by Judy M McCutcheon MBA
Part 1 of this 2-part series focused on identifying the signs of financial abuse and recognising the need for help; this week we focus on strategies that you can implement to help you move forward.
Firstly, I want to make a point for clarity, since a reader took part 1 of the series entirely out of context. These articles are not meant for women to leave their partners, it’s about empowering and allowing women to know that they have the power to own their potential and that they don’t need permission to become independent and self-sufficient. You can be independent and self-sufficient while in a healthy, loving and supportive relationship. Ok then, I hope that settles that. Despite all the various strides that women have made, we are still at a considerable disadvantage, especially in small societies that are socially and politically divided. There is still the belief among many, that a woman’s place is in the home and that we exist solely for the upkeep and pleasure of men. We don’t. The truth is, women must plan differently as it relates to money – even if we are in a healthy relationship. Our needs are very different, and also on average we live longer than men, therefore we must plan financially for that.
Financial security is one of the main reasons why women stay in abusive relationships. For some women, their standard of living will most likely decrease after they’ve ended the relationship, and for others, they will have to find work to support themselves and their children. Financial security is a personal thing; it means something different to each of us. For some it might mean being able to afford the necessities, for others, it might mean being able to afford anything you want. And yet for others, it might mean being able to retire comfortably, take vacations to exotic destinations, owning your own home and car and being able to pay for your kids’ education. It doesn’t really matter how you define financial security if you are in a financially abusive relationship and plan on leaving, knowing how to manage your money to achieve any level of financial success is critical. One important point to note here is that financial abuse can happen to anyone regardless of their income, education and success.
Even though there may be some difference in the level of the abuse, survivors face the same struggles, challenges and conflicts as they try to take care of themselves and their families. If you’ve answered yes to one or more of the questions in part 1 of this series, chances are pretty good that you are in an abusive relationship. It’s difficult, but you are not alone. Almost all couples have some sort of argument over money, however in a financially healthy relationship, there is open dialogue, and partners are able to successfully negotiate and agree on financial matters. If you have figured out that you are in a financially abusive relationship, you should develop a plan that would keep you and your family safe, especially if you have small children. You have to figure on taking back your power; if you can afford to, get help through therapy which would give you valuable coping tools. It won’t be easy, but you can make it to the other side.
Let’s look at some strategies that you can employ to help you through this difficult period:
- Evaluate your emotions as it relates to money – being in a financially abusive relationship can erode your confidence and your ability to manage your finances. Examine your feelings as it relates to money. Money management is difficult even for people not in an abusive relationship; it is therefore important that you educate yourself on money matters.
- Understand what you own and what you owe – since a strategy of financial abusers is not to include you in financial decisions, they tend to hide financial information from you. Find a safe way to do some investigative work to know what your assets and liabilities are as a family. Knowledge is key in overcoming fear and achieving success.
- Start your savings in a systematic way – you will have limited access to finances, therefore you must consider ways to start a savings regime. It is difficult, but you can do it. One way you can start is by saving the change from purchases; if you work, you can have a portion of your salary go into an account only you have access to.
- Easy does it, one step at a time – the best way to start on your financial independence journey is one step at a time. Open a savings account at your local credit union; now is not the time to spend. Set small financial goals for yourself and take the actions necessary to achieve them.
- Create a budget – Knowing your income and expenses is crucial in your quest for financial security. Everything you spend on is your expense, and all the money that comes in is your income, the difference between the two indicates if you have any extra to spend. Remember always, that your savings should be part of your budget.
- Set financial goals – To better manage your money, you should have goals that you are working towards. It is important that you set financial goals and have a budget and action plan in place for achieving them.
It is important to always keep at the forefront that this situation does not define who you are. You are more than enough; you are worthy, you are valuable. Watch your self-talk, deposit positivity into your life daily, read books on self-development, embark on a journey of self-discovery. Set boundaries, take back your power and use your “I” statements to empower yourself.
Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net