Online Security Tips & Safeguards

Have you ever received an email indicating that your password for a routinely used website had been successfully changed?  This type of email is usually reassuring as an added measure of security. But what if you did not change the password? Suddenly this kind of email takes on a new tone.

As consumers in the digital age, you take online security seriously. And with multiple email accounts and a wide variety of website accounts  – from myPay, healthcare accounts , Amazon, social media, banks, investment companies, libraries and probably about 50 or 60 you have forgotten since you only signed up to get a discount coupon – you do our best to use secure passwords.  You also sign up for two-factor authentication, and you list an email or cell number to receive verification when you need to change a forgotten password. These safeguards provide a sense of security.

Now Consider This:

You move and change your phone to a new, local number or you change cell phone providers. .  You diligently update your new address on all your different accounts, but you neglect to update the previous phone number. Months go by and everything is fine.  Then you get that email (at least you remembered to sign up for alerts) saying that your password on a site has been changed using a text link which you discover was sent to your old cell number.  You try to log into the site, but find that the password has been changed and you cannot log in. Since this site offers you the option to use their log in for many of the other sites you frequent, and there are just too many passwords to remember, you have taken advantage of this option.

Now what?

Determine how the password was changed and set up a new, secure password. Then remove the old phone number from your profile. Once the site is secure you can concentrate on tracking down how the new owner of your previous phone number and figuring out how and why this happened.

Be aware of how this information was accessed. There are multiple online sites that will facilitate finding the owner of a phone number. Two of the most common sites are Spokeo and White Pages, which collect information from public records and allows site users to find information about people using a name, phone number, address or business.  This can be an excellent tool when you would like to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in a long time or whose contact information you have lost, but it also allows those whose intentions are not as benign access a great deal of personal and historical information.  A quick check using my name turned up 13 past addresses. Once you have a name, it is easy to try some of the most used combinations of email addresses to gain access an account. To help protect your privacy, you can remove your information from Spokeo using, but since the site keeps getting information and generating listings you may want to make this an annual event for everyone in your family, including your children.

Consider a Password Manager. With so many financial transactions now done online, it can be difficult to make sure these transactions are secure.  Using a single password across all sites is tempting, but a better option is to use unique passwords and rely on a password manager. Top Ten Reviews provides an excellent comparison chart for selecting one that suits your needs.  Many offer the option to generate passwords based on criteria you provide, such as length, special characters, or upper/lower case, and to export the information to a spreadsheet so that you can save the most recent set in a secure place in your home (not in the desk next to your computer) in case you need to access a site but have lost access to your manager.

After putting in so much effort to pay bills on time, save, invest and manage your money, it is important to protect your hard work by using some of the tools available for online security. For more information on passwords and online security visit:

Public Wi-Fi Safety

Worst Passwords of 2014

Guide to Password Security

Guest Contributor: Cheryl Myrick, AFC® 

September 1, 2015 at 2:46 pm, by admin | No Comments | Category financial education, General

Building the Bridge: Financial Therapy & Financial Counseling

kristy archuletaAFCPE® Membership Spotlight:
Kristy Archuleta

The theme of the 2015 AFCPE Symposium is Building the Bridge from Research to Practice. Kristy Archuleta is a great example of how each member of AFCPE plays an important role in forming that bridge. As a longtime member of AFCPE, co-author of the 2014 AFCPE Research Journal Article of the Year and currently the President of the Financial Therapy Association (FTA), Dr. Archuleta will attend this year’s AFCPE Symposium as a presenter. Along with Joe Goetz, AFC®, she is leading the FTA pre-symposium, which will be held on November 17. Read on to learn more about financial therapy, the FTA pre-symposium and your fellow member, Kristy Archuleta.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path into the field of Financial Therapy?

