If someone forcibly controls another person's money or other assets, it is financial abuse – and it occurs in almost all abuse relationships. It is usually part of a larger pattern of domestic violence aimed at gaining and retaining power in a relationship and creating dependence on the abuser.
It is your right to manage your money and be financially independent, and if you or someone you know is in a financially abusive relationship, we urge you to get help. Sadly, financial abuse is something that is rarely discussed openly because of the shame attached to having to account for every penny spent or having to ask for money just to purchase the very basic necessities in life.
Here are eight signs that you may be in a financially abusive relationship:
- You’re forced to account for all money spent
- When you are prevented from owning or using credit cards
- Your partner has sole access to passwords for financial information such as loans, bank statements and credit cards
- You’re prevented from getting or keeping a job
- Your partner demands your salary be deposited into his account
- Your partner puts all accounts or bills in your name
- Your partner threatens to force you out of the house
- Your partner is stealing from you or taking your money without your consent
Financial abuse is not limited to a marriage relationship but occurs with the elderly, parent-to-child relationships, between friends and so on. Elder financial abuse, for example, involves someone targeting an older adult, often a parent or other close relative, in the hope of being allowed access to his or her financial information. The abuser may act as if they are simply helping manage the senior's finances, but instead, start limiting access to funds, start pocketing money and convincing an elderly person to sign legal financial documents.
Financial abuse can lead to debt
Magauta Mphahlele, CEO of National Debt Mediation Association NDMA, says from a debt management perspective they see financial abuse on a daily basis. “Individuals are forced to incur debt or to be responsible for debt they did not incur,” she says.
The NDMA is registered as an Alternative Dispute Resolution Agent (ADR) with the National Credit Regulator which means it can resolve credit disputes between consumers and credit providers through mediation, conciliation or arbitration.
5 tips for a financially healthy relationship
- Before joining funds with your partner, decide on how you will live together. If you get married, will it be In Community of Property, Out of Community of Property, with or without accrual? Will you rather live together without being married?
- Fully understand the risks of opening joint bank accounts, joint credit cards, co-signing any documents.
- Have a frank conversation about your current financial status: who owns what, who owes what, what taxes are outstanding and how they are going to sort out their finances in a fair manner.
- Agree on a joint strategy should any financial problems arise. For example, keep each other honest by checking each other’s credit reports.
- Have regular chats around how you are doing financially and how you are going to achieve and maintain your financial dreams.
3 types of credit card fraud – and how to protect yourself