Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Can You Be Financially Abused If You Have Money?

A man holding cash in his hand but still feeling distraught because of financial abuse

Yes, you can be financially abused even if you have access to money. Financially abused people could have an individual checking account, a retirement account, or a job. A victim can be financially abused when the abuser:

  • takes out credit in your name without permission
  • destroys your credit rating
  • prohibits you from working or going to school
  • refuses to pay any household bills (forces you to pay them)
  • keeps you in jeopardy of losing your home by overspending, “forgetting” to mail mortgage payments, or something else,
  • stops paying child support or other court-ordered payments if you are divorced
  • hides income so it can’t be used to determine child support
  • moves money from your joint account to a secret individual account without telling you
  • gives financial gifts but expects your compliance in some way
  • blames you for overspending when you are the one sticking to the budget
  • refuses to maintain steady employment
  • or any number of things one could do to undermine a person’s financial life.

The point of financial abuse is to make it very difficult for you to gain financial independence. This means the victim isn’t likely to leave the relationship for fear that they cannot make it alone. Even if a victim has access to money or knows that they could survive financially upon leaving the relationship, emotional and verbal abuse makes it very hard to see yourself as capable of living in the real world.

Financially Abused by Creating Self-Doubt

In some ways, the financial abuse in my marriage was his emotional and verbal abuse about money. He accused me of overspending, hiding money, and wasting his hard-earned money. His words branded themselves into my mind, and now, five years after leaving him, I still have a difficult time believing I can achieve financial independence even though it’s obvious that I have done so.

The financial abuse in my marriage was covert as I always had access to the money. From the beginning of our married life, I budgeted, invested for retirement, paid bills, and shopped for our family’s needs. My husband didn’t want anything to do with the money except when he felt a need to berate my stupid decisions or lecture me over how I nickel and dimed us to death. I spent hours with my angry, explosive husband explaining

  • why we had more than a mortgage and utility bill,
  • why our credit balance kept climbing,
  • our budget,
  • and mostly, “Where did all the fuckin’ money go, Kellie?”

No true answer satisfied him. It amazes me that he undermined our family’s financial health to create reasons to abuse me. And I have to add, what on earth was he thinking?! Why wouldn’t we have more than two bills each month? Nonsense. But at the time, I thought explaining it to him would make all the difference.


It made me crazy that although he obviously distrusted me, he would not take responsibility for budgeting or his spending. I’d set a budget, he’d agree, then come home that night and say he had to buy a special tool or had found a fantastic deal he couldn’t refuse.

I reworked the budget countless times, but the money simply wasn’t there. I came to rely on credit cards, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Our debt rose slowly, but surely. He used our credit cards too, so when he acted surprised and outraged over our debt, I felt betrayed and quite frankly, baffled.

Financially Abused Because of What Should Be

He worked, but the money just wasn’t there like he thought it should be. At one point, he took a second job. Unfortunately, having more money meant he spent more money. He spent freely on liquor and beer, going out with friends and fixing up his truck.

Yet he didn’t want me to take a job or go to college or do anything to help our family make ends meet. I was a housewife. Housewives stayed at home. I think his old-fashioned ideas of what it meant to be a man (and a woman) created a fantasy world of what should be instead of what was real. I think he didn’t make as much money as he thought he deserved, and that – not my money-handling skills –  made him furious.


When both our children were in school, I started a furniture refinishing business from our garage. It seemed that when he saw I could make it work, he decided to act on his idea of owning a towing company. The expenses for his towing company came before my business, and I accepted that as fact.

I came to believe that dropping my business in favor of his because he was, after all, the husband, was the right thing to do. So, I transferred our credit card debt to my business credit card. Then, a few months later, I declared bankruptcy independently of him so he could have the clean slate he wanted. I took the credit hit because

  • he badgered me relentlessly to do so,
  • he blamed me for the credit debt, and
  • said my credit rating wasn’t important anyway.

I look back on that time and want to berate myself mercilessly. But I don’t because I now know what abuse does to a person, and I was no exception.

Financially Abused Without Realizing It

One day when money weighed heavily on my mind, an angel gave me some cryptic financial advice. The angel reminded me that no “more capable” hands could free us from financial problems. I see that now as a gentle jab letting me know that Will couldn’t do any better. I was blind to that hint and the others the angel gave that day.

Yes, I suffered financial abuse during my marriage although I had complete access to the money.