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Five Best Practices for Lifespan Planning That Social Workers Want You to Know

Learn what social workers do and what they suggest for making a life plan for the lifespan.

What Is Lifespan Planning?

As the words suggest, lifespan planning involves anticipating and planning for your, or a loved one’s, needs over the course of life. You can think of it as a life plan for the lifespan. Ideally, social workers would like you to consider all the people affected—from the younger adults in the family to middle-aged adult children to parents in their senior years. Trained social workers can help you devise a plan wherever you are in the lifespan, and different types of social workers offer expertise in various areas.

Everyone has different needs with regard to finances, health, and retirement, and those needs evolve and change over time. It’s helpful to figure out what needs are most important now, and to envision what they’ll look like in the near and in the more distant future. As the saying goes, if you don’t have goals, you’ll never reach them.

Five Best Practices for Lifespan Planning That Social Workers Want You to Know

What Do Social Workers Do and How Can They Help You?

You might meet with a social worker while you’re still in college, or in your early 20s and just starting your career. At that point, you’d focus primarily on career counseling and on your financial goals. Social workers can also provide counseling on goals like fitness and healthy eating and make referrals to other professionals, including financial planners and attorneys.

In your 30s, you might be in the process of buying a home and planning for, or expanding, your family. You might need to enlist a school social worker for a child who is struggling with school.

When you hit middle age, in your 40s and 50s, you might be thinking about changing careers, or whether early retirement is a good option, or planning for your own or your parents’ healthcare needs. At this stage of life, you might be caring for an older parent. A social worker can help you with career, retirement, and advance healthcare decisions.

Five Best Practices for Lifespan Planning

Here are five lifespan planning best practices that social workers want you to know now:

  1. Face the facts. It’s never too early to consider the facts of lifespan, which naturally include life expectancy. How long are you likely to live? The Social Security Administration calculator can help you come up with an estimate.1 This, in turn, will help you figure out how to manage your finances. More on that below.
  2. Get support. It’s essential to take care of yourself, especially when you’re taking care of another person. A clinical social worker is trained to help you address personal issues that you’ll encounter in every stage of life—from your schooling to your professional career, to your health and that of your family—and can refer you to professionals trained in financial and legal matters.
  3. Talk money. Feeling stress about finances can magnify the impact of other stressors. Instead of sidestepping what might be a difficult conversation, tackle the subject head-on. Have an honest discussion about your budget and financial concerns with a social worker. You can expect to get solid, practical advice on next steps and referrals to other professionals, if that makes sense. Many people are living longer, healthier lives and you can start planning for retirement with tips from the Social Security Administration.2
  4. Hire help. Everyone can use a helping hand from time to time. If you, or an aging loved one, are at a point where you need help around the house, talk with a friend or social worker about where to find reliable employees. Consider the value of paying for help as well as the cost. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but what you do pay should be commensurate with the level of assistance.
  5. Embrace change. The ability to embrace change is much easier if you can find a way to cultivate positivity—and laughter. Taking a yoga, Tai chi, or other fitness-focused class can help you find the balance and calm to forge ahead. Fostering a healthy sense of humor, especially in stressful situations like caring for an aging parent in declining health, has rejuvenating powers. You might plan a goofy movie night at home or venture out to a theater to see a comedy show. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believed that amor fati, Latin for “love of fate,” is essential. “My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.”

Are you inspired to help others and effect positive change via a social work career? Walden University offers a variety of student support services and a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life to help you achieve your educational goals.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Social Work (MSW) program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

1Source: www.ssa.gov/OACT/population/longevity.html
2Source: www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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