Reeta Wolfsohn, CMSW, has dedicated her career to empowering individuals to take control of their finances in order to gain control of their lives. As the pioneer of financial social work, Wolfsohn has counseled social workers, community advocates, human service providers and consumers with a proven and positive method for achieving financial security.
The financial social work model is a psychosocially and behaviorally-based financial empowerment approach incorporating ongoing education, motivation, and support. Wolfsohn is the founder and president of the Center for Financial Social Work and the Financial Therapy Network, a North Carolina institution that has created and implemented interactive, introspective, holistic financial wellness programs for more than 20 years.
Historically, the majority of undergraduate and graduate social work programs have not included financial literacy or courses in personal finances. Wolfsohn brought the behavioral financial social work model to the University of Maryland as a continuing education training in 2008, and then as a graduate level course in January 2009. The University of Maryland School of Social Work developed a financial social work initiative (FSWI) and certification process to prepare social work graduates to help clients improve their financial capability through continuing education courses.
The Center for Financial Social Work has certified more than 2,000 social workers across the country. Wolfsohn’s Financial Social Work methodologies have been adopted in dozens of countries around the world. In 2017 and 2018, Wolfsohn provided a week-long Financial Social Work training for Hong Kong’s social services agency. Wolfsohn continues to certify social workers around the world. She creates free resources for social workers, including monthly webinars, to give back to the social work profession and allowing thousands of individuals to learn about these skills at no cost to them. Her webinars are viewed by thousands of attendees.
Wolfsohn continues to develop new theories, new models, new curricula, new programs, and new products to train mental health professionals in this valuable skill set.
Among Wolfsohn’s career highlights are creating the first Financial Social Work position at the North Carolina Department of Social Services and introducing Financial Social Work at the University of Maryland by Wolfsohn via continuing education training (2008). Wolfsohn taught the first Financial Social Work graduate level course at University of Maryland in January 2009 and added it to the curriculum at the University of Kentucky from 2011 to 2016.
Thanks to Wolfsohn’s model, NASW has approved the Financial Social Work Certification in 2013 and 20 continuing education contact hours have been awarded to all CFSW students who complete and pass the certification exam. The same Financial Social Work model, was researched for its efficacy in a three-year pre-post study by United Way, and was lauded as providing significant positive changes for participants and case managers; and there was significant improvement in the number of positive financial behaviors, reduction of debt, and improved self-sufficiency overall.
Wolfsohn owned her own party-planning company for 18 years in New York. At the age of 50, she graduated from Stony Brook University with her MSW. Observing the impact of financial stress on the clients’ physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing kept her searching and developing materials and methods for rethinking their relationship with their money and with themselves.
Her graduate thesis was on women’s issues. She created, and licensed, the word "Femonomics” (the Gender of Money) and created the Femonomics Institute in 1997 based on the fact that women earned less, are traditionally charged more for products and services, and live longer than men, comprising 75% of the elderly living below the poverty line.
Femonomics expanded into Financial Social Work in 2005, an approach that leads all individuals in the direction of financial wellbeing. The Financial Social Work certification evolved as Wolfsohn spoke at conferences and trained others on financial self-discovery. It was an organic process resulting from social workers and other helping professionals recognizing the value and the need for the work and requesting more details on how to include it in their work. Over time she created holistic solutions for improving financial behavioral health based upon a major psychosocial component addressing the financial thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, values, and experiences that contribute to financial behavior: how we earn, spend, save, share and borrow. This required eschewing macro-level themes and challenges (income inequality and disparity, oppression, economic justice, etc.,) for a more integrative approach of specific, original, hands-on client materials and techniques needed for financial engagement, information, motivation, validation, and support.
Significant Recognition and Awards
Wolfsohn’s work is taught at major universities and practiced worldwide. She has been a keynote speaker, trainer and presenter at many national and state conferences across the United States including the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA), Financial Therapy Association (FTA), NASW, National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and more.
- Encyclopedia of Social Work, Co-authored Financial Social Work, 2014.
- Journal of Financial Therapy: Practitioner Profile: An Interview with Wolfsohn Wolfsohn, CMSW, 2014.
- Social Work Matters: The Power of Linking Policy and Practice, NASW Press. Authored the Financial Social Work chapter, 2012.
- New Social Worker Magazine: Five Things Every New Social Worker Needs To Know About Money, Spring 2013.
- Social Justice Solutions: Interview with Wolfsohn Wolfsohn, CMSW: Center for Financial Social Work, November 2013.
- Social Work Today: Couples & Money: Financial Social Work to the Rescue, May/June 2011.