Preventing financial abuse
What is financial abuse?
It usually starts with the abuser doing something small, such as charging their own purchases to the older relative’s credit card or expecting a parent or grandparent to regularly look after children for free, and end up being as insidious as trying to influence how a will is written for their own financial gain or tricking or coercing a senior into selling their home.
Financial abuse can also be found in marriages when a man uses money to isolate and control his wife – sometimes claiming the reason is culturally based. He may withhold money and only provide his wife with an “allowance,” withhold funds for the basics of living including food, rent and even money for medical care; prevent her from working or making her own money; and use money as a blackmail tool. Sometimes women trapped in this kind of relationship don’t even realize that it’s considered a form of abuse – but it is.
In fact, when you’re in one of these situations, it can often be hard to see and understand that you really are being abused. That’s partly because you want to believe the best about a loved one, and also because gaslighting (making the abused person feel that they are exaggerating or “crazy”) is common amongst abusers. Abusive spouses may try to make their wives feel “stupid,” and those abusing older relatives may say they are too old or too confused to understand how to manage their own affairs.
If you suspect that you, or someone you love, is being financially abused, it can be difficult to know what to do, how to help – or how to get help.
Where to get help
If you are in an abusive situation, the most important thing to remember is that you must have a plan that enables you (and any children) to stay safe. If you ever feel you are in immediate physical danger, call 911. If you are in an abusive relationship and want to talk (via 24-hour free hotline), or get more information about your options and legal rights, visit:
The Hotline (US)
Ending Violence (Canada)
For seniors concerned about elder abuse, prevention is key. Get your financial affairs in order as early as possible. Create a living will, appoint a power of attorney for personal care and property, write a will, and choose an executor. For more information about all of these tasks, read our article on senior legal matters. If you feel you are being financially abused and don’t have a family member to turn to, talk to someone at your bank or credit union, your family doctor, someone at a local seniors center, or call the police.
How can you prevent it?
One of the best ways to avoid this form of abuse is to understand your finances, and to feel confident about you ability to manage your money. An abuser will want to cast doubt – it’s part of how they slowly take control away from you.
As a Foresters member, you have access to Everyday Money, our toll-free financial helpline that connects you to an accredited counselor who can help answer your questions about your personal financial matters such as debt management and budgeting. With Legal Link you can consult with a local legal professional for help with a variety of issues including wills, estate planning, home ownership and family law – all at a reduced cost. Visit MyForesters.com for more information on both of these member benefits.
416403B CAN/US (07/18)