Local accountant Estelle Gibson’s financial independence message goes national

Estelle Gibson presenting at TEDx Dayton

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Estelle Gibson's inspiring and informative speech about the true cost of financial dependence at last year's TEDx Dayton is now featured on the global idea sharing platform TED: Ideas Worth Spreading.

TED is a nonprofit and global community devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. On a local level, TEDx events are self-organized to help share ideas in communities around the world. The overall goal is to make great ideas accessible in order to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

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TEDxDayton was launched in 2013, and is led by local volunteers who gather talented storytellers to inspire attendees. Last year, one of the speakers that made the cut was local accountant Estelle Gibson, who is currently a CPA for the City of Kettering Finance Department. She is also our Daytonian of the Week.

Gibson's frank discussion about the importance of financial literacy and independence was so impressive that it was elevated to the highly regarded and extremely popular TED.com website. To date, her TED Talk has already racked up over 800,000 views in the first several days since its release.

Gibson has always been drawn to public speaking. Self described as a lifelong performer, in more recent years she started acting in community theater and participating in Toastmasters, a nonprofit educational organization that helps people become more confident speakers.

After attending TEDxDayton for a few years, Gibson decided to submit an application to be a speaker herself in the spring of 2019. After being selected by the TEDx committee, she worked on honing her speech and delivered it live last October at the Victoria Theatre.

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Gibson’s topic, financial dependence, is something she’s learned a lot about in her nearly 40-year career as a professional CPA. She’s also observed in her personal interactions that people from all walks of life are constantly worried about money. “The rich are fearful about holding onto their wealth, and the poor are fearful of not having enough,” she told us.

She found that although many people have these emotional issues around money, they don’t want to talk about it either. Discussing finances has been a cultural taboo for some time. For those with money, the secrecy stems from not wanting to brag as well as security concerns. For those with low wealth, there is a sense of shame that keeps people from opening up.

Special guest speaker Estelle Gibson tells a Toastmasters club at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base about Pathways, new program format for Toastmaster’s that combines aspects of both leadership and communication and fuses them into a more individually tailored learning experience. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jeannie Masters)

What really inspired Gibson to speak about these issues was her own recovery from financial dependence. During her marriage, she had become dependent on her husband. When they divorced, she had to go through the process of rebuilding her life and finances.

In her TED Talk, Gibson discusses how giving up control of your finances — voluntarily or otherwise — can leave you powerless and, in some cases, confined to a cycle of abuse. She offers actionable advice to empower others who desire the freedom that comes with being responsible for your own money.

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Raising awareness about financial abuse was one of the goals of Gibson's talk, as it's one of the most common forms of abuse. She's a champion of All State Foundation's signature program to teach financial empowerment (formerly referred to as the purple purse program), which helps financial abuse victims that feel trapped, make a plan to get out.

Gibson’s advice to anyone struggling with their finances is to get financially literate. “If you can’t manage $10, you can’t manage $10 million,” she explained. “That’s why people lose money when they win the lottery. It’s a lack of financial literacy.”

To get started, Gibson recommends checking out the National Financial Educator's Council, where she serves as one of the educators. She also recommends going to your bank or financial institution. Most offer free programs that teach financial literacy. If you're a high school student, the state of Ohio requires that financial literacy is offered as an elective, so take advantage of that class.

Estelle Gibson was a speaker at TEDxDayton's 2019 signature event Connect.

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Gibson hopes that her talk will not only inspire people to start learning about money and talking about money, too. “We need to have conversations and support each other, especially right now because people are so stressed” she told us.

Dealing with the emotions and underlying issues around finances is an important follow-up step after learning the basics about money. “It’s important for people to remember they’re not alone,” she continued. “Share your story! It opens the door to taking action. For someone living with debt, once they share their story, it frees them to take that next step.”

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Gibson’s practical and important message is being heard by hundreds of thousands of people, and it all started right here in Dayton. She described the TEDxDayton process as “amazing” and one she recommends to others.

“It’s a journey. Some people have a fear of speaking, but that was not my issue,” she explained. “It was scary because I was telling such a personal story. Each speaker has some obstacle they have to get over. The mentors  support you through those obstacles, and help hone your idea into an amazing talk. There’s an incredible amount of work that happens behind the scenes.”

Gibson's full talk can be found on TED.com here or directly below. You can learn more about Estelle's financial coaching work at journey-to-freedom.com

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