If you are a social worker, you can absolutely become rich through prudent saving and investments over the long term.
While most social workers don't go into the profession for the money, everyone needs money to survive. The purpose of this article is to provide some solid paths for financial success to social workers who are helping the underserved and distressed in our society.
Although your income as a social worker may not be high as some other professions, there are definitely strategies you can use to put yourself into great financial shape. If you save and invest diligently from your income and couple that with additional money from your investments and other sources, you can accumulate enough wealth over time to become rich (even a millionaire). More on that below.
There are 4 ways that a social worker can become rich: (i) pick a higher-paying social working job and invest your savings; (ii) get a side gig; (iii) buy cash-flowing assets for extra income; and (iv) buy a passive side business.
We’ll cover each of these methods in detail below. The first option is the “safe” option and can provide you a nice retirement. The other three entail a bit more work (and maybe a bit more risk) but can grow your wealth far beyond what a regular social worker can typically achieve.
With that, let’s get into it!
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The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
1. Pick a Higher Paying Social Working Job and Invest Your Savings
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers make a median income of $51,760. That’s certainly a very respectable income and it's more than enough to become a millionaire over the long term (we will provide an example demonstrating this later on).
But you can get there much faster and easier if you earn an even higher income. There are many factors that affect how much you can earn, but the key ones seem to be (i) education level and area of specialization, (ii) who you work for, and (iii) location.
For example, a social worker who has a highly specialized degree (like a Ph.D) can earn on average $69,494 while a social worker with a general bachelor's degree in social work earns on average $31,327. Source
Who you work for matters too. According to the BLS, if you work for the Federal Executive Branch, the average annual income is $82,490. Compare that to the median income of all social workers at a little over $51,000.
Location plays a big role in how you much you can make as well. For example, BLS data shows that the top 5 highest paying states for social workers all average over $77,000 per year. The top 5 are Hawaii ($85,740), Massachusetts ($84,540), Nevada ($82,410), Rhode Island ($79,720) and Virginia ($77,060).
As you can see, there can be large differences in how much social workers make. If you want to make more from your chosen profession, you should bear these factors in mind.
Now, money is certainly not the thing that drives people to go into social work (far from it). But it does matter. The good news is that you can have a career of meaningful service to others while still being well compensated for it.
Saving Is Essential
Now that we have covered how to maximize your income, we need to discuss saving. It goes without saying that to use this strategy you must save some money each month. I would aim to save at least 10% of your income, although given the elevated income that some highly paid social workers enjoy, a higher percentage like 15% or even 20% is not impossible.
If you are struggling with debt and just can’t seem to get ahead with what you are making right now, check out my article on basic personal finance.
If budgeting is your problem, you can read my article on the 10 biggest reasons why budgets fail and how to fix them.
Investing Is Essential Too
If you have your spending and budgeting under control, the next step is to invest your savings.
Where to start?
If you are a beginner, I like Vanguard's total stock market ETF (ticker symbol “VTI”) and have invested a decent chunk of my portfolio in it. It gives you diverse exposure to the stock market.
Depending on your risk tolerance, you may also want to diversify further by investing in Vanguard's bond ETF (ticker symbol “BND” is the Vanguard total bond ETF). This will give you broad exposure to the bond market and further reduce your risk. A common allocation between stocks and bonds is a 60/40 split.
If you prefer a ready-made solution that will invest your money for you, take a look at Titan. They were voted the top robo-advisor of 2020. Check them out below if you want to learn more:
By diligently saving and investing your earnings as a social worker, you can set yourself up for a fine retirement. How fine? Let's find out…
How Much Can You Make?
Assuming you are 25 years old and invest 10% of your $51,760 salary each year into the stock market at a projected 10% return, then after 40 years, you would have over $2.29 million! And if you invested that money into a tax-advantaged retirement account (like a Roth 401k or Roth IRA) some or all of that money that you withdraw would be tax-free to boot! I would say being a multi-millionaire is pretty rich, by anyone's definition.
Obviously, if you maximize your income by getting a specialized degree, working for a higher paying institution like the Federal Executive Branch, or working in a higher paying state, then you would end up with way more money that our standard test case.
Bottom line: The key here is to start early, invest consistently in solid investments, and wait for the incredible power of compounding to do its thing.
2. Get a Side Gig
If you have the energy to do some extra work, you can earn income through various side gigs that capitalize on your skills and experience. We live in a gig economy so there is no shortage of side hustles available for you.
