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Careers in Social Work Financial Literacy

Careers in Social Work

Careers in Social Work: Suze Orman Talks Candidly About How Social Workers Can Get Smarter About Money

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Introduction to Social Work: An Advocacy-Based Profession, Third Edition by Lisa E. Cox, Carolyn J. Tice, and Dennis D. Long

"Social workers are vital to the fabric of the United States of America..."

Suze Orman is an outspoken, straightforward financial advisor who in the past has helped NASW celebrate its “March Is Social Work Month” and professional image campaigns. When Orman was young, she earned a social work degree, before her life took off in other directions. Although she never formally worked in a social work agency, Orman has enthusiastically promoted the profession, saying, “Social workers are vital to the fabric of the United States of America. . . . Those who enter the social work profession know about the low pay, so they need to ‘stand in their power’” (Wright, 2011). When Orman helped NASW celebrate Social Work Month in 2011, she discussed how her social work studies helped her understand how people think and feel about money and enabled her to talk about money on a personal level: “You have to understand people to understand money” (Wright, 2011).

Decent salaries can be earned in the social work profession, so she also offered social workers some financial advice. While not all people who complete social work education will become like Suze Orman, graduates who possess degrees in social work will locate meaningful work and be able to move from setting to setting quite easily. In some respects, social work is a business, and your degree is your ticket to success. 

As part of the Social Work Month 2019 series, NASW interviewed Orman on the NASW Social Work Talks podcast (Episode 27; McDonald, 2019). Some of the highlights from Orman's interview include the following snippets.

  • First, she tells listeners that “you are smart about money when you pay yourself first.”
  • Second, she suggests that people learn the tenets of saving—the three laws about living below your means, needs versus want, and getting pleasure out of saving versus spending.
  • Third, regarding investments, Orman says to have a Roth IRA: “Use the Roth 401(k)s or 403(b)s that your employer possibly has. Use the Roth model versus the traditional because when you're not making that much money anyway, the tax write-offs don't really matter. Also, make sure your money is all in a situation where, when you do need it in retirement, you don't have to pay any taxes on it. If you're going to buy a home, buy a home that's a small home that you can afford, that you have paid off by the time that you know you are going to retire. A number-one goal ought to be paying off a mortgage as soon as possible." She also discusses student loans and much more.


  1. What role can social workers play when working with clients to be financially literate and good stewards of their money? How financially literate do you consider yourself to be?
  2. What do you think about Orman’s crediting her social work training for her success, specifically in terms of her ability to understand how people think and feel about money?

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