Social workers assist people with a myriad of complex topics like housing, public benefits and health care. Would adding financial education be too much to ask of an already strained profession? Or might it be an essential piece that has been underestimated all along?

The Spring 2018 edition of NEFE Digest explores the concept of including financial education training for social workers. It draws from a research report produced at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis: Faculty Perspectives on Financial Capability and Asset Building in Social Work Education.

On any given day, a social worker could be helping someone find treatment for opioid addiction, placing a child in foster care, or leading crisis management after a natural disaster. While these might not seem to have much in common at first glance, there is a financial component underlying just about every situation a social worker might face.

At its core, financial education is about more than spending guidelines and credit scores. It’s about making informed decisions that will benefit one’s life now and in the future. Regardless of whether the challenge is getting affordable housing, finding employment or caring for the elderly — basic financial skills and understanding are critical to making the best choices. Training social workers to educate their communities about debt management, spending guidelines, opportunity cost and other personal finance concepts could improve decision making and outcomes in just about every area.