University Libraries.

Topics in Social Work: Financial Literacy

What is Financial Literacy?

In 2004, the U.S. Senate passed a bill declaring April National Financial Literacy Month after a the Financial Literacy and Education Improvement Act was approved by Congress in 2003. Each year, organizations such as the National Financial Educators Council host events focusing on the promotion of financial wellness where they provide citizens with personal finance resources. President Bush's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy defined financial literacy as "the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being." As a result of the 2003 Financial Literacy and Education Improvement Act, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission was established. The Commission then created MyMoney.Gov, a website created to assist U.S. citizens in managing their personal finances.

But what "knowledge and skills" are necessary to achieve financial literacy? Financial knowledge relates to the bigger picture of how the American economy and financial markets operate. This means understanding unemployment rates, interest rates, how the stock market functions, and government fiscal policies. The skills necessary for financial empowerment are understanding how to balance a checkbook, manage checking and credit card accounts, and create a budget. MyMoney's Five Principles for financial goals are: Earn, Save & Invest, Protect, Spend, and Borrow.

How does this apply to the field of Social Work?

Social workers need to understand the various resources available to assist in the financial education of their clients. Social workers should also possess financial knowledge themselves in order to provide one-on-one education training if necessary. Providing financial literacy aid is necessary to develop the ability to assess one's own financial situation. If clients are educated on topics such as interest rates, creating budgets, and managing checking or credit card accounts, they will have a better chance of achieving long-term financial security.

For more information on financial literacy and training resources, refer to the variety of resources we have available on the subject below.

Government Documents and Websites


  • Karger, H. (2015). Curbing the financial exploitation of the poor: Financial literacy and social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 51 (3): 425-438.
  • Lim, Y, DeJohn, T.V., & Murray, D. (2012). Free tax assistance and the earned income tax credit: Vital resources for social workers and low-income families. Social Work, 57 (2): 175-184.
  • Marshall, G.L. (2015). Financial hardship in later life: Social work’s challenge or opportunity. Social Work, 60 (3): 265-267.
  • Tuominen, M.C., & Thompson, E.L. (2015). “There was no money left to save”: Financial literacy and the lives of low-income people. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 26 (2): 148-165.

Books Available at the University Libraries

  • Birkenmaier, J., Sherraden, M.S., & Curley, J. (Eds.). (2013). Financial Capability and asset development: research, education, policy, and practice. NY: Oxford University Press.
    University Library / HG 179 F4615 2013
  • Forté, K.S., Taylor, E.W., & Tisdell, E.J. (Eds.). (2014). Financial literacy and adult education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    University Library / LC 4219 F66 2014
  • Morrow-Howell, N., & Sherraden, M.S. (Eds.). (2015). Financial capability and asset holding in later life: A life course perspective. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.
    Dewey Library / HQ1061 .F526 2015

Need Additional Assistance?

Help is available! Contact Elaine Lasda-Bergman, at (518) 442-3695 or Appointments available - or drop in during weekly Social Welfare office hours from 5-8pm on Tuesdays.

Blog Created By: Kristen Thornton-De Stafeno
Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures

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