credit-related reasons people want financial counseling.

The fourth reason to seek financial counseling is that society is more complex. We face a greater number of alternatives and choices when making financial decisions, and we seek help with financial decision-making.

Where Can a Qualified Financial Counselor Be Found?

All EquiShare Credit Union members have access to financial counseling as one of the benefits of membership.  EquiShare offers the 

BALANCE Financial Counseling and Education Service

 to all of our members.  BALANCE offers services online and over the phone for your convenience.

If you prefer the more personal touch, EquiShare Credit Union members also have access to our internal team of Certified Financial Counselors. They're available by appointment and their services are free of charge to members.  Even better, our counselors are never pushy about selling our products and services. Unlike most regular banks, our staff is not burdened by sales quotas, so we can focus on helping our members and our community.

If you prefer to seek your counseling elsewhere, here are some of the other places and people that might offer financial counseling as a service:

  • Educational Institutions: Cooperative Extension Service,
  • Business: nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Service, Inc.; for-profit debt adjustment or other businesses,
  • Financial Institutions: credit unions, banks, savings and loans,
  • Employee Assistance Programs: company-affiliated or community-sponsored,
  • Social Service Organizations: Department of Social Services, Family Service Association, Catholic Social Services, Lutheran Social Services,
  • Religious Organizations: ministers and their spouses, lay leaders, religious support groups.


Financial counseling is necessary for most people at some point in time, so don’t be shy about seeking the help you need when you need it.  One caveat: since anyone can call themselves a financial counselor, it is important to check that the counselor you have chosen is certified in their field by a reputable organization.


Posted 8/14/17 by CJA

Adapted from