Real Money, Real Experts

From Victim to Advocate: Axton Betz-Hamilton's Journey with Identity Theft

December 22, 2020 AFCPE® Season 1 Episode 16
Real Money, Real Experts
From Victim to Advocate: Axton Betz-Hamilton's Journey with Identity Theft
Show Notes Transcript

This week, Real Money, Real Experts welcomes Axton Betz-Hamilton, AFC®, Assistant Professor of Consumer Affairs at South Dakota State University, and author of "The Less People Know About Us."

Co-hosts Rebecca Wiggins and Dr. Mary Bell Carlson talk to Axton about her personal experience with identity theft, specifically familial and child identity theft, how the law has changed to protect victims; and how financial counselors can better support those who have been affected.

 
Show Notes:
00:52 Intro Axton
05:37 "The Less People Know About Us"
11:18 The mental effects of identity theft
14:20 What financial professionals should know
18:70 Axton's personal experience with child identity theft
24:40 Rebuilding after a two-decade crime
31:30 Your Two Cents

Show Note links:

The Less People Know About Us book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NL6MD9X 

 

South Dakota State University’s Consumer Affairs program: https://www.sdstate.edu/consumer-sciences/consumer-affairs

 

New York Times Book Review: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/books/review/the-less-people-know-about-us-axton-betz-hamilton.html

 

NPR Book Review: https://www.npr.org/2019/10/20/771358674/in-the-less-people-know-about-us-a-mysterious-identity-theft-hits-close-to-home

 

Identity Theft Resource Center: https://www.idtheftcenter.org/ 


Federal Trade Commission’s Report Identity Theft: https://www.identitytheft.gov/

AFCPE Membership: https://www.afcpe.org/membership/

Intro:

Welcome to Real Money, Real Experts, a podcast where leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money in the real world. I'm your host, Rebecca Wiggins, Executive Director of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® or AFCPE®. And I'm your cohost, Dr. Mary Bell Carlson. I'm an Accredited Financial Counselor®, or AFC®, and the CEO of Chief Financial Mom. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topic, fix the personal finance professionals care about: helping clients, building community and your professional growth. Welcome everyone to the Real Money, Real Experts podcast. I'm Rebecca. This is Mary. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Today on the show, we're really excited to talk with Axton Betz-Hamilton. Axton has a PhD and also holds the AFC® credential. She's also a member of AFCPE®, and we're going to talk with her today about her book. She's the author of "The Less People Know About Us,' a mystery of betrayal, family secrets and stolen identity. The book is about her experience as a victim of familial identity theft and how that experience shaped her career. Born and raised in Eastern Indiana, she moved to South Dakota in 2017, where she's now the Assistant Professor of Consumer Affairs at South Dakota State University. Her research focuses on financial abuse within families, specifically familial identity theft and elder financial abuse perpetrated by family members. Welcome to the podcast Axton.

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Well, thank you. It's great to be here.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Axton I know this is such an issue that is only growing in numbers by the day. And so we're really looking forward to hearing your insights, but before we dive into your book and your story, could you tell us more about your role as Assistant Professor of Consumer Affairs at South Dakota state?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Again, I'm an Assistant Professor of Consumer Affairs and my work is split between teaching courses, primarily in the financial counseling and planning areas. I do teach a course in grant writing and I teach a course in family resource management as well. I also conduct research, as you mentioned, on financial abuse within families. So I primarily look at identities that are perpetrated by family members, as well as elder financial abuse perpetrated by family members. And of course my personal experience shaped my research interests. And then I also have a service role where I contribute to different committees on campus, as well as different committees for professional organizations like AFCPE®.

Rebecca Wiggins:

So Axton, tell us, when did you get connected to AFCPE®? I know you've been a member and as you said, have been really involved with some of our task forces. So tell us a little bit about sort of how, and when that came about in your career?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

