How to Get Helpful Financial Advising for Free

It’s possible to find a free financial advisor—if you know where to look. Learn more about nonprofits and other organizations providing free and low-cost advising on budgeting, saving for retirement, investing, taxes and more.

Written by Rebecca Safier / July 1, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Although some financial advisors charge high rates, there are nonprofits offering free financial advising to consumers.
  • Organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) can connect you with a free financial advisor to discuss budgeting, saving for retirement and other financial goals.
  • If you need help with your taxes, check with the IRS or your state to see if you qualify for free tax preparation services.
  • To avoid financial scams, make sure to vet an organization before sharing any sensitive information.

If you’re struggling to pay off credit card debt or take control of your budget, you may benefit from working with a financial advisor. Some advisors charge a hefty fee, making their services out of reach for many consumers. Fortunately, there are nonprofit organizations and financial experts offering free or low-cost advice.

A financial advisor can analyze your situation, help you set goals and recommend strategies for improving your financial health. Whether you’re looking for guidance with debt repayment, investing, crafting a budget or something else, free help may only be a phone call or internet search away.

Free financial advisors for managing money, paying off debt

There are a number of nonprofit organizations and other programs offering free financial advising. One leading organization is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or NFCC.

Through the NFCC, you can schedule a one-on-one meeting with an accredited counselor. In 30 to 60 minutes, your counselor will review your finances and provide solutions for paying off debt or meeting other financial goals.[1]

Some NFCC services are free, while others charge a fee, explains Bruce McClary, senior vice president of communications at the NFCC.

“Each NFCC member agency is nonprofit and sets its own fee schedule based on the services they provide and other factors,” says McClary. “All of our members provide a mix of free and affordable options for people seeking financial education or credit counseling.”

The NFCC isn’t your only option for a free financial advisor though. If you need a helping hand with paying off debt or general money management, check out these other trusted options, too:

  • AFCPE: Through a program sponsored by Wells Fargo, the AFCPE offers free virtual meetings with an accredited financial counselor. You can sign up online and ask your counselor or coach for help with managing expenses, building savings, paying off debt or pursuing financial assistance benefits.

  • Financial Planning Association (FPA): The FPA is a leading membership organization for Certified Financial Planners (CFPs). In response to the pandemic, some FPA members are offering short-term, pro bono financial planning to underserved individuals, including low-income individuals and military veterans, through the FPA’s Covid-19 Pro Bono Financial Planning Program.

  • Foundation for Financial Planning: The Foundation for Financial Planning is another nonprofit organization with a mission to provide pro bono, one-on-one financial planning to those in need. Along with connecting you with a financial planner, it also offers a hub with links to free educational resources and workbooks to help you improve your financial health.

  • National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA): NAPFA encourages its CFP members to offer pro bono financial planning through its partner organizations. Its members also offer fee-only advising, meaning you’ll have to pay a fee but won’t have to worry about your advisor pushing products on you in order to earn a commission.

  • Savvy Ladies: If you’re a woman in need of financial advice, check out Savvy Ladies, a nonprofit that provides a free financial helpline in addition to webinars and virtual discussion series. After filling out a helpline request form, you’ll be connected to one of the organization’s volunteer financial experts.

Below are additional free advising resources for specific financial situations.

Student loans

With the national student loan debt totaling $1.76 trillion and counting, millions of borrowers are struggling with their education debt.[2] Whether you’re trying to pay your private student loans or worried about how to afford federal loan payments when the moratorium ends, here are some affordable resources that might help:

  • Federal Student Aid website: Federal Student Aid offers a wealth of resources on its website, including information on (and applications for) income-driven repayment plans, forgiveness programs and loan consolidation. Plus, you’re required to complete student loan entrance and exit counseling when you borrow federal student loans, both of which are crash courses in student loan management. If you have a problem with your student loans or another type of federal aid, you can submit a complaint to the Ombudsman Group, which may be able to resolve it. If your loans have fallen into default, you can also contact the Default Resolution Group for guidance on rehabilitating your loans.

  • Your loan servicer: Your loan servicer can also provide information on repayment options. It may help you avoid default if you’re struggling to keep up with payments. That said, loan servicers don’t always offer the best advice, so it could be worth exploring your options independently on the FSA website and, again, by speaking with certified credit counselors.[3]

  • Money Management International (MMI): An NFCC member and nonprofit, MMI offers a free student loan counseling session. If you’d like to sign up for additional counseling, it costs $39 to access its online portal and $99 to work with a live counselor over the phone.

  • GreenPath: GreenPath is another nonprofit counseling organization that offers both free student loan counseling and an enhanced service for $200. With this enhanced service, you’ll get a customized plan for paying back your student loans, and your advisors can submit documentation or contact your loan servicers on your behalf.

