How to spot the tell-tale signs of financial abuse

More than 15 per cent of women experience financial abuse. Discover how not to become one of them.

You might think you'd know if you were being financially abused, but the truth is it's not easy to recognise the signs. "It can be difficult to spot financial abuse because it can occur in many different ways, starting out subtly and progressing over time," says Kylie Macfarlane, Commonwealth Bank's General Manager Corporate Responsibility.
What is financial abuse, anyway? The definition of financial abuse is when a person uses money as a means to control or exploit another person and limit their financial independence. In other words, if you don't feel confident about making financial decisions alone or you don't understand the decisions that are being made by your partner about your money, it's time to pay attention.
"There isn't one major red flag for financial abuse," says Kylie.
Your best plan of action? Get to know these telltale signs and put yourself back in the driver's seat, to safeguard your financial health:
  • You're given a set amount of money each week but it's shrinking over time and your requests for an increase fall on deaf ears.
  • You're expected to produce receipts for any purchases, even small amounts.
  • You're clueless about your financial state because you've been led to believe that the best way to keep your money on track is for your partner to control it.
  • You can't remember the last time you saw a bill or bank statement. These are often sent electronically so it's important to make sure you have access to these emails.
  • You don't play a part in making the financial decisions that affect your household.

Help is at hand

If you think you could be a victim of financial abuse - whether you choose to stay in the relationship or to leave, it's important to realise there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your money.
You may feel anxious about raising any concerns if the abuser is a family member or friend, but there are ways to deal with these issues to help keep you, your money and your property and assets secure.

Start with these steps

  1. Don't beat yourself up. We can find ourselves in these situations because we love and trust a person who lets us down. "The tricky thing about financial abuse is that it can happen to anyone. It does not discriminate; it can affect individuals from all backgrounds, not matter how old, how educated, how much they earn, their financial experience or their cultural background," says Kylie.
  2. Start learning. Read CBA's Addressing Financial Abuse guide, an informative guide for anyone dealing with a financial abuse situation.
  3. Then look at the big picture. On average, women live longer than men but retire with less. When you're ready to get started on your money journey, check out The Financial Wellbeing Guide for Women, a helpful guide that covers all the key milestones and challenges that women face when it comes to their finances.
  4. Start the conversation. Plan what you're going to say and raise your concerns with your partner. If you are experiencing family or domestic violence and you decide that it's not safe to bring up money issues, ask for support from a family violence service, such as 1800 RESPECT.
To help improve your financial wellbeing, please visit financiallyfitfemales.com.au. Proud partner, CommBank. Always consider your personal circumstances before acting on financial advice.

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