A financial social worker is a social worker with additional training in debt, credit, and financial counseling. Some social workers with this additional certification work with people in poverty to help them tackle basic financial issues and, ideally, to improve their situations. Financial social workers may also work in private practice, helping individuals or couples deal with financial issues.
Financial social workers believe that poor money management skills aren’t the only reason why many people struggle financially. Many people also struggle to overcome the scars of their financial upbringing, especially if gambling, poverty, bankruptcy, or financial abuse occurred in their families of origin. Self-esteem issues and shame about financial problems are also common. Financial social workers have the counseling background to help people heal from the emotional and psychological origins of their financial issues, as well as the financial education to assist them with basic tasks.
Who Uses Financial Social Workers?
If you go to school online for an MSW, you’ll be prepared to pursue additional certification in financial social work. From there, you’ll be able to start a career helping people move beyond their money problems. In today’s troubled economic times, many of these people will be folks who are newly out of work and looking for resources to pay the rent, keep the lights on, and put food on the table.
Some of your clients will also be people who have struggled with long-term, even lifelong, poverty. These clients need help accessing public resources, but they may also need help with basic financial tasks like budgeting, opening checking accounts, applying for tax credits, and paying off debt.
As a licensed financial social worker, you might also choose to open a private practice. Your clients may not be struggling with unemployment or poverty, but may be individuals or couples who are facing other financial issues like oppressive credit card debt, financial infidelity, gambling addiction, or bankruptcy.
How Financial Social Workers Help People Solve Money Problems
A financial social worker may not have the same degree of financial training as a financial counselor, nor the same degree of psychotherapy training as a financial therapist. However, a financial counselor may bring in other financial professionals, including financial advisors and bankers, to speak with their clients and offer them advice.
Speaking with a banker or other financial professional can be especially helpful for people who have struggled to open a bank account or who don’t have a lot of experience with the trappings of middle-class financial life.
Most financial social workers focus on resolving underlying emotional and psychological issues that prevent people from managing their money well. It’s all well and good to learn money management skills, but for many people who are struggling with financial problems, there’s a deeper problem. There may be a gambling addiction at play, or the person may simply hold the erroneous belief that they don’t deserve to be financially comfortable or even prosperous. Financial social workers have the training in trauma and psychology to be able to help people address these issues.
For couples, financial troubles can stem from differing attitudes toward money. One member of the couple may be excessively frugal and refuse to allow the other partner to spend any money at all. This could spur the denied partner to, for example, rack up a huge credit card bill buying toys, clothes, or snacks for the couple’s children. With the help of a financial social worker and some willingness to work on their differences, this hypothetical couple could easily resolve their money problems.
Problems may be more serious than that, however. A couple may be struggling with financial infidelity, in which one member of the couple makes a major purchase or racks up outrageous debt without telling the other. People will go to great lengths to hide financial activities from their partner, including having credit card statements or loan repayment bills sent to a secret P.O. Box. Financial problems may also arise when one person in a relationship commits sexual infidelity and uses the couple’s money to buy gifts for or even to support an extramarital partner. When these sorts of problems arise, a financial social worker may not be the best professional to handle the situation, although one can help the couple make a plan for financial recovery if they so desire.
Financial social workers help people resolve their financial issues, either in the public sphere or in private practice. Often, these issues involve underlying emotional or psychological difficulties that make it hard for people to change their money habits completely. If you’re struggling to develop better financial habits, a financial social worker might be the person to help you change, once and for all.