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What professional should I seek out to get financial advice on how to make ends meet with my current budget, expenses, and retirement accounts?

My situation is that life is hitting us hard and fast:

  • We don't have an emergency fund nor income to build one
  • Our car died and we had to get a new one
  • Expenses out of the norm are stacking up on our credit card

Hindsight is 20/20 and there's a hundred things I'd do differently. I'm at the point where the only solution I see to get us out of the negative flow is to cash in either my own or my wife's retirement early. I know that's horrible and that I lose a ton of money doing this, but I just don't see how we can make ends meet without doing this. I'm in my early 40's so there's time to right the ship so to speak if we don't capsize first.

Our budget after the new car (it's used, but new to us) balances to the dollar. We have no wiggle room.

Is there a some kind financial advisor that specializes in reviewing these circumstances and helping us figure out solutions or options that we don't know about? I think most Financial Consultants/Advisors deal with growing large portfolios of investments and that's not our situation.

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    If ends don't meet with your current budget, first thing to look at is where you can trim the budget.
    – keshlam
    Aug 23, 2023 at 17:48
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    If you have credit card debt, getting that down ASAP will also help from a cash flow perspective, simply by getting rid of the exorbitant interest cost.
    – Stan H
    Aug 23, 2023 at 18:02
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    Are you and/or your wife currently working any overtime or working a additional part-time job? A financial coach isn't going to magically make more money appear. They will help you trim your expenses, but if you have already done that on your own, you need to bring in additional money for at least the short term. Aug 24, 2023 at 13:13
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    It might be possible to get a loan which replaces the credit card debt and has a lower interest. That could make the situation better immediately.
    – DonQuiKong
    Aug 24, 2023 at 14:27
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    Im the US it is sometimes possible to borrow against retirement savings. This is generally not a good idea, but it may be an alternative to actually retiring and losing the salary income, which seems unlikely to be a net gain.
    – keshlam
    Aug 24, 2023 at 16:30

5 Answers 5

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Most of the people that describe themselves as financial advisors are investment advisors; they can help you invest your money for retirement, but are generally not prepared to help you with budgeting and debt reduction. There are financial counselors/coaches that can help for a fee, but sometimes they are more difficult to find. As Stan H mentioned in his answer, Accredited Financial Counselors is a good place to start looking for one.

As an alternative, many churches offer financial classes that are inexpensive or free, and usually have an interactive/counseling component to them. Probably the most well-known of these classes is called Financial Peace University, a class created by author and radio personality Dave Ramsey. This class is offered in-person in churches and libraries around the U.S., as well as virtually online. The class is geared toward people in your situation: those who are struggling with debt and expenses and are looking to make a new plan.

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    There are many helpful youtube videos related to financial planning and debt reduction. I do recommend the Ramsey videos as they helped me organize my budget and attack my debt when I felt I had zero wiggle room. His isn't the only method, but it is a good one. Aug 24, 2023 at 13:17
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A financial coach would probably be better suited to help you than a traditional advisor. The AFC (Accredited Financial Counselor) is the credential you'd probably want to look for in the US.

Yes, they won't be free (although you can sometimes find someone willing to do pro-bono work or a community-based entity that provides advice at no cost), so you'd have to ask yourself if the cost is worth it.

I agree with Keshlam that you and your wife need to take a serious look at your budget. Pulling money from your retirement accounts won't help if your ongoing cash flow situation doesn't change.

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In England there's a service called Money Helper, independently run, but funded and accredited by HM Government. They can offer impartial advice over the phone (or in person at various centres) on budgeting, benefits, housing, pensions & retirement, managing your savings and making your money work for you.

MoneyHelper is here to make your money and pension choices clearer. Here to cut through the complexity, explain what you need to do and how you can do it. Here to put you in control with free, impartial guidance that’s backed by government, and to recommend further, trusted support if you need it.

The site has a range of read-me guides as well as a live webchat. They can also set up appointments and follow-ups. It sounds like you'd be an ideal candidate for their "Financial Mid-life MOT"

The Money Midlife MOT is a tool to help you assess your current financial situation and plan for the future. Your personalised report will tell you what to prioritise and link to guidance on how to improve your financial wellbeing from midlife through to retirement.

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Self-help works even better if it is team-help. In other words, involve the whole family. This works expecially well in areas such as this one mentioned by another poster:

Make a conscious effort to eat 50-75% of your pantry in the coming weeks.

Food is a great area for wise use, and the whole family can have fun buying into it.

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There isn't much that a counselor can do which you cannot find readily available on the Internet short of taking over your budgeting so that you have no say in your finances.

Without knowing your habits, here are some ideas:

  • Keep a log of every single cent that you spend over the course of 7 days; both of you
    • Review and analyze this log but DON'T start finger-pointing. What's spent is spent. It should be a reflection of oneself to get an idea of actions moving forward.
  • Do you need to buy beverages when grocery shopping? Why not get used to tap water?
  • Are you actually eating all of the food you buy in bulk?
  • Is your pantry full of goods that you never eat? Make a conscious effort to eat 50-75% of your pantry in the coming weeks
  • Observe your lifestyle. Do you spend money on too many luxuries?
    • Dinner with friends
    • The best cable package
    • Top of the line cell phones
    • Frequent clothes shopping
    • Keep the house too cold in the summer?
    • Keep the house too warm in the winter?
    • Is that Amazon Prime account really saving you money or just enticing you to overspend because of "free shipping"?
    • Do you need name-brand foods?

The biggest goal for you is to put yourself into situations where you are not spending money.

You've likely been doing something wrong for years so you cannot fix your finances overnight due to unconscious habits.

Aside from these immediate changes you can start making, there could be larger discussions to be had such as:

  • Is your rent/mortgage too expensive for your finances?
  • Is your camper, boat, or lakehouse too much?
  • Does your child need to go to a private school?
  • Are the kids' sports too expensive?
    • Equipment, gas, snacks, etc...
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    Where did OP say they have a lakehouse and children, never mind kids in private school or sports?
    – stannius
    Aug 24, 2023 at 23:42
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    @stannius Right, that's the point of prefacing "Without knowing your habits, here are some ideas:"
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 25, 2023 at 12:35
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    @psaxton OP's need sounds dire so if they cannot find a counselor in time, cannot afford one, or get one that does the bare minimum then OP can see that their fate is in their own hands and willpower. Unless OP relinquished their financial budgeting responsibilities to a counselor then it's not like someone else will literally fix OP's problem.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 25, 2023 at 12:40
  • Which gets back to "cut the budget to what you can afford, no matter what you have to give up, or find additional paying work until you can afford everything" being the only answers that are more than short term workarounds. There is no magic answer to avoid simple mathematics. Yes, this can force some extremely painful decisions.
    – keshlam
    Aug 25, 2023 at 13:56
  • That changes the whole tone of the answer. I'll remove my previous comments.
    – psaxton
    Aug 25, 2023 at 18:38

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