Investing

Some financial advisors require that you have thousands of dollars in assets to qualify for their services. Fortunately, there are far more accessible resources for investors who are just starting out. Here are some worth exploring:

  • Robo-advisors: Many brokerages offer online automated services to manage your investments so you don’t have to. They might charge a small fee for robo-advising, such as 0.25% of your account balance.[4]

  • Your brokerage: Investment service providers offer many free resources for learning about investing. Fidelity’s Learning Center, for instance, offers guides, webinars and online classes. E-Trade has a large library of educational content on investing, and TD Ameritrade offers videos, webcasts, in-person events and a podcast. While these resources won’t be specific to your individual situation, they can help you learn the ropes of investing.

Tip

If you’re new to investing, it’s a good idea to speak to a professional before opting for a DIY approach. A pro can offer guidance around how to maximize growth while minimizing risk. Plus, they might help you avoid gambling too much money on risky investments like cryptocurrency or NFTs.

Tax assistance

If you’re looking for help filing your taxes, these programs could help:

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA): This program from the IRS offers free tax preparation for people who make $58,000 or less, have a disability or speak limited English.

  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly: This IRS program provides free tax services for people aged 60 and over. It specializes in questions about pensions and retirement. You can request additional information by emailing tce.grant.office@irs.gov.

  • State tax assistance programs: Some states also offer tax assistance for qualifying individuals. The Boston Tax Help Coalition, for instance, provides free tax preparation for MA residents who make $60,000 or less. To find help, head to your state’s government website for resources or Google tax assistance in your state.

Housing, mortgage resources

Whether you’re struggling to keep up with mortgage payments or are looking for help with a down payments, these resources could offer assistance:

  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): HUD can connect you with a housing counseling agency in your area that can advise you on a variety of topics, including foreclosure and home-buying. You can search for your local public housing agency or speak with someone about avoiding foreclosure on your home.

  • Down payment assistance programs: Some states, counties and cities offer down payment assistance to qualifying home buyers—often first-time home buyers. Search for down payment assistance in your local area by finding your state housing finance authority through the National Council of State Housing Agencies or simply Googling down payment assistance in your state.

Legal aid

If you can’t afford the high fees of a lawyer, you might be able to find low-cost or pro bono help. The American Bar Association shares resources on where to find affordable legal aid or a volunteer lawyer. The Legal Services Corporation, an independent nonprofit, is another resource for tracking down legal aid in your area.

It’s always a good idea to look for local organizations that can help, too. If you’re in need of legal help with your student loans, for instance, student loan lawyer Adam Minsky suggests searching in your area.

“In terms of low-cost legal help for litigation, collection or bankruptcy matters, borrowers can contact their local legal services or legal aid agency to see if they qualify for free legal assistance,” says Minsky. “These legal services and legal aid typically have income guidelines.”

For example, the Massachusetts American Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers program offers free legal advice to low-income individuals.

How to vet financial advice, avoid scams

There’s a lot of financial advice out there, but not all of it is necessarily good advice. Plus, general advice may or may not apply to your specific situation.

Whenever you’re getting free financial advice, make sure it’s coming from a trusted source. For instance, you can check that a company is a member of the NFCC or similar organization, or verify a CFP’s credentials in the CFP database.

Never share your personal details, such as your Social Security number or bank account information, if you’re not 100% sure an agency or individual is legitimate. Some red flags of a scam could be that the person telemarketed to you over the phone (typically you need to call them) or that they’re urging you to act quickly without thinking things over first. Even worse, if they’re peddling too-good-to-be-true promises in exchange for upfront fees.

In the world of finance, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Tip

If your circumstances are complex, it may be worth paying for a financial advisor or lawyer. In this case, consider looking for a fiduciary who is not paid on commission and will have your best interests at heart. You can search for a fiduciary in NAPFA’s database or the SEC’s advisor search tool.

Article Sources
  1. “What to expect,” NFCC, June 16, 2022, https://www.nfcc.org/how-counseling-works/what-to-expect/.
  2. Melanie Hanson, “Student Loan Debt Statistics,” EducationData.org, May 30, 2022, https://educationdata.org/student-loan-debt-statistics.
  3. “CFPB Sanctions Edfinancial for Lying about Student Loan Cancellation,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, March 30, 2022, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-sanctions-edfinancial-for-lying-about-student-loan-cancellation/.
  4. “What Is a Robo-Advisor?” Charles Schwab, June 16, 2022, https://www.schwab.com/automated-investing/what-is-a-robo-advisor.

About the Author

Headshot of personal finance writer Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca has been writing about personal finance and education since 2014. Formerly a senior student loans and personal loans writer for Student Loan Hero and LendingTree, Rebecca now covers a variety of personal finance topics, including budgeting, saving for retirement, home buying and more.

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