Financial Abuse and Its Red Flags

By Sebastian Francis

While Savvy Ladies recognizes Financial Literacy Month every April, every month is important when it comes to the role that finances play in prolonging domestic abuse and trapping women in unhealthy and often dangerous relationships. 

Financial abuse is present in nearly every kind of abusive relationship, with upwards of an estimated 95% of abusive relationships commonly also having elements of financial abuse. One of the main reasons that financial abuse can be so persistent, and enduring is that, perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t considered in violation of the law, which means the abusers are less worried about being caught. This may also contribute to the long-term stress involved, as a victim debates whether or not to leave the toxic relationship.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is the act of withholding financial information from the victim making them feel insecure about their finances. This results in the victim feeling afraid to leave the relationship. According to Stacy Francis, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ and Certified Financial Planner™ who specializes in working with women during and after a divorce, “Financial abuse is used to trap the victim, making them fully dependent so that they can continue to be controlled, manipulated and often demeaned by their partner. This continues to feed the ego of the abuser and fuels his abusive behavior.”

What Are Some of the Warning Signs of Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is unfortunately quite common in unhealthy relationships, and one of the hardest kinds of abuse to spot from the outside. Victoria McCooey is a Narcissist Divorce Coach who specializes in working with women in abusive partnerships. McCooey shares that this was the case in her marriage, that “there was a slow-drip of erosion to my self-esteem for so many years that I couldn’t see how abusive the relationship had become. On top of it, I was too humiliated to confide in anyone, even my family and closest friends, so I had no one to hold up a mirror to show me what my marriage really looked like.”

Here are some key warning signs to help you hold a mirror up to your marriage:

  • Giving the partner “allowances” or setting limits on how much they can spend
  • Threatening to cut off financial support in disagreements
  • Limiting access to the partner’s own bank accounts or shared accounts
  • Controlling how all money is spent and requiring the partner to account for all spending
  • Spending shared funds without the partner’s knowledge
  • Not allowing the victim to work or sabotaging her career

What Are Some of the After-Effects of Financial Abuse?

Often, in cases that involve financial abuse, there are side effects even after the partners have broken up. The victim’s credit card is maxed out in many cases, causing their credit score to tumble. This means that the victim cannot take out loans to pay for housing or other necessities and even getting a cell phone can be difficult. Francis shares that the emotional damage can be significant. as well. “Feelings of shame, fear, and anger do not go away quickly. It can be extremely difficult to trust others and form deep relationships with a new partner and victims need to heal from being overpowered and controlled.  As financial advisors, we need to empower financial abuse survivors by giving them financial education, support, and tools to rebuild their confidence.”  

If you feel that you are a victim of financial abuse, reach out to the National Relationship Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233. You can also visit their website at

Written by Sebastian Francis, son of Savvy Ladies’ Founder Stacy Francis. Sebastian is a high school student and is following in his mother’s footsteps to bring financial literacy awareness to women in need.

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