I have always had a passion for helping others, but my interest in financial therapy began when I was an undergraduate student at Oklahoma State University (OSU). As a junior majoring in family relations and child development with an intended career track towards becoming a marriage and family therapist, I began taking business courses as part of a minor in business management. I liked the material I was learning and almost changed my major, but then realized that it would take several more years to graduate. During that time, the Governor of Oklahoma’s marriage initiative encouraged OSU, especially in the College of Human Sciences, to bring to campus several speakers on the topic of marriage. After attending a lecture by Les and Leslie Parrott, I began to recognize that money was a major issue in marriage and that I could pursue both of my interests by blending marriage and family therapy and money together.

As a graduate student in Marriage and Family Therapy at Kansas State University, I was able to focus my training and coursework around money related issues and personal finance. Now, as an Associate Professor in Personal Financial Planning and the coordinator of our new graduate certificate in Financial Therapy, I have been able to study and practice the interplay of interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects that drive personal finance decision-making and behaviors. In addition, I study how practitioners can work more effectively with their clients.

We are thrilled to have FTA host a pre-conference prior to the 2015 AFCPE Symposium! Tell us a little about the program that you and your fellow presenter, Joe Goetz, AFC® have planned.

Hosting a pre-conference prior to AFCPE is an exciting endeavor for FTA too! Dr. Joe Goetz, from the University of Georgia, and I will offer an interactive program to help practitioners and educators discover how Cognitive-Behavioral and Solution-Focused Therapy models can be used to work with money related issues. This unique workshop is aimed to help both mental health and financial professionals to work with America’s number one stressor: Money! We will be teaching core principles and therapeutic interventions to help clients change maladaptive financial behaviors. We are really excited about this opportunity and we promise you do not want to miss it!

As President of FTA and a member of AFCPE, where do you see the synergy and value between the work of financial therapists and financial counselors? How can we work together, and learn from one another, to enhance the work we are doing in the field?

Collaboration between FTA and AFCPE is ideal as there are many commonalities between the two memberships. First, AFCPE and FTA differentiate themselves from other professional organizations because they are made up of both scholars and practitioners. And practitioners and scholars within each organization actually communicate with each other! This aspect creates dynamic synergies between the two associations as members can be informed by scholars and practitioners from both associations because they recognize common issues in practice that need to be researched. Second, FTA is comprised of mental health professionals (e.g., marriage and family therapists, psychologists, social workers, professional counselors, etc.) and financial professionals (e.g., financial planners, financial counselors, financial educators, etc.). AFCPE provides great training in understanding consumer protection and financial fundamentals which are areas that many of our mental health therapists, in particular, are craving more training. Likewise, AFCPE’s members can benefit from partnering with our members who address the “soft skills” of money decisions and planning to help clients meet their financial goals.

As an educators, therapist and researcher, what do you believe to be the most pressing issue for financial therapy research and focus?

I believe that using theoretically based therapeutic models to understand and work with our clients is crucial. I’m sure eyes rolled at the mention of the word “theoretical.” However, theory is really important not only in research, but in practice. In practice, theory gives us a lens to view the world in which our clients live. Theory helps to explain problems, behaviors, relationships, etc. that clients are experiencing. Finally, theoretically based practice models have interventions that align with a particular theoretical lens, making practitioners’ work with clients more coherent and consistent. It also gives educators, like me, a way to train students how to actually work with clients that goes beyond basic communication skills. For most financial professionals, the aim is to help clients reach their goals. Often times, clients have to change some aspect of their behavior in order to reach their goals, whether it be spend less, make more, to increase financial confidence, or just be more motivated. These are all aspects of changing clients’ behavior and we need practice models that help us know how to change behavior and how to work more effectively with our clients. Unfortunately, this is an area that has largely been untapped in regards to research related to working with clients and money. 

You’ve been an AFCPE Member for 10 years. What do you find most beneficial about being a member of AFCPE?

My first reaction to this question is that I can’t believe I’ve been a member for 10 years! Now, that I am past this shock, I believe that one of the major benefits of AFCPE membership are the colleagues that I met who have become friends and mentors. I joined AFCPE as a graduate student because John Grable told me I should. Since then, I found AFCPE to be organization where I feel at home with like-minded people. When I attend AFCPE events, I am re-energized, new ideas are stimulated, and because I am among friends, I feel supported in my career. AFCPE’s focus to bring together scholars and practitioners has been helpful to me as I see myself as both.