If you have an academic leaning, you can tutor students on the side. It can be really lucrative and your hours can be flexible. You can go on sites like tutor.com and similar platforms to get started.
Of if you prefer to offer consulting services, you can do that as well. This guide by socialworkers.org on becoming a consultant as a social worker may be a good place to start.
If you want a break from your main job as a social worker, you can of course, do side gigs in completely unrelated areas, such as driving for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, etc. Or you can do spot projects on Fiverr.
The idea here is that you work the extra job and funnel all of the additional income towards savings and investment. This will do one of two things. You will get to your wealth goal faster (if your goal is to retire early) or you will have far more money when you are ready to retire.
Either sounds good to me.
3. Buy Cash Flowing Assets for Extra Income
If you enjoy being a social worker but don’t want to work a second job, you can still generate extra income by buying passive income assets. I am talking about assets that will generate money for you even if you are not actively involved in managing them.
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
Rental Property Investing
Investing in rental properties has been my go-to passive income strategy. It is not completely passive, but you can outsource most of the key activities and make it mostly passive.
I own nine rentals (which I self-manage) while working a demanding full-time job, so I can say with full confidence that you can manage your rental properties in an efficient way that doesn’t require a ton of work. But if you are swamped and absolutely need someone to handle the rentals 24/7, you can do that too by hiring a property manager.
Want to learn how to get started? Check out my step-by-step guide to getting started investing in rental properties.
Ninja tip: Want to learn about a rental property investment that is completely passive right out-of-the box? Check out my article on Triple Net Properties. You can make a ton of money renting out property to corporations like McDonalds, Walgreens, etc. and they take care of all of the repairs, maintenance, taxes, etc. You will need some money to put a down payment on these expensive types of properties, though.
Rent Out Stuff You Already Have
The triple net strategy is a pretty good one if you have the funds, but if you don’t have that much money yet, here’s another little-known strategy that's a lot more affordable:
Rent out your car (or even extra space in your house) for an additional source of passive income.
If you want to rent out your car, I would look into Turo. They are the Airbnb of car rentals. For renting out your extra storage space, check out Neighbor. I have used both and written articles on these passive income methods. If you are interested, check them out below.
If you want other great ideas on renting out your existing stuff, check out my article on 15 truly passive income ideas that require no money. It talks about how you can rent out stuff like your backyard, pool, musical instruments, and other things you probably never imagined could give you passive income.
A vending machine can be a terrific asset that produces great cash flow.
Just put it in a high-traffic location and make money every time someone buys something from your machine. The cost to get started varies, with a simple gumball machine costing only around $200 to a more expensive vending machine running between $3,000 to $5,000.
The only part of this that requires some work is restocking and collecting money from the machine, but you can easily outsource this function.
For more details on this business, check out my beginner’s guide on how to start a vending machine route for passive income.
For an even more passive vending option, consider ice vending machines. Because these machines do not need to be restocked, they really can be the ultimate passive income asset. If you are interested in learning more, check out my step-by-step guide on how to start an ice vending machines business.
Did you know that you can buy ATMs and set them up at various locations to make passive income? Every time someone uses the ATM, you will get a fee. Occasionally, you will need to restock the machines with cash (which you can outsource to companies that handle this), but there’s no inventory, customers or employees to manage.
Can be an awesome passive income set-up. If you want to learn more about how to get started, check out my article on ATMs for Passive Income
4. Buy a Passive Side Business
Now I know what you are thinking – how in the world can I operate a business when I am working full-time as a social worker? It’s a valid question, but there are businesses out there that can be run without your day-to-day involvement.
They are often called “absentee-owned” businesses and there are tons of people who operate their businesses in this way. If you want to make serious extra money outside of your social working income, then this is the way to go.
Now, no business is completely passive – you must still oversee the overall business and make sure it stays on track, but you can outsource the daily functions of the business to employees and managers who will handle the operations, so you don’t have to.
Here are a list of some of the businesses that can be run passively (with links to my articles showing you how to get started):
- In-Bay Automatic Car Washes
- Buy Billboards and Rent Out Ads to Local Businesses
- Rent Out Bounce Houses
- Buy a FedEx Route
- Buy a Bread Routes
- Passive Income Blogging
Ok – there you have it. Four ways that you can get rich as a social worker.
None of these methods is going to make you rich overnight, and they each have their pros and cons, but if you are determined to make a meaningful amount of money as a social worker, it is absolutely possible.