10 Signs of Financial Abuse

I am a survivor of abuse. But I swear, at first, it felt like love.

He wanted to take care of me, he said. He paid the bills, managed the investments, balanced my checkbook.  I was the luckiest girl in the world.

Until the lies started. And the gaslighting. He refused to explain why there was no money in the bank, why creditors kept calling, why he yelled about my overspending when I wasn’t, why he quit his job to focus on investing but kept incurring huge losses.

Finally, it hit me. What I regarded as caring and concern was, in truth, a power play to gain control. It was a classic case of Financial Abuse.

At the time, I’d never heard the term. Nor did I realize it was a serious form of domestic violence, which can start off subtly, as in my case, but often escalates to emotional and physical abuse, as it also did in my case.

Today Financial Abuse is on the rise. And it doesn’t just occur in romantic relationships, but with business partnerships, roommates, even parents and adult children.

How do you know if you’re a victim of Financial Abuse? Here are 10 signs:

  1. Your partner refuses to talk about money. He gets defensive, angry or accusatory.
  2. Your partner goes on spending binges, buying expensive items you really can’t afford.
  3. Your partner racks up debt on your credit card.
  4. Your partner frequently gambles, at the casino, the race track, or in the stock market.
  5. You get frequent calls from creditors, which your partner dismisses or assures you everything is ok.
  6. Your partner keeps saying you don’t have enough to buy certain items, which doesn’t make sense based on your incomes.
  7. Your partner uses money to control you or restricts your access to money.
  8. You question your partner’s financial decisions, and he immediately turns the table and makes you wrong.
  9. You notice how often you excuse, justify, rationalize his behavior to others and yourself.
  10. Your gut tells you something is wrong. 

If even one of these feels familiar, do NOT ignore. Begin by admitting you’re with an abuser. This can be the hardest step.

Then call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. They will help you devise a plan to figure out your next steps.

Recovering from financial abuse won’t happen overnight. It’s a long journey of emotional healing, financial education, and getting lots of support. But I guarantee it’s a journey well worth taking.

Were you aware of Financial Abuse before reading this? Leave me a comment below.


Comments & Feedback

  • Lisa

    I think “financial abuse” has only become a trending topic in the media over the last 5 years. The UK talked about it well on a woman’s morning chat show. I think more people need to go on TV and openly discuss this.

    Whenever I notice someone I care about is being “financially abused”or taken advantage of (as it used to be called) it’s when they’re not in a win-win situation. Someone is getting short changed!For example, you can help me pay my child support to my previous wive(s), but I don’t want to help you pay off your debt. I only want to work 15 hours a week, but you can work 40 and I will make up for my lack of hours by spending your money!

  • barbara huson

    You’re so right, Lisa. This needs to be more widely discussed. It’s an horrific problem that’s been getting worse since the pandemic. You have an interesting view point. But in my opinion, financial abuse if far more insidious and dangerous than ‘being taken advantage of.’

    • Lisa

      Hi Barbara,

      I think I used the word “being taken advantage of”, because “abuse” is a very serious word and something I would want to be careful of accusing anyone of. Your list is very clear, but sometimes financial abuse is a little bit tricky and grey.

      For example, noticing that when you deposit emergency cash into a friend’s bank account, it isn’t her account or their joint acccount, it’s his account! He always seems to be lurking in the background during your calls, whereas before you were able to speak freely. He seems to make it hard for your friend to meet you alone. Your friend doesn’t seem to be as progressive, confident or energetic as she used to be and the person she’s with seems highly sensitive. Stories just don’t match up. He’s shopping for fashion every Tuesday and she’s going to charities to ask for clothing donations. She used to talk about her money all the time and quite openly, now she doesn’t want to talk about it all!

      Sometimes it’s highly suspicious things like above. It’s hard to accuse someone your friend is very much in love with as being finanically abusive and it’s hard to accuse a friend you once trusted with YOUR LIFE as financially abusing their spouse. My suspicion was that she might also be a level 5 codependant and is doing what she’s doing so that he will never be able to leave her.

      (sorry for my long ramble)

  • Lisa

    Also, have seen people who are down on their luck, are living in a city where they have no family or support system get wooed by someone who is oh so kind and generous!

    That person takes them out on expensive dates, takes them to the beach, the snow, pays for their hotel accommodation, buys them a car, clothes and maybe funds their education, then turns around and says “you didn’t think that was all free did you? Now you have to pay me back plus more if you want to feed your child!”

    This person doesn’t have a big heart at all, they want full control over that person. This is usually how human trafficking begins! Watch out!!

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Meet Barbara Huson

When a devastating financial crisis rocked her world, Barbara Huson knew she had to get smart about money… and she did. Now, she wants to empower every women to take charge of their money and take charge of their lives! She’s doing just that with her best-selling books, life changing retreats and private financial coaching.

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