When I was a financial advisor I attended a handful of training sessions about the signs to pay attention to if you suspect an elderly client is being financially abused. The training sessions taught advisors to notice if an elderly client client was being taken advantage of by family, caretakers, or new friends that could pop into their life.  There wasn’t any training about other forms of financial abuse, and at that time I didn’t know financial abuse happens to people who are not elderly.

What are the signs of when a woman is being financially abused? There are many indicators of financial abuse and I will share one that hits close to home.  When I began the training to become a certified domestic violence advocate I learned financial abuse is a form of domestic violence. I quickly realized financial abuse had been occurring in my own family as I was growing up. My mother was the victim and my father was the harm-doer. Coming to this realization was like an “aha!” moment. Yes, of course it made sense my mom experienced some sort of abuse by my father, because he was abusive towards me and my siblings.

Financial abuse occurred in my family when my father would not allow my mother to work for many years. She recently shared with me saying this about my dad, “He just said no wife of his was going to go to work. It was his role as the man of the house”.  Which doesn’t make sense, because my dad could barely make ends meet most of the year as a seasonal construction worker. There were many times when my dad wasn’t working when we received food stamps or help from family and friends. If she had been allowed to work then we wouldn’t have been struggling as bad as we were, but he refused and would not let her get a job.

So why wouldn’t my dad let my mom work to earn an income? Because he was asserting his power and control over her by not permitting her to have her own identity, independence, and self-sufficiency. Without these things she would be left in a vulnerable and submissive role as the dutiful wife. It wasn’t until I was 14 yrs-old when my mom was allowed to get a job at the local library. I remember it like yesterday, because she became a different woman. She began working part time and then eventually went full time. 


My dad wanted my mom to quit working after one year, but she flat out refused. It was too late, because she got her footing. Her self-esteem and confidence began to show. It was a few years later when my mom had saved enough money to leave the harmful marriage and she began to rebuild her life on her terms. She was finally free and has not looked back.


This is just one example of how financial abuse can show up in a relationship with a significant other. It shows up in other ways and it’s important to be aware so that you can find your way if you suspect you are a victim of financial abuse.

Some common signs of financial abuse are: 


  • The harm-doer maintains control over all spending and doesn’t allow the victim to use the ATM, or they force the victim to handover their paychecks as soon as they are paid. Leaving the victim unable to access cash when they need it.


  • The harm-doer convinces the victim to co-sign on an auto loan and doesn’t make the car payments as agreed while they continue to use the car. The victim is left with the car loan on their credit report when they end the relationship. Then when they’re unable to keep up with the payments on their own this negatively affects their credit score. This puts a stop to accessing high quality credit.


  • The harm-doer uses family court to perpetuate abusing their victim. They make wild and false allegations about the victim and continue to drag them back to court over minor things. They do everything possible to get the victim back into court over and over. This drains the victims finances with the rising cost of attorney’s fees and court ordered therapy or other services. The victim can even lose their job or they need to take unpaid leave because they keep missing work due to family court proceedings. 


  • The harm-doer refuses to pay child support and will find ways to hide their earnings. This leaves the victim financially responsible for their children, which creates bigger barriers for the victim to achieve financial stability. This inhibits the victims ability to generate wealth and to live in financial freedom. 


These are just some of the examples of financial abuse. If you can relate to some of these examples, you might be a victim of financial abuse.  Reach out to an organization like FreeFrom and join one of their local peer to peer financial support groups amongst survivors while they build financial security together. Go to  www.freefrom.org and find your local peer to peer financial support group or start one of your own with FreeFrom!