Are You a Victim of Financial Abuse? 10 Red Flags

Financial abuse is a serious form of domestic violence, but no one ever really talks about it.

While financial abuse is devastating, many, like me, may be totally unaware it’s happening to them.

In the beginning, financial abuse can be so subtle it’s easily misinterpreted as a loving gesture.

“I don’t want finances to stress you,” my first husband would say to me. “Let, me take care of the money and I’ll give you what you need.”

However, as in my case, the abuser’s efforts to control will, in time, escalate into intimidation, threats of violence and often, physical harm.

How do you know if you’re a victim? Here are 10 Red Flags. Read them carefully and circle the ones that apply to you:

  1. Your partner refuses to talk about money. They get 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 their financial decisions, and they immediately turns the table and makes you wrong.
  9. You notice how often you excuse, justify, rationalize their behavior to others and yourself.
  10. Your gut tells you something is wrong.

If even one of these red flags feels even remotely familiar, I urge you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 (SAFE). They are there, 24/7, to give you the help, information and resources you need.

Have you been affected by financial abuse? Share in the comments below. Your story could help someone else.

Comments & Feedback

  • Pati

    Thanks for this! So spot on and I’d never thought about it, Other than to chalk it up as yet more ridiculous crap.,

    A favorite wasband story.
    He always went on about how he was the bread winner.
    Anything I earned was, and I quote, “Play money.”


    A good friend, her husband lost his job just before Christmas.
    She was a stay at home mom. Two young kids. One on the way.

    I decided they needed my play money more than we did.

    I bought her a few things on a credit card. (Paid back with play money that month.)

    The rest, anything I earned for two months I sent to them. Hubby found another job and life went on.

    Wasband found out. He was furious!!

    He cancelled my credit card, which was solely in my name.

    Went on and on about how I’d betrayed him. He was in charge of finances and any decision he had a right to make.,

    (He’s single and looking, ladies!)

    I said, “It was play money.,”

    “Yeah. But it was mine,”

    He slunked off and that was the end of that.,

    (Got my credit card back.)

  • Cathy Svitek

    Several of the items you list were a part of our lives when were married, and afterward, there was not honesty, which led to a lawsuit I initiated to get to a level of child support reflective of the money reality. Then, after renouncing his US Citizenship and quitting the job we had known of in a foreign country, he came back with a vengeance in a counter suit. It has taken years to get over the trauma (the marriage ended in 2008) and I am just climbing out now with the help of EMDR therapy, a financial coach, and lots of other support. I shall keep this list handy. You are so right that financial abuse does not come to mind when the income and life style are high. But those outside factors bely the truth.

    • barbara huson

      Oh Cathy, my heart goes out to you! I’m so glad you did the healing work from all the trauma you suffered. And I appreciate you sharing your story here.

  • Margaret

    For many years I didn’t think that I had experienced financial abuse in my marriage until we got to divorce alimony negotiations. During our marriage I handled all the bills and had my own credit card.

    Just recently I had a HUGE a ha! I worked in his office doing bookkeeping, Accounts Payable, Payroll and managed his seminar business, and was paid as low a salary as I could get without having to pay-in for social security!

    Now that I’m over 65, I realize what a difference it could have made in what I get monthly.

    His reasoning of course was because he was getting the larger salary, which I deposited in our joint account and I would have access there. I’m not sure that this was intentional financial abuse because most men in professions such as dentistry, medicine and law do the same thing. I certainly have a different perspective now.

    This is a great article – I am on the Advisory Committee which is one of the fundraising committees for my local Domestic Violence Outreach and Safe House program. I also volunteered as a facilitator of a weekly survivor group for 5 years helping them move beyond being a victim based on my life coaching program.

    • barbara huson

      Margaret, Your story is an example of how subtle and nuanced financial abuse can be. And how wonderful that you’re actively helping other abuse victims recover. Kudos to you. Thanks so much for responding!


    I am in a bind and wouldn’t say it’s abuse. My partner is not depositing his whole salary into our account and keeps sending money to his family. Secretly. Now they may need it we went to counselling over it 2 years ago, he has issues with parentification by his mother, and from a culture where people support parents.. other couples may separate finances but i don’t agree to it and would rather he fight it out with me.

    • barbara huson

      Laura, you are absolutely a victim of financial abuse! I don’t know why you aren’t protecting yourself by separating your finances!!!

  • Lisa

    It’s interesting how sneaky financial abuse is and how it appears in so many different ways.

    Another classic example is a spouse not allowing you to work or constantly causing a big confrontation before you go to work or calling you at work annoyed about something. As a result, you get terminated. Hasn’t happened to me personally, yet I’ve heard a lot about this!

    • barbara huson

      You are so right. Financial abuse can be so sneaky…including your example. But it’s just as traumatic and devastating as physical abuse and needs to be addressed immediately!

  • Mary

    I think a trap that most women fall into is that they get married at a younger age than their husbands so of course they have less experience in the workforce and get paid less. The husband uses the standard argument, when they start having kids, that because he earns more (and that, by default, makes his job more important), she should quit her career and stay home with the kids because daycare is so expensive. Or, if she does keep working, she should be the one to constantly take time off to pick children up from daycare, take care of sick kids, take kids to doctor’s appts., go to events, etc. so her income stays lower permanently. From day one she has become vulnerable to financial control and dependence. These same husbands are the ones who refuse to pay alimony and child support in the event of a divorce. It sets women up for more financial abuse. Women need to assert that their careers are equally important and consider the fact that their pay may be lower simply because of their age. They also need their own retirement benefits. Think long term. Don’t let someone convince you to be dependent on them.

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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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