August 27, 2015 at 9:02 am, by admin | No Comments | Category financial education, General, Symposium

The True Value of Hobbies: Looking Beyond the Spreadsheet

“Your hobby costs how much?”  This is a question I have received many times through my life. It’s true, to some, my hobby seems expensive, maybe even exorbitant. But the truth is, the value of a hobby is more than meets the eye.

I am a proud horse owner, and many consider my horses to be my hobby. To me kayaking, fishing, camping, volleyball, and writing music are my hobbies. My horses are simply family. For that reason, I tend to look at their expenses a little differently. However, regardless of how I view these expenditures, the reality is that they, along with other hobbies, cost money.

So, how much should I spend on hobbies? What is appropriate?

My answer: If you can pay your monthly expenses and save for retirement, I do not believe there should be a limit. Now let me tell you why.

  1. You only experience life once, and if you wait too long to do anything, you may miss out altogether.
    Now there is a caveat to this statement. The sooner you sacrifice, the quicker you can establish proper savings and start living a life full of the hobbies that will enhance your life. Helping our clients get a handle on their financial situations is one of our primary goals as financial counselors. I want to teach my clients how to utilize their money in the most efficient way to have a fulfilling, less stressful life. I have clients from each end of the spectrum, and both come into my office stressed. Some clients are stressed because they are scared to spend money while other clients are stressed because they have not saved a dime. It is our job as counselors to help our clients find a balance.
  2. Hobbies provide incredible benefits to your quality of life.
    After we get our clients on an appropriate savings plan, we can then begin to discuss the expense of hobbies. Hobbies are more than just simply finding enjoyment in life. Hobbies can increase your income, enhance your mental and physical well-being leading to lower health costs and have a positive influence on other people’s lives, and lower your monthly expenses in other parts of your budget.

Increasing your income:
When you are passionate about something, you tend to become good at it. I gave horseback riding lessons for years to help fund my love of horses.  There are many people who are passionate about taking pictures and find they can consistently make money as a photographer. Farmers markets are full of gardeners and crafters who have products to sell.

Enhancing your happiness and the happiness of others:
A good friend of mine started fishing every day and naturally became excellent at it. Instead of hoarding his vast knowledge on the subject, he helps friends and children become enthusiastic about fishing. I have personally seen fathers connect better with their children because of the guidance he has given them. Being able to contribute to the happiness and bonding of a family through is the love of a hobby is priceless.

Lowering Other Expenses:
Hobbies can help lower or substitute for other items in your budget. Each fall I drastically see my food bill drop when I can eat the produce from my garden. I do not have a need for a gym membership because my horses require so much physical activity. I have friends who love to sew and do not need to buy as many clothes for their children.

Being able to afford your hobbies may mean you make some sacrifices – you might chose to give up cable, eat at home more, quit smoking or drinking alcohol, buy a used car with a lower monthly payment or no payment, or give up something else in your spreadsheet.  When making your decision about where your money goes ask yourself, “How much value does this add to my life?”

As counselors, we like to see the concrete numbers when making a budget. We like to be able to measure the value. However, we need to look at factors beyond the spreadsheet to create the perfect financial plan for our clients.

Guest Contributor: April Meza, AFC®

August 3, 2015 at 11:57 am, by admin | 1 Comment | Category budget, financial education, General

AFCPE® Op Ed: A response to “Why Service Members Should Receive Financial Literacy Training”

Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Gordon, from

Marissa Cruz wrote an important article, entitled, “Why Service Members Should Receive Financial Literacy Training.” The article caught our attention for its urgent message and strong focus on the financial issues facing our country’s servicemembers and veterans. Cruz raises very valid points around the importance of providing financial literacy training to all service members, as well as increasing the strength and frequency of financial education. These statements are undeniable.

