A Day in the Life of a Budget Adviser

This morning we arrived at work to the phone ringing. The caller had an overdue power bill. In fact, it was so overdue, that the power was due to be disconnected – tomorrow. An emergency appointment was made with Work & Income, and a budget adviser organised to attend for support. We made a call to the power company to keep them in the loop, and to find out more information about this family’s regular electricity usage.

Today we met with a young lady who is applying for a Summary Instalment Order. When she was working full-time she was able to afford to repay her loan and store cards, but when her hours were cut at work she found herself unable to keep up with the payments, and now she struggles to put food on the table after paying her bills. With her debt sitting at around $19,000 and unsecured, a Summary Instalment Order is a good option for her to regain control of this situation.

Today we helped a seasonal worker who is now off work for the off-season. He expects to be out of work for the next five months. He has applied for the Jobseeker Support benefit from Work & Income, and with some good pre-planning has paid his rates ahead for the first instalment. He was worried that he would not be able to keep up with his regular payments over the off-season. Together we looked at his expenses, and he identified some areas he could cut back on for a while. He decided to cut back his pay TV to a basic plan, his cellphone to a cheaper pre-pay option, and register his car for 6 months, instead of 12. We worked out how much he afford to spend on food each week, and a cashflow budget showed him how much he needed to save for his next rates instalment, and his daughter’s birthday in a few weeks time. When he left he was feeling more confident and knew, with some careful budgeting, he would survive the off-season.

Today we continued working with a man who has left his job due to illness. Over the last 6 weeks we have helped him to apply for assistance from Work & Income. We have liaised with his bank, and his mortgage is now on a 3 month repayment holiday. We have assisted him to apply for some of his Kiwisaver funds under the grounds of Significant Financial Hardship. When he had a very difficult week, when the money just didn’t stretch far enough, we supported him to obtain a food grant from Work & Income. Because of his health issues and ongoing medical appointments, we have helped him apply for travel assistance through the Ministry of Health. We have also referred him to a counsellor for extra emotional support.

Today we met a lady who has a gambling addiction. She came to us in tears when she realised she cannot go on like this any longer. She wanted us to take her EFTPOS card and stop access to her income. We were able to reassure her that we can help her. We are able to offer her Total Money Management – a service whereby we can manage all her money for her for a period of time – while she gets the help she needs. We have referred her to an addictions service. The counsellor will work with her to find ways to deal with her issues. They will also organise for her to self-exclude from premises that have gaming machines. With her permission, we will liaise with the addictions counsellor and ensure we are all doing what we can to help her on this journey.

Today we met with a young teenage mum, and her baby. As part of her requirements to receive help from Work & Income, she is required to complete a budget course. In today’s session, we talked about credit. What is credit? What does credit cost? How to read credit contracts, and what to look for in the fine print. This mum sat and rocked her baby in her arms. She asked questions and genuinely wanted to learn more. She had considered applying for a credit card, but now she is thinking twice about this.

Today we met a married couple, who both work full-time. They earn good money, but with a young family, and increasing costs, have found that their money just doesn’t seem to go far enough. We looked at what they both earn, and listed all their expenses. When we looked at their bank statements together they were able to identify some areas where they were spending more than they had thought, just because they weren’t tracking their spending. They decided they will track their spending week by week, and want to work towards a budget that covers all their regular costs, as well as planning for expenses such as birthdays, Christmas, school costs and a small holiday once a year. They are committed to learning to budget, to learning to plan, and to start saving so they can eventually buy a house.

Today we met some people who needed our help. We listened, we comforted, we reassured, we complimented, we negotiated, we liaised, we educated. Today we saw how difficult it can be for people to ask for help, and we, with our training, experience and own compassion were able to share our knowledge and skills to help. Today was a day in the life of a budget adviser.

(Cases referred to above are fictional, but are based on a fair representation of situations we deal with on a daily basis. All identifying information has been changed, and no references to actual clients were made).

photo credit: Piggy Bank Looking at Laptop via photopin (license)

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