Financial Empowerment for Social Workers
Financial literacy, including financial knowledge and skills, is more important than ever in the current economic climate. The numbers of households in the United States (U.S.) that are struggling to meet their basic needs for housing, food, education, and health care has grown due to increased poverty and lower levels of employment. According to the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality (2014), poverty rates in the U.S. are worsening. In 2007, poverty rates held at 12.5%, but by 2012 had climbed to 15% (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2014, p. 5). Social workers have historically assisted low-income individuals and families with economic concerns during times of financial crises (Rothman & Mizrahi, 2014) and are in a unique position to help clients with their financial concerns given their multi-dimensional focus and holistic approach. The Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) also directly references economic justice as a core component of social work education (CSWE, 2008, p. 1). However, if social workers are to feel comfortable with and effectively help clients struggling with personal finances, they must have education that prepares them with an adequate level of financial literacy, debt literacy, financial self-efficacy and comfort working with client finances for practice. This grand challenge asks social work educators to self-assess their level of financial literacy and create practical solutions to improve their personal level of financial literacy as well as integrate personal financial topics into their teaching and practice. Assisting individuals and families with financial matters is important in social work practice. Therefore, social work researchers, educators, practitioners, and students must be financially literate and have the ability to competently intervene in client financial matters to be effective.