What makes financial abuse such a devastating experience is the ripple effect it has on one’s life. It is such a powerful form of abuse that it has the potential of creating a lifelong debt that the victim is forced to manage on their own. Unfortunately, financial abuse is often accompanied by many other abusive behavior patterns that are designed to cover up the warning signs of forthcoming financial abuse like gaslighting, narcissistic rage, and typecasting. 

How? 

Gaslighting is when an abuser will doubt and/or deny their vicitm’s reality so frequently that the victim becomes plagued with self-doubt and questions their own sanity. For example, one of the warning signs of financial abuse is when the abuser forces the victim to keep a detailed account of everything they spend. If the victim were to call out the abuser on the absurdity of the situation, gaslighting could manifest in the form of the abuser minimizing the situation. 

Narcissistic rage is terrifying. It occurs when an abuser has an over the top reaction to small inconveniences like a misplaced reservation or being stuck in traffic. I would suggest reading What Is Narcissistic Rage for a comprehensive grasp of it because it is not anger and it is certainly not rage, it is an entirely different beast. 

Narcissistic rage could be used to mask another warning sign of financial abuse which is when an abuser lives in the victim’s home without working or helping with the household tasks. If the victim were to ask for rent money or for the abuser to help out with some other bills, the abuser could use narcissistic rage as a fear tactic to silence the victim. 

Typecasting is a very sneaky form of manipulation. Gavin de Becker in his book, The Gift of Fear, describes it as gaining control by labeling someone in slightly insulting ways. An abuser might say,  “You’re not one of those bossy people, are you?”. This evokes the desire in us to prove them wrong. Unfortunately this strategy only succeeds in making us more pliable and compliant, giving the abuser the upper hand.

This type of manipulation could hide another warning sign of financial abuse which is when the abuser feels entitled to their victim’s money and/or assets. 

The subtleness of manipulative tactics designed to minimize the warning signs of financial abuse are terrifying. Abusers are masterful at portraying their victims as irrational, selfish, judgemental, arrogant, entitled, spoiled or even as an abuser when it comes to hiding the red flags they display on a daily basis. 

It is for this reason that you should spend your time learning about every single abusive behavior pattern you can imagine, not just the 33 warning signs of financial abuse that we’ve gathered for you below. With that being said, these 33 warning signs of financial abuse is a very good place to start because being able to consistently identify narcissistic behavior patterns is the first step towards escaping the narcissistic abuse cycle.

33 Signs of Financial Abuse

In our article The Three Types of Financial Abuse That Abusers Use we were able to connect with 50 victims of financial abuse to learn about the three most common types of financial abuse: the abuser “takes care” of the money, employment sabotage, and economic exploitation. 

For this article we’ve taken those three forms of financial abuse and found some of the most common warning signs of their presence in a relationship so that you can better protect yourself from financial abuse in your own life. 

The Abuser “Takes Care” of the Money

  1. The abuser gives the victim an allowance or budgets without their input.
  2. The abuser requires the victim to keep a detailed account of everything they spend.
  3. The abuser feels entitled to the victim’s money and/or assets.
  4. The abuser spends the victim’s money without their knowledge. 
  5. The abuser controls how the household finances are spent.
  6. The abuser prohibits the victim from accessing his/her own bank account or mutual bank accounts.
  7. The abuser threatens to cut the victim off financially in arguments. 
  8. The abuser uses funds from their own child’s savings account without consulting their partner first.
  9. The abuser is emotionally and/or physically abusive when frustrated over the victim’s spending habits. 
  10. The abuser makes the victim ask for permission to buy things they need.
  11. The abuser promises to buy the victim things in the future if the victim does things their way in the present. 

Employment Sabotage

  1. The abuser pressures the victim into quitting their job or sabotages their work responsibilities. 
  2. The abuser prevents the victim from attending job training, pursuing a higher education, or other advances in one’s career/education. 
  3. The abuser prevents the victim from working by hiding their keys or offering to watch the children but doesn’t show up. 
  4. The abuser prohibits the victim from working specific jobs.
  5. The abuser gets the victim in trouble at work by calling, texting or showing up at their work constantly. 
  6. The abuser guilts the victim into working for the family business for free.
  7. The abuser destroys important materials the victim needs to work.
  8. The abuse distracts the victim from doing their work. 

Economic Exploitation

  1. The abuser lives in the victim’s home without working or helping with household tasks.
  2. The abuser maxes out credit cards in your name and doesn’t make payments on those credit cards.
  3. The abuser runs up bills on the victim’s credit card.
  4. The abuser opens new accounts under the victim’s name.
  5. The abuser promises to pay a bill but never does.
  6. The abuser is constantly getting in legal trouble and coercing the victim into using their own money to bail them out. 
  7. The abuser either forces the victim to sign documents or pressures the victim into authorizing the abuser to sign documents in their name.
  8. The abuse manipulates friends and family into paying for anything they desire.
  9. The abuser forces the victim to “pay them back” for gifts.
  10. The abuser uses the victim’s financial instability to get sexual favors. They often force the victim to have sex with them for money.
  11. The abuser forces the victim to hand over public benefits (like Food Stamps, a WIC card, or TANF payments)
  12. The abuser refuses to pay child support or threatens not to pay it.
  13. The abuser is “late” to pay child support, especially around the holidays.
  14. The abuser drags a divorce case out to cause financial suffering. 
  15. The abuser borrows money repeatedly without paying the victim back.

What Should You Take Away From This Article? 

On paper, financial abuse seems incredibly obvious. Many of the warning signs that you’ve learned about in this article are so brazen that it is hard for even the victims of financial abuse to understand how they fell into the abuser’s trap. But it is important to remember that financial abuse is usually accompanied by many other abusive behavior patterns.

It is for this reason that it is so important for those affected by abusive relationships to take the time to grasp a comprehensive understanding of the situation they’re in. A reliable place to start would be to learn about narcissistic behavior patterns

While the abuser in your life may not be a narcissist, they most certainly display one or more narcissistic behavior patterns. Learning about these patterns is the only way you’ll be able to safely escape the abusive cycle you’re trapped in. 

If you’d like a better understanding of exactly how abusers are able to financially abuse their victims, check out our article Three Types of Financial Abuse That Abusers Use to Control Others for the stories of survivors of financial abuse where they give a detailed explanation of how they were abused financially. 

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Postmus, Judy L., et al. “Economic Abuse as an Invisible Form of Domestic Violence: A Multicountry Review.” Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, vol. 21, no. 2, Apr. 2020, pp. 261–283

Williamson, Emma. “Living in the World of the Domestic Violence Perpetrator: Negotiating the Unreality of Coercive Control.” Violence Against Women, vol. 16, no. 12, Dec. 2010, pp. 1412–1423

How to Identify Financial Abuse in a Relationship

What Is Financial Abuse?