In graduate school, and in my first few years at my first academic position in Illinois, I had heard about AFCPE® and it kept coming up fairly often with my colleagues. And I had been a member of ACCI and AAFCS. And sometimes you start to feel fatigued about, "Oh, it's another professional organization I should join." And then I didn't do it right away. I thought to myself, "well, I'll think about it. And if their conference is ever within driving distance, I'll go check it out." And that's exactly what I did. And in 2016, the Symposium was in Louisville, Kentucky, which was driving distance from where I lived in Illinois at that time. And I submitted a proposal for a poster session. It was accepted and drove down to Louisville. And it was a really wonderful experience. One of the really amazing things about AFCPE® that I think some other organizations lack is the connection between practitioners and researchers. Some organizations only attract researchers, some only attract practitioners and AFCPE® does a wonderful job of bringing both of those groups together. And you know, as a researcher, there's a lot that I can gain from talking with practitioners about what they're seeing in the field and what their needs are. And that gives me ideas for research. And so I had a lot of really great conversations at AFCPE® and I found that it was a really welcoming group and I joined, I kept my membership current , went ahead and sat for the AFC® exam because I was teaching two courses that were using the same textbooks as our recommended for study for the AFC® exam. And I thought, if I can't pass this, I probably shouldn't teach anymore. I passed it. So, you know , I have that credential and you know, just I've been, I've really enjoyed, you know, the connections I've made within AFCPE®, the opportunities for involvement, which have led to deeper connections, and the Symposiums are still a really fun time of connecting with researchers that I haven't seen for a while , connecting with new practitioners, connecting with students who do a really great job of connecting to start their careers. So it it's just been a wonderful experience. And I can now consider AFCPE® my professional home.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Axton let's jump into your book. It's called "The Less People Know About Us," and it won the 2020 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime. And it's a fascinating story of familial identity theft. You describe in the book about growing up in a small town in Indiana, in a struggling family. And when you were about 11 years old, you learned that your parents' identities were stolen. Tell us more about that.

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Well, this was back in 1993, before identity theft was well-known. You know, people just didn't think about identity theft. They weren't nearly as concerned about protecting their personal information as they are today. And in fact, identity theft was not considered a crime against individual consumers until 1998. Prior to 1998, the banks and the creditors who issued credit, who weren't receiving payment for the credit that they had issued, they were considered the victims of identity theft because they were the ones who were losing the money. And no attention was given to the effect that individual victims were having with regard to their credit score and other things until 1998. So from 1993 to 1998 in the eyes of the law, my parents weren't victims of anything. There was no legal recourse for them to address the identity theft. So, you know, I watched my parents deal with the identity theft unsuccessfully, our mail was being stolen. And again, back at that time, people didn't really think about locking mailboxes, especially out in the country. And we lived on a highway and we had a mailbox and I remember big yellow mailbox on the concrete pole, just sitting out next to the road and anybody could have pulled over and taken our mail out of the mailbox. So the way that my mom thought we could solve that problem of having our mail stolen was to get a post office box in town. So she did that and our mail was still being stolen. So she said, well, it's likely someone in the post office who's responsible, which it was. She said, well, you know, it could be your uncle because he works for the post office. And I have an uncle who has an unsavory past and, you know, does have a criminal history. And it made sense, you know, it's kind of if the shoe fits, you know, wear it. It all, you know , pieced together pretty well. And then to try and stop the mail from being stolen from that post office box, mom got a post office box in a different town. It didn't put a forwarding order on any of our mail or any of that because she didn't want my uncle , you know, the suspected identity thief, finding out where our mail was going and our mail was still being stolen out of the new post office box in a completely different town. I watched my parents struggle with getting utilities turned off due to the identity theft. So electric, gas, phone, the phone was permanently turned off overall. I just watched them struggle. I watched them argue about it, you know, just because they were frustrated because it seemed like every day there was something new and you never knew what was going to come. Is the power company coming out to shut the electricity off? Is there a collection notice that's going to show up in the mail? Are there bills that mom and dad are expecting? Are they going to arrive this month?

Rebecca Wiggins:

So it sounds like because there really was no legal recourse for you other than going in and creating the, you know, these new post office boxes for your mail. There really was nothing else for your family to do. Is that kind of what you felt like, that there were no other options or how, you know , what other things did your family do to protect yourselves during that time?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

So that's a really great question. So I was more talking about like the mechanics of getting different post office boxes to evade this identity thief that we suspected at the time was my uncle, but the identity thief or thieves were so good at assuming, in particular my mom's identity, that my parents felt that it was someone really close to the family, like a family member or a friend of the family. So to protect ourselves, we withdrew from those relationships. And we didn't go up to them and say, "Hey, we think you stole our identity." We just withdrew. And, you k now, think about being a teenager in the nineties. Cell phones weren't popular. So no phone, nobody's coming to visit the house. I was instructed never to tell anybody about the identity theft, because we didn't want to inadvertently tip off the identity thief and escalate it to the point that my parents were concerned that the identity thief would escalate their criminal activity to something more physical. So as a teenager, 16, 17 years old, I wasn't allowed outside unless one of my parents were home. I wasn't allowed to open the curtains. You know, I couldn't go out to the barn and pet the animals. I couldn't go back to the woods on our property at 16 and 17 years old because of this identity thief that just seemed to be lurking everywhere and s eemed to know our every movement