However, in the article Cruz also states “currently the military provides only general financial advice, out of concern that unscrupulous financial advisors would steer young, inexperienced service members into inappropriate investments.” The reality is that there are many incredible professionals, tools and resources available to our service members. The challenge is making the connections in a way that leads to positive and lasting financial behavior change, as well as effectively measuring success. While research shows financial literacy “doesn’t work”, we see the opposite and attribute that to highly skilled professionals who honor a fiduciary responsibility to the service members.

AFCPE® (Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education®) exists to support the career development and education of our financial professionals. Together, our shared mission is to improve the economic well-being of individuals and families worldwide, including our veterans, service members, and military families.

Creating the Continuum of Care
With over 30 years of experience as the standard bearer for financial counseling and education, we know that financial capability is created through a complete continuum of care, where financial literacy is the foundational component. In order for lasting behavior changes to occur, individuals must have access to education, resources, and interactive tools that they can implement in their daily lives. But, they also need professional guidance that goes beyond a prescriptive, packaged approach to address each unique financial situation, need and goal.

The good news is that many of these tools and resources exist. Our professionals are working in the trenches, to connect consumers with these valuable resources and offer unbiased, comprehensive financial guidance.

AFCPE’s Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®), represents the highest standard of excellence in the field of financial counseling and education. There are currently more than 500 AFC Professionals who are working as financial counselors and educators on installations across the world. These certified professionals are qualified to help clients through a variety of complex issues, such as credit and debt issues, bankruptcy, and foreclosure, saving and create meaningful solutions to reach the client’s financial goals.

Their expertise goes well beyond general financial advice; they have the comprehensive knowledge and experience to meet a client where ever they are in their financial life and guide them to create successful strategies to achieve their unique and individual goals.

Resources Are Available Now
We are proud to work with organizations like FINRA Foundation, Department of Defense and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) who are conducting critical research and bridging access gaps to actively make resources and guidance more readily available to our troops.

There are several initiatives we would like to highlight that provide access to free, trusted and unbiased financial resources and professional guidance for our service members and veterans:

CFPB Financial Coaching Project: As part of the CFPB Financial Coaching initiative, all financial coaches are required to obtain the AFC® certification and financial coaching training through Sage Financial Solutions. CFPB Financial Coaches will provide one-on-one financial coaching services to Veterans and the economically vulnerable to help them take control of their finances proactively, and empower them to make better informed financial decisions. Access to an AFC CFPB Financial Coach is available at 60 locations nationwide.

Military Spouse Fellowship Program
Since its inception in 2006, the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship program has awarded more than 1,300 fellowships to military spouses across the United States and the world. The fellowship provides a covers the costs associated with completing the AFC® training and testing and is designed to meet the unique needs of military spouses. Through this partnership, military spouses have developed rewarding careers while helping military families build brighter futures. Fellows offer services at the installation’s family support centers, local banks and credit unions, or nonprofit or credit counseling agencies.

Veterans Financial Coalition
AFCPE joined with Visa Inc.’s Practical Money Skills, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America and Military Saves to form the Veterans Financial Coalition. The coalition is dedicated to serving the financial education and consumer protection needs of veterans and will offer free resources to aid the transition from the military into civilian life.

BBB MobileMi$$ion App
AFCPE® is proud to partner with the Better Business’ Bureau Institute, Moneythink, and CauseLabs to launch a financial capability tool designed specifically for transitioning servicemembers, veterans and their families to help them navigate their finances during the transition from active duty to civilian life.

The program helps Veterans meet their financial goals – from saving to paying down debt, improving your credit, being prepared for emergencies, planning for the future, and accessing government benefits. All mentors provided through the app are trained military spouses actively earning an AFC® certification. They understand the unique situations of our Veterans because they have lived it.

If you are a Veteran who has transitioned in the last 5 years or are a service member planning to transition in the next year, click here to learn more and to download the app.

