Financial Abuse: Are You Being Controlled And Manipulated With Money?
Money makes the world go 'round.
It gives us the freedom to do what we want, buy what we need, and pursue our dreams.
Even if you're not wealthy, you have the ability to get a better job, earn more, spend and invest the way you see fit, and make your own financial decisions.
At least most of us do. But some of us don't.
Some of us are under the thumb of a financial tyrant, someone who uses money to keep us in place, control our freedoms, and make us feel insecure and useless.
Financial abuse is an all-too-real form of domestic abuse in which one partner takes all of the control of finances, making the other partner completely dependent. It often goes hand-in-hand with emotional abuse and physical abuse.
It is present in 98% of domestic violence cases, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
This financial manipulator can be a man or a woman, but quite often you see this situation in relationships when the man is the main breadwinner and the woman stays at home or makes less money.
Gradually the breadwinning partner gains more and more control over the finances, especially if the other partner isn't comfortable with money or doesn't take interest in how it's managed.
But even the most financially savvy people can fall victim to the financial manipulator who uses intimidation, threats, and passive aggressive behaviors to be the money master.
Some financial abusers are dead beats who sit back and allow their partners to do all of the work while the abusers control the purse strings.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
If so, here are some signs of financial abuse to pay attention to:
Your partner insists on managing the bank accounts and doesn't give you access.
Your partner insists you are unable to manage money properly.
Your partner refuses to share what his or her income is.
Your partner hides money from you.
Your partner limits your spending or requires you to ask permission before spending.
Your partner puts you on an allowance or budget with cash only.
Your partner monitors your spending behind your back.
Your partner requires you to turn over receipts.
Your partner forces you to give him or her access to your bank accounts.
You are made to feel as though you don't have financial rights in the relationship.
Your partner steals money from you or your family.
Your partner doesn't work and forces you to pay all of the bills.
Your partner threatens you financially if you do something he or she doesn't like.
Your partner prevents you from working or going to school.
Your partner withholds resources from you like food, clothing, medications, etc. to punish or control you.
Your partner spends freely on him/herself but rarely on you.
Your partner forces you to turn over your paychecks or other income sources.
Your partner requires you to sign documents without explaining what they are.
Your partner forces you to agree to power of attorney so he or she can sign legal documents.
Your partner forces you to share your Social Security number, PIN numbers, and other identifying information.
Your partner threatens to leave the relationship and leave you without any financial resources.
If you are being financially abused by your partner, there are actions you can take to regain control of your life and your finances.
It may feel overwhelming and scary to address this problem directly with your partner or spouse, so the best thing you can do initially is to educate yourself and build some cash reserves in your own name.
Here are some steps you might consider taking:
Get access to financial and personal records.
Try to get a better picture of your financial situation and prepare yourself for the possibility of the relationship ending by making copies of your financial and personal records. Put these copies in a safe place where your abuser can't access them, like a safety deposit box in your name.
Include as many of these records as possible:
- Birth certificates and Social Security cards for your whole family
- Insurance cards for your whole family
- Copies of checking account, savings account, and credit card numbers
- Copies of any stock or mutual fund records
- Loan or mortgage information
- Your most recent credit report
- Tax returns for the past two years;
- Car title
- Deed to your house or your rental lease
- Retirement plan statements
- Photos of valuable assets like cars, jewelry, furnishings, etc.
Build a secret financial stash.
A financial abuser will try to keep you completely dependent on him or her for money. Without money, your options and resources for help are limited.
Open a checking account in your name only, and make sure that statements are not mailed to your home. Set up a security PIN number that your partner can't figure out.
If you can't open an account, keep any money you can save up with someone you trust.
Read Related: 30 Signs of Emotional Abuse
Earn extra money however you can — even a little income here and there can build up over time to help you seek assistance when you might need it.
Be creative and use all of your resources to figure out ways to earn and save money — whether it's selling crafts on eBay, babysitting, or doing some freelance writing online.
Ask to borrow money from trusted friends and relatives as a safety net.
Educate yourself financially.
If you aren't savvy with saving and investing, educate yourself. Not knowing how to access your money or manage it can keep you tethered to your financial abuser.
Don't allow a lack of knowledge to keep you in a position that sabotages your financial security, safety, and self-esteem. There is so much free information available online to help you.
Protect your existing accounts.
If your abuser is accessing your accounts and spending your money without your knowledge or agreement, take action to prevent him or her from doing this.
Contact your bank and credit card companies, and ask to have your account numbers changed, as well as your PIN numbers, passwords, and other access codes.
Create passwords that are hard for your partner to guess, and put them in a place he or she can't access. Be sure you use a safe computer that your partner can't access.
If you are afraid your partner is opening accounts in your name or using your personal information without your knowledge, you can place a fraud alert with one of the three credits bureaus (who will inform the other two once it is placed).
- Equifax: 1-877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
You can also get a copy of your credit report from these bureaus to ensure your credit hasn't been impacted by your partner's actions.
Meet with an attorney to discuss your rights.
Use some of the money you've been saving or borrowing to meet with an attorney for a consult. A reputable divorce attorney can give you a better picture of your financial rights in your state (even if you decide not to end the relationship right away).
Explain how your partner or spouse is financially abusing you and what steps you can take to extricate yourself from this situation.
Inform others about your situation.
You may be covering up for your abuser because you are embarrassed or feel shame about the predicament you are in. But hiding the problem won't serve you well should the relationship end.
If you are considering ending the relationship, let police officials know about your situation with financial abuse (and any other type of abuse) so that a file and response will be ready when you need it.
Read Related: How to Cope With A Lack Of Empathy From Your Spouse
Make notes about the financial abuse and document what you can. Talk to a few trusted friends or family and show them what is going on so that you have witnesses who can vouch for you if necessary.
The longer a financially abusive situation goes on, the harder it will be to reclaim your rights and salvage your financial security. Take action now to protect yourself and your money so you aren't left completely dependent on your abuser.
If taking action makes you fear for your physical safety, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.