Nearly 70% of millennial women have experienced financial abuse by a romantic partner. Think about that for a minute. For every 10 women you know in that age group, odds are that seven of them have had a partner use money to control or manipulate them.
Here’s another startling fact: 25% of women will experience intimate partner violence at least once during their lifetime, many times for the first time before age 25. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, financial abuse occurs in the vast majority of domestic abuse cases.
Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that financial exploitation also happens in the absence of physical abuse, in all age groups and across genders.
So, what does financial abuse look like?
Like most phenomena, financial abuse takes place across a wide spectrum of occurrences and ranges from subtle to very overt.
In some cases one partner consistently makes the other feel guilty or as if they have to hide spending their own money. Other times one partner may have a chronic issue with being able to pay the bills or remaining employed. Financial abuse also occurs when one partner takes over the household finances, and restricts the other partner’s access to money, accounts, etc.
Here are a few instances that are typical of financial abuse:
- Concealing important financial information
- Hiding money from you
- Coercing you to borrow money for them and not paying you back
- Reducing access to monetary assets
- Forging your signature on financial documents
- Having to account for every dollar spent
- Opening credit cards in your name without your permission
- Defaulting on mutual loans, bills, accounts, etc., thus wrecking your credit
All of the above situations can be considered signs of financial manipulation. Do you recognize yourself as experiencing any of these situations?
Like many forms of abuse, financial abuse is typically a chronic rather than an acute occurrence. Many times the behavior begins slowly and escalates over time, in which case recognizing the pattern of abuse is important to identifying the problem as well as solutions.
Many experts see a predictable pattern of behavior take place within a financially abusive situation.
Oftentimes the relationship starts off on a fabulous high and it’s not uncommon for the abusive partner to lavish attention and adoration on the other partner.
But the high note often becomes discordant, and eventually turns sour. Many times the health of the relationship nosedives when the abusive partner seeks to isolate the other one, which coincidentally is a behavior often seen in domestic abuse situations.
For example, it’s not uncommon for the abuser to cut off the social support network of their mate and tie them into a closed, isolated union. At some point emotional abuse enters the picture, a situation characterized by manipulation, sabotage, name calling, etc.
In general, economic abuse is a form of control in which one partner uses financial assets as a means of diminishing the other partner’s ability to fully participate in a joint financial life, and there are several negative outcomes when this situation takes place.
One of the most debilitating consequences of financial abuse is the ongoing dependency that can occur when one partner controls all of the assets. For example, a woman who does not have access to money may feel constricted in terms of leaving an abusive relationship or environment. To accentuate this point, financial insecurity is one of the top reasons women return to an abusive relationship.
Shannon Thomas is the author of, “Exposing Financial Abuse,” and she says that awareness and education are key components to combating financial exploitation.
“The first step is to be aware,” she says. Next, educate yourself. The good news is that by arriving at this point in this article, you’ve already started both processes!
Thomas’ suggestions for taking back financial control include locating joint accounts and learning how to access them.
In other words, deciphering one’s financial condition is crucial to understanding how to improve your situation.
Experts agree that being financially knowledgeable is the first step to producing positive economic outcomes. Additionally, the concept of financial self-awareness (FSA) is just as important for increasing several positive psychological outcomes.
Financial self-awareness refers to an individual’s, “personal knowledge about one’s current financial assets, liabilities, and spending patterns.”
With this in mind, it won’t surprise you to know that researchers have found that the higher one’s FSA, the better!
For starters, financial self-awareness is linked to increased financial satisfaction and better investing and spending decisions.
For example, data from the 2015 National Financial Capability Study found respondents’ with higher FSA’s reported greater satisfaction with their financial situation, and took safety steps such as establishing an emergency fund in the event of an emergency sickness or job loss. But in addition to reporting making good financial decisions, these individuals also reported not stressing out about money, lessening their overall stress profile.
Second, increased FSA is associated with increased financial self-efficacy. The concept of self-efficacy is a significant psychological theory which outlines how one’s beliefs about their capabilities inform their behavior.
As you may have guessed, having a healthy sense of self-efficacy results in numerous benefits, all the way from feeling a robust interest in life to experiencing pleasure in day-to-day activities.
In other words, knowing about and understanding your financial situation will pay dividends in the long run, not just in terms of improving and maintaining your financial security, but quite possibly your psychological health as well.
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