Rebecca Wiggins is the Executive Director of AFCPE and holds a Masters of Family Financial Planning from Kansas State University. Search for an AFCPE Certified Professional in your area by using the association’s search tool.

About AFCPE:

Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE®) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, training and certifying financial counselors and educators. AFCPE offers rigorous certification programs in financial counseling and coaching including the AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor) certification, nationally recognized by the CFPB and Department of Defense. Our programs provide professionals with the knowledge and skills to help individuals and families from all walks of life make more effective financial decisions.

July 30, 2015 at 9:54 am, by admin | 1 Comment | Category financial education, General, military

AFCPE Membership Spotlight: Gabriella Barthlow, AFC®

BarthlowFor Gabriella Barthlow, 2015 is a year of firsts. Although she has worked as an AFC® professional for more than 7 years, this year she started a new role as a Financial Coach for the CFPB Financial Coaching project, became a member of AFCPE® and is planning her first trip to the 2015 AFCPE Symposium. Read on to learn more about your fellow AFCPE member and the work she is doing in our field.

Tell me a little about yourself and how you got started in the world of personal finance?

I fell into the field of financial literacy while teaching a local workshop on employment. The daughter of a woman who owned a credit education company sat in on one of my courses and convinced me that I would do well in the world of finance and credit education. Through this education company, I spent six years working with employees of the United Auto Workers (UAW). During that time, I conducted classes on topics ranging from mortgage readiness to investment financing to credit reports to managing your money effectively. When Chrysler was bought out by Daimler, the funding for my role was eliminated, so I went on to start my own financial/credit education business: Alpha Advisory Group.

What motivated you to apply for the CFPB Financial Coach position?

Even though I have my company, the economy can be tough for a small business.  I enjoy working with companies that align with my belief system – organizations that focus on educating consumers and providing them with the needed tools and resources to become financially independent.

When I learned of the CFPB position from AFCPE, I felt like I died and went to heaven. The job description was my entire 17-year career, and my family comes from a military background. I grew up a Navy Brat. My Dad served 20 active duty years in the Navy, my ex-husband was in the Air Force, my oldest brother served in Vietnam and my nephew just served 11 years in the Marines. All 5 of my uncles served in the Korean War. My grandmother housed the service men through World War II and the Korean wars. With such a rich military history, it felt like such an honor to be able to work for and serve Veterans. I knew I was perfect for this position.

What do you enjoy most about your work with Veterans and their families?

I love working with Veterans and their families because I understand their challenges. This work provides me with an opportunity to give back to them for their service to our country, offering them the best coaching and education that can be provided.

If you could share one new technique or insight you have learned from your Financial Coach training what would it be?

My top piece of advice, while simple, is so important. Remember to “just be.” When you are listening to your clients, be in a space of love, kindness, empathy, and understanding.

This is your first year as an AFCPE member – what attracted you to join?

I’ve been an AFC professional for more than seven years, and during that time AFCPE has given me so much support, courage and patience as I have developed my professional reputation and honed my skills. I am currently employed through the CFPB’s financial coaching project, a connection I made through my involvement with AFCPE. AFCPE membership is a great addition to my career – and I love the CEU opportunities it provides!

Rumor has it that you are joining us for the AFCPE Symposium this year! What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Symposium?

I just booked my hotel and paid for my flight! I am looking forward to the networking, the education, and the feeling a part of something bigger than myself. Since 2003, I felt lonely in the world of Finance and Credit Education, and now I have the opportunity to meet my “family” – the peers and colleagues who have supported me from afar!

And lastly, what is your favorite personal finance advice?

Your financial issues do not define who you are as a person. Often circumstances come into our lives that are beyond our control. Temporary financial setbacks do not make you a bad person. It’s important to look up, get up and keep it moving! There is nothing that cannot be healed in your financial life with time and money.

AFCPE Members can connect with Gabriella, and find other professional members living in their area, by using the Find A Member search located in the MyAFCPE Membership Dashboard.

July 29, 2015 at 8:09 am, by admin | 1 Comment | Category financial education, General, Symposium