Financial counselor Chad Larimer has a small poster hanging on his office wall that reads, "If you're going through hell, keep going." It's a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, and it's an encouragement to all who find their way to his office. Don't give up. Keep going.

I visited Larimer a few months ago for a financial counseling appointment. It was part of a requirement for pastors taking part in a new initiative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The free visit took about an hour and was helpful. We talked through my budget and financial goals, and after the visit, Larimer emailed a report with suggestions.

I recently went back to interview my financial counselor and find out more about how his services could empower Post Bulletin readers and their families and friends. Larimer works for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota (LSS). LSS provides free financial counseling to clients, and it's available to all people regardless of faith tradition. It's truly meant for everyone!

Financial counseling is available for people with questions about student loans and student loan debt, housing and mortgages, debt management, budget counseling, and credit report reviews.

Earlier this year, LSS opened its financial counseling offices in Rochester, located in the United Way building downtown. Other LSS financial counseling offices exist throughout the state, and it's great now to have a local chapter in our region for those seeking in-person support.

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A new year is a good time to look back and look ahead. Here are Larimer's tips for heading into 2018 with a strong financial footing:

Track expenses weekly and monthly: This is one of the most impactful changes a person can make to improve his or her financial situation. Tools and tracking guides are made available at the initial consultation to help. There are also many free online tools and apps.

Check in with your Flexible Spending Account (FSA): If you have an FSA through your employer, ensure you've spent it all and there are no funds remaining that could be lost.

Reassess your savings goals: Are you truly saving what you want to save each month? Could you increase that amount? In looking ahead to next Christmas, Larimer encourages saving $25 or $50 per month throughout the year to prepare for next year's holiday expenses.

Review your beneficiaries: A lot can change over the course of a year (marriages, deaths, new jobs, separations), so it's important to make sure your current beneficiaries are updated and accurate.

When asked what he enjoys most about his work, Larimer says, "It's so rewarding to be able to help people." He has been in the position for 7.5 months and radiates encouragement and a non-judgmental presence.

If you're interested in a free financial counseling appointment with a Lutheran Social Services financial counselor, call 888-577-2227. Please pass this information along to anyone you think might be interested. The visits can be conducted over the phone or in person, and the scheduling office will get you set up with an appointment time.

Whatever your current financial reality might be, it's helpful to have another line of support to encourage you in reaching your goals. Consider contacting a Lutheran Social Services financial counselor. Help and a renewed sense of hope is only a call away.