Steps to Overcoming Financial Isolation

by Gary Foreman

Steps to Overcoming Financial Isolation photo

If you’ve been sheltered from finances, you need to learn how money works. You can start to gain control of your finances and overcome financial isolation with these steps.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Like almost everyone, I abhor domestic violence. Against anyone in the home. Male or female. Adult or child. Fortunately I don’t have any firsthand experience with it. But I have spent time with some who have lived through it.

One thing that most abused share is the feeling that there’s no escape. That they have no place to go that’s safe.

One way that abusers accomplish that is by isolating their victims. Both socially and financially. Let’s look at ways to overcome the financial isolation.

What is financial abuse?

In most families, one of the partners takes the lead in financial matters. Reconciling bank accounts, checking credit card statements and paying bills. That’s normal and fine. But in abusive relationships, the abuser takes complete control over the finances and often prevents the victim from having anything to do with them.

It’s unhealthy in any marriage for one partner to be uninformed in financial matters. If for no other reason, the financial partner could die suddenly leaving the survivor with a total lack of knowledge of where they stand financially. I saw that when I was a broker in the 80’s. (See What a Spouse Should Know About Your Finances.)

Financial abuse occurs when one partner controls all the family’s money and the information about it. It’s common for the abuser to dole out an allowance and expect the abused to justify every expense. If the victim earns a paycheck, the abuser will demand that they turn it over.

What information do you need to begin getting a grasp on your financial situation?

At some point the victim will need to see the couple’s financial statements. Normally I recommend transparency and honesty in a relationship. Partners shouldn’t keep secrets from each other. But if an abusive partner wants to control every aspect of the victim’s life, they may need to act secretly. And if the abuser refuses to allow access to financial records, it might be necessary to go behind their back to see them.

What’s Your Net Worth? will show you how to collect information from your financial statements. You’ll also get a grasp of where your assets are and how much they’re worth.

You’ll also see any debts and your credit card statements will give you a good idea of what the abuser does with your money. It’s not uncommon to find some surprising charges.

How can you learn money basics?

If you’ve been sheltered from finances, you need to learn how money works. Here at TDS we can help. We can teach you money basics and how to build some financial security.

You’ll need to learn about income and expenses. That nasty budget word. Don’t let it scare you. It’s just about knowing what’s coming in and where it’s going. Living On a Tight Budget can get you started.

Perhaps you think that you’re not capable of learning about finances. Or maybe you think you know everything. Then take a look at 3 Questions to Test Your Financial Literacy.

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Subscribe to Financial Independence, our daily email newsletter. It doesn't cost anything. And, it could make a huge difference in the way you live!

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Personal finance is not that complicated. If you have a little bit of common sense, a calculator and a willingness to spend some time learning, then you can begin to take control of your finances.

Clearly here at TDS we can’t solve abusive relationships. We don’t have that ability. But to the extent that financial isolation is a part of that abuse we can help. And, if by helping victims learn about their finances and meet others, and they become more able to end the abusive relationship, we’ve done a good thing.

Reviewed October 2020

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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