Dirty Little Secret – Part 3

Dirty Little Secret – Part 3


Victims of financial abuse are made financially dependent on and by their abusers, then the rug is pulled out from under them. Usually, the rug is pulled out when they or their spouse or partner leaves. Unfortunately, this is the point when the victim discovers that they have been left holding the bag that has been filled during the months and years of financial abuse.

Following are some of the results of financial abuse and what it looks like to have the rug pulled out from under you:

  • Abusers will steal your life savings and leave you in ruins. You spent a lifetime saving and preparing for the future only to have it stolen from the person you thought you might share it with.
  • Abusers can run up lots of debt in your name (hundreds or thousands of dollars). They benefit from the debt, but you are the one left to pay for it – all by yourself.
  • Abusers can ruin your credit score. You have worked hard to build your credit and to have a decent score. Now, it will take years to rebuild your credit – possibly longer than the relationship lasted.
  • Abusers may tell you not to save for retirement – they make big promises. You trust the abuser and do not save for retirement. Now, you have worked all of those years and do not have anything to show for it. You are not prepared to retire anytime soon.
  • Abusers may have you quit your job and move away from your home and family to isolate you. He or she may tell you that they or you need a fresh start in a new place. You end up alone with no support system.

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story. Sure, you will have to start over again. No, it is not going to be easy. The difference is that this time you will know what to look out for to make sure it does not happen again.  Unfortunately, some people experience financial abuse more than once from more than one spouse or partner. If you or someone you know has been a victim of financial abuse, here are some tips to help you to recover and overcome the financial abuse.

  • Find someone you can trust to talk to. It is important that you do not go through this process alone. Reach out to a friend, a therapist, a life coach, or a trusted confidante.
  • Get organized and informed. Gather all important documents and keep them in a safe place. You are going to need them as you prepare you leave your abuser and/or as you prepare to rebuild your financial life.
    • Birth certificate
    • Social security cards
    • Passports
    • Bank statements
    • Marriage certificate
    • Documents related to your professional accomplishments and/or degrees
    • Statements for mortgage, credit cards, etc.
    • Other personal documents and family information
  • Create a budget
    • Create a realistic budget that is sustainable. Think about cutting expenses to prepare for living without your abuser.
  • Start saving extra money (to use when you leave your abuser)
    • Earn extra money with a side hustle. Get a part time job.
    • Open a secret online savings account that your abuser does not have access to.
  • Change your PIN numbers, access codes, and passwords.
    • If your abuser knows your PIN numbers and passwords, be sure to make new ones when you get/create new accounts, so he cannot keep track of you.
  • Check your credit report to make sure there are not any fraudulent charges on it.
    • Free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com
    • If there are, then dispute them right away. You will need your credit in as good shape as possible before you leave.   (If you are in danger, then don’t wait to leave. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
    • Consider a credit freeze with a password.
      • Use this when your partner/abuser has very personal information about you and/or information that is difficult to change.
      • Credit freeze gives you a special password so nobody can take out debt in your name without that password.
  • Start thinking about rebuilding your credit
    • Good credit is important for housing, employment, utilities, and access to money/borrowing.
    • Get a secured credit card and keep it somewhere safe.
      • Use it to make small purchases and make payments on time.
      • This will help you to build your credit under the radar (on the down low)
  • Don’t feel bad about asking for help. Not only will you need someone to talk to, but you may even need legal and financial resources to help you to get back on your feet.
    • Look into all available options. National Domestic Violence Hotline is an option. Call them at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
    • Get an attorney or advocate involved if you need to do so.
  • Seek transitional housing. You may be in a situation where you no longer have a place to live because you cannot afford it or because you need to escape your abuser.
    • Find a trusted friend or family member who might be willing to provide a safe place for you.
    • Look for shelters.
    • Look for domestic abuse programs

These tips should not be considered legal advice or therapeutic advice. Please seek out an attorney or a therapist if you believe that you need those services.

I believe financial education is a very important key to avoid, overcome, and deal with financial abuse.  Understanding and having knowledge about money, particularly your money, helps to build confidence with money and can help to solve a lot of your problems. Financial abuse has been and still is a dirty little secret. Hopefully, by shedding some light on this horrendous issue, you or someone you know will be able to avoid, prevent, heal, and/or recover. You can go from being a victim to being a survivor. All the best. I wish you good financial health.

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