Rebecca Wiggins:

Axton, I'm curious too, just thinking about how, you know, I'm sort of trying to put myself in your shoes and remembering all of, you know, just how difficult growing up is in general during that time period and, you know , over those ages, you know, how has that impacted you today and even just sort of how you approach your work in this field? Because it just seems like that would create a lot of room for isolation and, you know, maybe even mental health struggles and things like that. Is that something that you've talked about or are willing to share with us just how that was personally for you to walk through that and in that kind of isolated environment?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Yeah . I struggled socially in school and even to some degree in college because of this, because I grew up with a message you don't trust anybody. So that makes it really difficult to form friendships in school and in college. And I, you know, I never felt like I fit in. I was bullied for various reasons in junior high and high school. And I talk about it in the book. And when I interview victims of familial identity theft, it's interesting that a lot of them have similar experiences and, you know , it's made me personally feel like I'm not alone. But I feel that as a society, we're not talking about this enough because there's still a perception in society that, "Oh, you've been a victim of identity theft, call the original creditor and give them a copy of a police report that shows that you've been a victim of identity theft and it will all go away." There are so many dimensions to identity theft , you know, there's the financial, there's the physical, there's the emotional, there's the social. And there's been more attention in recent years given to the emotional consequences of identity theft victimization. There's been, you know, there's been a few studies in recent years in the literature, but not very much on the physical impacts of identity theft victimization, or the relational impacts and all of those different factors weigh in to an identity theft victim's experience. And those can be amplified in cases of familial identity .

Mary Bell Carlson:

And I think too, I'm very curious because it wasn't a crime. So you've just mentioned nowadays, you can call the police, you can put in a report, you can file it with the FTC, there's different avenues. What happened back in 1993? How were you able to even report this? Or were they able to?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Mom and dad weren't able to report it because in the eyes of law enforcement, they weren't considered a crime. I should say it wasn't considered a crime.

Mary Bell Carlson:

And so there was really no way to get out of this. You just had to keep dealing and they had to keep dealing with this nightmare day in and day out.

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Yes.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Well, and one thing I wanted to kind of play off there to you , you were talking about what these emotional impacts are, the relational impacts are. And I think that's an important thing for us to consider as a field, as professionals who are working with clients that, you know, how can we maybe look for some of these signs? Are there things that you could share with other professionals of maybe what some of those red flags might be for things that could be a sign of identity theft or something like that, that our professionals could be a little bit more aware of?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Sure. So, you know, thinking of financial counselors, because if an identity theft victim seeks the assistance of a financial professional, they're most likely going to work with a financial counselor versus a financial planner. And they're going to present to the financial counselor in an immediate crisis. The victim may share things about their emotional state and , you know, it might, they might know that the perpetrator is a family member. And, you know , if they're seeking financial counseling as a familial identity theft victim, they often do. And I'm finding that in my own research. And they could disclose abuse. So they could disclose physical abuse. They could disclose emotional abuse. In my research emotional abuse is the most common other form of abuse. In addition to the familial identity theft, they could disclose a history of sexual abuse. There's a lot there that the identity theft victim needs help with that is beyond the scope of a financial counselor. So if folks are listening who are AFC®s, we know from our standards of practice and our ethics requirement that we have to complete every year that we have to stay within our scope of practice. So as a financial counselor, you want to develop relationships with qualified mental health professionals that you trust to refer a familial identity theft victim, to when they present with those issues. And they most likely will, because what I'm finding in my research studies is the emotional effects of familial identity theft victimization stick with the victim, and are more impactful on the victim than the financial consequence.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Axton, can you share with us a little, I'm sort of curious to know how common this is? And so in your work, do you have any data around that that you can share?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

I wish we knew how common this is, and there aren't good prevalence statistics on familial identity theft because victims often don't report because they could be somehow dependent on that perpetrator. So if it's a parent, they could still be dependent on them financially, as well as emotionally, maybe even physically with, you know, putting a roof over their head. If it's an older adult victim, they may be dependent on a family member who is the perpetrator, because that perpetrator is also providing caregiving so that older adult can stay in their home. In my research, I have also found that victims do not report because they don't want to start conflict within the family and victims who have reported have created basically factions within their family, where, you know , these family members side with the perpetrator, these other family members side with the offender, and it has caused a substantial amount of family conflict within families.

