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FCAB Convening: Time for Social Work to Make Cents

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The Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis and the Financial Social Work Initiative at the University of Maryland have announced a convening scheduled for April 8-10, 2015. Scholarly submissions are solicited with a deadline of July 31, 2014. The Financial Capability and Asset Building (FACB) convening has two expressed goals:

  1. To advance FCAB in social work education, practice and research; and
  2. To strengthen networks of FCAB scholars, educators, professional associations, and funders.

Financial capability and asset building are a major component of an overall strategy for social and economic justice in the social work profession. It seems timely as the nation and the world continue to work out of the Great Recession. Yet, this initiative is a traditional hallmark of social work practice since its origins.

From the call:

Although social work has made important strides by contributing to FCAB scholarship and education, the need for evidence based practice is essential (Birkenmaier, Kennedy, Kunz, & Horwitz, 2013; Jacobson, Sander, Svoboda, & Elkinson, 2011). Social work has a unique opportunity for leadership in helping financially vulnerable families gain a secure economic foothold. In this way, social workers can renew their historical commitment to people’s financial well-being.

IMG_2848The FCAB sponsors will cover transportation and lodging for one author per accepted paper. They will also provide a $500 honorarium per paper presented. I have been working with financial concepts in social work education for the last 3 years, and I am excited about this event. But, I realize that others may not be so enthusiastic. Allow me to provide a couple of points that may change your mind.

Accessible Content

Throughout the financial crisis that swirled into the Great Recession, I often heard the phrase, “These financial instruments are very complex and hard to understand.” Pundit after pundit would recite the line. Interviewer after interviewer would allow guests, financial services professional and economists, to dodge questions by using the phrase. I grew increasingly offended at the assertion that I would not be able to understand the definition of a credit default swap or a complex derivative. Turns out, the definition was simple.

What we face as social workers are individuals, many of ourselves included, at the other end of that discussion, and efforts like the FCAB Initiative can provide a structure for our game plan. We can take the opposite view contrary to the pundits during the crisis and move towards creating accessible content and resources for social workers, financial counselors, and community professionals. We can educate our clients about the financial system from banks to bonds and from pennies to pensions.

Social Work & Financial Literacy Fit

The role of Social Work in the context of financial literacy is two-fold. First, social workers increase the client’s ability to navigate the fiscal environment including financial goods and services. Second, social workers broker and inform clients about local, regional, and national resources, processes, and redress available to them.

The navigation role is critical to asset building. In my work with my clients, I often find that though the lack of money is a significant barrier, money that could be used for the benefit of the household is stolen by fees, overpayment, and poor tax preparation. Some authors blame the need for immediate gratification, but I have found that the lack of knowledge is even more of a problem. For example, most clients, and many of my students consider it a given that one would pay a down payment when purchasing a car. This is not necessary when financing, but they do not know—so they pay.

The broker role is important because providing the information is not enough. I have observed clients who know better, but for whatever reason suspend their better judgment in order to complete a transaction. Of course, salespeople understand willpower and choice behavior. Social Workers can work with clients to operate more sustainably and make choices that will stand the test of time. A simple example: never go grocery shopping when you are hungry and without a grocery list. A more complex example may find a social worker traveling with a client to shop for a car. They begin by outlining a household budget. Then, they schedule time at a bank to determine financing that is reasonable afterwards walking together to the car lot to select a vehicle within budget.

If you would like to participate with FCAB:

Please submit 500 word abstracts (not counting references) that include a title, background, methods, results and implications, along with full contact details, and any questions to Margaret Sherraden (msherraden@wustl.edu) or Julie Birkenmaier (birkenjm@slu.edu). Papers should adhere to the standards of APA (6th edition).  High quality manuscripts will be considered for a proposed special issue of an academic journal.  The submission deadline is July 31, 2014.

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Dr. Michael Wright: Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is a Social Work Helper Contributor. He offers his expertise as an career coach, serial entrepreneur, and publisher through MAWMedia Group, LLC. Wright has maintained this macro practice consultancy since 1997. Wright lives in Reno, NV.

          
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