Financial Capability and Asset Building: Reviewing and Recentering Interventions

Financial capability and asset building (FCAB) has become increasingly integrated into social work practice. As a Grand Challenge for Social Work, Improving Financial Capability for All has been pursued at every level: from direct practice to enhance financial stability, to implementing financial education and free tax return preparation programs, to advocating for policy for institutionally supported savings opportunities. Much of the intervention practice, research, and evaluation draws upon Sherraden's (2013) financial capability framework. Situating interventions within a broader trajectory toward financial capability enables holistic assessment of intervention outcomes. Interventions often target improving financial knowledge, skills, and behaviors through education, counseling and coaching, or state level policy change. Other efforts have been on promoting appropriate products for short-term and emergency saving and building assets. In assessing their efficacy, FCAB scholars are also committed to evaluate intervention delivery and outcomes. Indeed, recentering and democratizing efforts to improve FCAB requires critically assessing approaches that may reinforce problematic wealth-related narratives related to knowledge, gender, culture, and accessibility. This symposium will thus provide a broad survey of intervention approaches and their outcomes related to promoting financial capability. 

The first paper reviews the promotion of financial capability by social workers among families with children. Through a systematic review of empirical articles, emphases on providing financial education and money management were found to be predominant areas of focus; yet, missing were discussions of trust and appropriate methods of intervention facilitation. The second paper surveys a popular time-bound approach to saving money-using tax refunds. The authors assess saving amount and saving rate of participants and find relatively weak intervention impact and the need for more and clearer evidence. The third study assesses the relationship between rates of public spending on middle and high school student financial education and the use of alternative financial services. Results highlight differing levels of public investment and issues of potential marginalization in financial education outcomes based upon gender, differential needs, and reinforced disparities. The fourth study introduces the prevalence of financial interdependence activity - whereby financial assistance is provided to and received from individuals or families outside of one's household. The findings suggest that financial interdependence activity may perpetuate financial fragility, and ignoring the activity in financial education interventions can further marginalize those who practice it. The final paper presents a case study of a school of social work's program that provides financial coaching to mitigate students' financial crises and support successful degree completion. By blending emergency assistance, coaching, and access to tailored financial education, the program provides a financial capability intervention design that schools can offer to support student retention. Taken together, these five studies highlight ways to improve the delivery and outcomes of FCAB interventions, aiding the social work profession to recenter FCAB efforts on the financial well-being of marginalized populations.

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