Mary Bell Carlson:

So Axton I'm on the edge of my seat. Tell us what happened next. Years later, you discovered that you were actually a victim of identity theft. Tell us about that.

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

So in the nineties, child identity theft wasn't even on the radar, no one talked about that. People were barely talking about identity theft in the late nineties and early two thousands. And I went to college in 2000 and I was so excited to go to college because I didn't have, I felt like I wouldn't have to live under the shadow of the identity theft that my parents were dealing with anymore. You know , this was an opportunity to go away to college, start my own life and establish myself as a financial adult, independent from my parents. And that was all well and good for my freshman year of college. And then I moved off campus for my sophomore year and I got this little, teeny tiny studio apartment that was built in the seventies. It still had the wood paneling insides. When you opened the door, looked like you were walking into a cave because it was so dark, but I didn't care because it was mine and they allowed cats and I could bring the two cats. One I'd had since I was 10 and one I'd had since I was 12. So I was really excited, you know , to go home and get my cats and get this apartment set up. And I called the electric company to establish service. And they told me the date and time they would be there. Okay great, things are moving along, you know, closer to bringing the cats over to the new apartment. This is good. And then a few days later, the electric company sent me a letter that said, you know, upon review of your credit history, we've determined you need to pay us a hundred dollars deposit because of your low credit score. And I thought it was because I didn't have a credit score. At this point I was 19, I should have had a couple of student loans in my name and that was it. My credit report should have been half a page - name, address, two student loans. And I knew enough about credit at 19 to know that not having enough of a credit history has the potential to impact you as much as a poor credit history. And I wasn't thinking much of it looking at this letter, but there was a number to call at the bottom of the letter to get a copy of my credit report. And I called it out of curiosity because I had never seen a credit report. And at 19 I thought, "what is this credit bureau? And what information are they keeping on me?" You know, I was a little creeped out by it. And , you know , especially growing up under the shadow of identity theft and being told not to trust anyone growing up, and now there's this entity keeping a report on me, you know, how dare they, that's how I felt at 19. And about six weeks later, I stepped off the city bus at my apartment building. And I saw a large manila envelope sticking out of the top of my mailbox. And I thought, "Oh, that looks official. And I don't want to deal with that." I thought it was something from the university like, "Oh, I don't want to deal with that." You know, I went to my mailbox, grabbed the envelope and saw that it was from the credit reporting agency and it was really thick. And at the time I thought, "Oh, credit reports must be really hard to read. They must come with a lot of instructions." Because I'm still expecting that half a page you know - name, address, student loans. And I went in my apartment. I sat on the arm of my twice handed down couch that was made in the sixties and opened the envelope fully expecting instructions and disclosures and learned very quickly credit reports don't come with those. And they're not difficult to read at all. But rather my credit report was 10 pages long, full of fraudulent credit card entries and associated collection agency entries that dated back to the time that my parents identities have been stolen in 1993. So it could be assumed that the person responsible for their identity theft was also responsible for mine. And at that time, my credit score was 380. So in the envelope there was a one page document that said your credit score is 380. Well, I didn't know what that meant at 19. And I thought, "Oh, 380, well , a 100 is perfect on an exam. So I guess that's perfect. And then there was a little bell curve underneath in real small print. And it said your credit score is in the second percentile of all credit scores in the nation. And that's how my financial future began.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Okay. So accident, are you willing to share with us the identity thief in your situation, or would you prefer that we all read the book to find out?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

This is actually a conversation I've had with my editor several times when we were writing the book and my story is out there enough in the media, if you Google me, you can find news articles and book reviews and different things that will tell you who the thief is. And the thief all along was my mom. I just didn't know that until 2013. So this was a crime that spanned two decades. My mom watched me finish my master's research on identity theft. Watch me do my doctoral dissertation on child identity theft, came to a conference where I received an award for my child identity theft research and outreach in 2012.

Mary Bell Carlson:

And you didn't know.

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Did not know. She never gave any signal that she was the one behind it the entire time.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Did you get any answers from her about why she did this?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

I couldn't get answers because we didn't - we meaning me and my father - we didn't discover that she was the perpetrator until 13 days after she passed away from cancer. So the dream that I had of identifying this, you know, the person or persons responsible for the identity theft and holding them accountable, and then, you know , holding them accountable through the justice system, that part will never happen.

