One of the topics many people avoid talking about is money. Financial literacy is rarely taught – not even the basics of saving and spending. Many times people learn about and implement financial habits as a last resort, typically after a crisis – a divorce, a bankruptcy, or a job loss. Because of the lack of financial literacy, our experiences are limited and dictated by our environments, including the limiting beliefs from our family, community, and personal experiences. This can lead to financial dependency or financial abuse. In both situations, people are trapped because they lack financial literacy, resources and the support they need to make a change. These issues affect people we all know – including friends, acquaintances and loved ones.
Financial Freedom is achieved as a result of being informed, getting support, having the courage to face your fears, and taking action so you can shift from Victim to Victory. In order to have Financial Freedom, we first have to face the issues of financial dependency
Financial dependency occurs when someone is dependent on a person, job or situation for money and they feel trapped. One example is when women stay in their job or career, where they are being harassed because they need their job to support themselves and their family. They may work in an industry where harassment is the norm and/or people expect it’s a part of the company culture.
Take for instance the current #MeToo movement. Many of the women in this movement stayed in situations because they felt they had to financially. If they had spoken up, they may have been ostracized, lost their jobs and could have been banned from getting work in the future…they were financially dependent on their job. Often, family, friends and colleagues tell women in these situations “it’s just the way it is”, “you’re lucky to have that job”, and so on. In many instances, they lack the support they need to stand up for themselves and so they stay.
Financial abuse occurs when someone is in a relationship and another person has power over them. This power stems from the lack of access to money, information, resources, or a way out. It can include controlling how the money is spent, restricting access to money, and stopping the victim from earning money.
The Purple Purse – an Allstate Foundation’s program to help victims of domestic violence through financial empowerment calls financial abuse “the Invisible weapon”. Why? According to the Purple Purse:
“Physical abuse leaves bruises and scars. Financial abuse is an Invisible Weapon that traps victims in abusive relationships. The number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to an abusive relationship is that they don’t have the financial resources to break free. In 99% of domestic violence cases, financial abuse helps keep victims trapped in the abusive relationship”
Women in financial abusive situations are trapped – physically, emotionally, and financially. Financially, they are isolated and prevented from access to financial resources – bank accounts, credit cards, transportation. Emotionally they lack the confidence and belief that they are capable to make it without their abuser.
The current #whyIstayed movement brings the abuse conversation to the forefront and has revealed that many women are told by family, friends, clergy, and so on to “try harder”, “make it work”, “think about your children”, “things will get better” – so they listen and they stay.
My Personal Experience
My story begins as I watched members of my family go through financial dependency and abuse growing up. Early in my career, I experienced harassment in the workplace in the male-dominated industry. After a painful divorce, I was left to rebuild my life emotionally and financially. Even though I was a CPA- trained in money and finance, I left it up to my spouse to manage our money. I spent all day long dealing with other people’s money, so I was actually relieved that he was interested and very good at handling ours. I gave over my financial power and now I had to get past the guilt and shame to get it back.
As I began to rebuild my life and became involved in my spiritual community, I observed how many of my spiritually centred friends had financial difficulties. Some of them even believed that they should have to sacrifice and not be compensated for using their gifts and talents to serve others. This was unlike people in the financial world, who had the tools and the knowledge to create and manage their finances. Instead, what they were missing was an inner connection, or inspiration, and were fueled by fear-worrying about money, saving it, and protecting what they had created.
I saw that neither group I was involved with was experiencing Financial Freedom. It was during this time that I had the idea to create a process to help people manage their money and shift their money mindset to create lasting financial freedom. I’m committed to helping women break free from financial dependency and empowering them to move past their fear, confusion, and self-sabotage with money. Then, we focus to teach them powerful money strategies so they can create the life and business of their dreams.
What can You do about Financial Dependency and Abuse?
Get informed. April is recognized in the United States as National Financial Literacy Month. There are many free resources online and offered by your local financial institutions and non-profits to help you learn about, establish and maintain healthy money habits. I always tell my clients – you don’t have to be an expert, you just need to be informed.
Listen to people that are in financial dependency or abuse situations and offer them support without judgment or criticism
Ask for support and get help. If you are a victim, there are resources out there to help you! Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Here are a few resources to look into:
- The Purple Purse – www.purplepurse.com/
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence- https://nnedv.org/
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
Share Your Story. By having the courage to own your voice and share your story, you never know who you might touch, inspire and help to break free.
Inspired by the victims of the #MeToo and #WhyIStayed movements who have the courage to share their stories
Estelle Gibson is a CPA, Speaker, Author and ICF Certified Coach. With over 35 years of professional experience as a CPA, she’s worked with individuals and companies ranging in size from small privately owned businesses to Fortune 500 companies in various industries.
She’s given webinars, workshops, speeches, and presentations for companies and organizations including Toastmasters International, Sinclair Community College, Mary Kay Cosmetics, International Coach Federation and Unity Church. She is currently writing her first book “Transform the Heart of Your Business ~ 5 Steps to Manage Your Money and Shift Your Money Mindset”