Mary Bell Carlson:

How has that shaped your feelings with your father and honestly, towards your mother?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

So dad and I have become closer because, and we had to to survive. And one of the things that mom kept saying to me in the hospital, you know, in her last days, she would tell me when dad was out of the room that I had to take care of dad, you know, just take care of your dad, just take care of your dad, just take care of your dad. And I thought it was odd and she, and she would say, "you'll be okay, but your dad won't be." And so I finally asked her, or I should say, I said, "mom, dad's a big boy. He can take care of himself. What are you talking about? Did you not pay a bill or something?" Because she was the one in charge of all the family finances. So I just kind of went there and she rolled her head back, gritted her teeth. And this is through lots of morphine and Dilaudid. And she still got angry, gritted her teeth and said, "just take care of your dad." Well, I didn't know what that meant until after she passed away. And we very quickly learned that she didn't pay the income taxes for the majority of the years, between 2000-2012. So she didn't pay the federal taxes, the federal income taxes, she didn't pay state income taxes. She let the property taxes go delinquent and actually paid them online right before she died. And because she passed away in February, I found in her bank records where she paid the taxes online in January, you know, while she was in the advanced stages of leukemia. So she was keeping this charade up all the way to the end of her life. There , you know, there was no deathbed confession or anything. And so was not paying the taxes, the income taxes for so many years. And mom was a tax preparer for most of her life. And so I think she knew how to work the system and you know, what the IRS would pay attention to more so than what they wouldn't. And she would pay the taxes in some years and not others. And I think that was to avoid the IRS fully seizing the farm. Mom was filing their taxes as married, filing jointly. So we found another mailbox of mom's at a UPS store in Muncie, Indiana, and in it - so we found this in March of 2013, so t his w as about a month after she passed away - we found 13 certified letters from the IRS. They were ready to take the farm. I m ean, they were going to, and we hired a tax attorney and they were able to settle it, barely, because one of the things that we didn't realize at the time was that mom defaulted on an IRS repayment plan. When you do that, the IRS doesn't take too kindly to working with you. And they weren't taking too kindly to working with dad in particular, because from their perspective, he was just as responsible because mom was filing as married, filing jointly. So we were able to keep the farm, but barely, but going through that process and having to talk with dad regularly and help him work with the attorney and, you know , talk him through some things. Because he was ready to leave, he was ready to find homes for his animals and go on his motorcycle and just disappear because he was at the end of the line, you know, it seemed like there was no hope at that time. And so going through that trauma and having to rebuild and, you know , kind of reclaim what you thought was yours, all along, you know, helping someone through that process. I do think it makes your bond stronger.

Mary Bell Carlson:

So I have to ask, how is your father doing today?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

He's doing pretty good. One of the consequences of what mom did, is dad will never have the retirement that he thought he had. So he just turned 66. He's still working full time. Would really liked to retire, and I think in some respects, mentally already did, but he still physically goes to work. So he's still working f ull t ime. He bought a motorcycle with a small pile of money that we found in mom's checking account that he didn't know was there. And it was something he always wanted something that mom promised him that obviously was never going to materialize. And so having that motorcycle and going to bike shows and bike rallies and poker runs and things like that, he's found a new group of friends that didn't know mom, because he was with mom for 46 years. So everybody that they knew, knew them as John and Pam. Now he has a group of friends that just, t hat just know John. And I think that's been helpful. He also has a girlfriend and she's been around for a w hile now. A nd I think she's been, she's been good for h im as well. She makes t hem get out of the house and go do things. Otherwise I think if he were left to his own devices, he would just pretty much stay at home a nd, and keep to himself with the animals.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Sure. And , and I think you've just encapsulated what a struggle it is, not just the financial side, but the emotional and the repercussions that have come literally years after. I mean, two decades of this has to be so traumatizing. So I have to ask too , what did mom spend the money on?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

It's a really good question. And dad and I added up the amount of money that we know of that is missing, or we know was misappropriated. And you know, that it was spent on things that it shouldn't have been. And we do know from mom's bank records that, you know, some of the money that she spent was to have extra marital affairs because I have records of the hotel charges and liquor store charges. And I was a really awkward conversation to have with my dad about, "Hey dad were , you know , were you at the Super8 in Muncie with mom on these dates?" Yeah . I mean, I had to ask him first, you know, was it you? It wasn't. So, you know, that was ... I've had some really ... there things I know about my parents' relationship that on some level no child should ever know, but I know it and it's true, you know, there there's comfort in that at least it's true. And see when mom died, she drove a 1999 Lincoln Town Car that had a salvage title. She had costume jewelry, she bought a lot of shoes, but she bought them at Payless ShoeSource and you know, these weren't high-end shoes. So to make $600,000 disappear, most of it, about a third of it, in the last two years of her life just vanish. I don't know what she spent $200,000 on going to grad school in the last two years of her life. Because part of that $200,000 was $50,000 out of dad's 401k that she said that she needed to go to school. Well, what she didn't tell him or me was that she took out a hundred thousand dollars in federal student loans. So that was a surprise that we learned after she passed away, too.

Rebecca Wiggins:

What I would say at this point, I feel like we could talk to you for hours about this story. And I would really recommend people get the book because I know there's a lot more to it and your writing is just really riveting. So I first would just like to say that and really appreciate you being on today. But we do have time for our final Two Cents segment. So at the end of each interview, we like to get the guests Two Cents or your biggest takeaways. And so, you know, based on our conversation today, if you had one piece of advice to offer other financial professionals, what would it be?

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

I would say the greatest challenge that all identity theft victims have - and I think familial identity theft victims have in particular - is pursuing their case and sticking with it because identity theft is a crime where as the victim, you're guilty until proven innocent because the creditors want their money. You know, and if it's your name and your social security number, they assume that it's you. And that can be really demoralizing. It can be very frustrating. So as a financial professional, continuing to encourage your clients to pursue filing a police report, pursue contacting creditors, the credit reporting agencies, filing a report with the federal trade commission and helping them have the resilience to see all of this through until the end, I think is a role that financial professionals can and should play to help their clients achieve financial well-being .

Mary Bell Carlson:

This has been such a riveting experience for us. We so appreciate you coming on and sharing your story and really what a personal story this is. This cannot be easy to talk about, but I so appreciate you opening up and sharing with us because this is a growing problem and a continuing problem constantly that many are dealing with. And so I feel like your courage and the things that you have said today will help others in their story and hopefully avoiding some of the same situations you've dealt with. So thank you for being a part of our show today.

Axton Betz-Hamilton:

Thank you. It was great to be here.

Mary Bell Carlson:

Rebecca. I literally am on the edge of my chair with Axton's story today. It was mind boggling to me and I just can't believe what has come from this and not just what actually happened in the event. This was not a one-time event, right? Like it spans two decades, 20 years from her own mother. And she didn't find out until after she passed away. And I just think how many others are suffering from this, and children specifically are suffering from this. And sometimes I think as financial counselors or coaches, we're not thinking of that, right. We're always trying to fix it or fix that solution. And yet this one literally is still going on to have a remedy for it. But I've, I really appreciate her honesty and clarity in what a problem this is and what it feels like to be a victim.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah. And I think you said it so well, you know, the courage to share this so openly and just her ability to use this for the good, you know, it's certainly shaped her career and the work that she's doing today. And so I feel really fortunate that we have professionals like her as part of our organization that, you know, we often say this, it strikes me all the time that our professionals, one of the reasons why they're so passionate is because oftentimes they've walked in these very shoes, right. And that's, what's informed their career passion and all of that. So I just was sort of struck by that again and how amazed I am at her resilience and strength, because as you said, I mean, it's, it , there's so many emotional layers to this as well. And even it reminded me too, of just how important it is as a service professional of any kind to be reminded of the story behind the story, you know, what's really going on with people and how sometimes it is so and interwoven into these emotional aspects. So I was just, as you said, floored, and struck and, you know, just really riveted on the edge of my seat with her story, but really impressed with her professionalism and how she's taking that and turning it into something really positive for other people to learn from. The other thing I just want to remind everyone about as we head into the new year is the value of this network. You know, if you haven't already, we would invite you to join the membership. As Axton shared, it's such a welcoming environment, but you know, one of the things that really makes it so unique is that connection between the research and practice and professionals from all across the field who have really interesting stories like Axton and different backgrounds and areas of specialty. So we invite you to join membership for 2021. We have some really great benefits and are increasing those as well. So , um, we hope that you'll join and be part of our network and share your story with us in the coming years as well.

Speaker 4:

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