Women’s Financial Empowerment podcast series

We take a deep dive into practical ways women can build their financial wellbeing and score some big financial goals.

Episode 5. Financial abuse in relationships

This episode may contain distressing content. If you’re experiencing financial abuse, please call 1800RESPECT.

We discuss what to do when a relationship is no longer healthy, including the red flags we should all be looking for. We step through some resources and ways you can find additional support, including how your bank can help you.

Read the transcript

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This podcast is for education and entertainment purposes. It's not financial advice and doesn't take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider if the information in this podcast is appropriate for you and contact a professional financial adviser. If you are seeking financial advice. Hello and welcome to episode five of Women's Financial Empowerment, a podcast series from Teachers Mutual Bank, where we look at practical ways women can build their financial wellbeing and achieve some big financial goals.

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But before we get started, we'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the country throughout Australia and their connections to land sea and community. We pay our respects to their elders, past, present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I'm your host, Nicole Banks, and today's episode is part two of looking at money and relationships now.

00:00:55:15 - 00:01:17:25

Now, last episode we talked about things like having a discussion with your partner about finances and we talked about how difficult that can be, and Betty gave us some really good tips on how to approach it. But in this episode, we're getting a little bit more serious. We're discussing issues to do with financial abuse, and this can occur in relationships more than we'd like to think about.

00:01:17:28 - 00:01:45:16

Whether that's from an intimate partner, a really close partner, or actually another person within your life. So it's not just always a romantic relationship. It can be financial control from other members of your of your circle. So please be advised that this episode may be triggering for some listeners. If you're struggling with financial abuse or family violence right now and you need urgent support, please make sure you're safe.

00:01:45:18 - 00:02:18:16

And then contact one of the following. So for our Australian listeners, if you're in danger, firstly, please call 000. However, there are other avenues if you need further support. Otherwise, you can call one 800 respect on one 870 37732 Lifeline on 13114 or the family relationship advice line on one 800 050321. With that said, I'd like to introduce Betsy Westcott, my guest for this series.

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Betsy has qualifications in financial advice, home lending and money coaching, and your whole career has been about helping Australians be more informed and make better decisions about money. So, Betsy, we're looking at some pretty serious issues today. Unfortunately, not every relationship develops the way it should and control around money can be a red flag that things are not healthy.

00:02:44:13 - 00:03:13:15

Whether that's a relationship, as you said, between those intimate partners or even a family member. Something that's increasingly prevalent is abuse between elderly, an elderly person and their children or other people, perhaps carers and so forth. So it's not exclusive to those intimate partners. So true, but actually it's becoming more and more complicated. So in today's episode, we'll be looking at red flags about money that could indicate an unhealthy relationship with your partner.

00:03:13:17 - 00:03:37:11

We'll also talk about how that unhealthy behavior could affect you and your financial future. We'll also cover the financial aspects of leaving a relationship and how your bank can help you. And most people don't understand that that is actually an option, as Betsy just called out. We're also going to talk about elder abuse, a growing challenge, and we'll share resources so you can find additional support.

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So we'll start by looking at those red flags when we come back after the break.

00:03:45:29 - 00:04:13:17

Bad relationships can happen anywhere and to anyone. And often I think a person in a relationship doesn't recognize controlling unhealthy behaviors because they'll love the other person. And it's often really unexpected. Yeah, if you know what problematic behavior is, though, Nicole, you can actually keep an eye out for it and hopefully recognize it, maybe draw some boundaries where you need to and or seek help if you need to as well.

00:04:13:18 - 00:04:44:09

So let's cover a few red flags here. Now, this is not an exhaustive list. Instead, I'm just going to focus on what are the most common signs. So, for example, someone wanting to take charge of all the finances. Typically, this involves restricting your access to the household income or sometimes someone might provide you with an allowance instead and and choose or dictate how you can spend that household income without you really getting much input into the into the decision.

00:04:44:11 - 00:05:05:08

Maybe you have a situation where someone doesn't want you to have your own independent source of income. This can even include harassing someone at work and making it difficult for them to to keep a job, maybe keeping someone awake at night so they can't go to work or even hurting them for attending work. And the same is true for studying as well.

00:05:05:11 - 00:05:25:26

Now, if someone forces you to work within, denies you access to your money, that's that's another red flag asking or forcing you to take out loans or credit cards under your name for them to use as another red flag because you're liable for those debts. This is called coerced debt, and it can be especially difficult issue to resolve as well.

00:05:25:28 - 00:05:57:28

Likewise, incurring big debts on share to council finances rather than their own. Again, you will be liable for those debts and they in your name so they become your responsibility. And then the final red flag, I want to point out is if someone's withholding payments. So particularly things like childcare or refusing to contribute to shared experiences like bills that you both owe money on or even stealing or damaging your property, they're all forms of financial abuse and they're often part of a wider pattern of family violence as well.

00:05:58:00 - 00:06:24:13

Some people, I'm suspecting, will be subject to several of these behaviors. Some may be only one, but it's abuse either way, right, Betsy? Yeah, And it's often it's often starts out small. It can often be disguised as a very romantic behavior, wanting to take control and provide. I'm going to look after you. Yeah, all these things. But it is really insidious and financial abuse.

00:06:24:13 - 00:06:46:04

It really has serious and long lasting impacts on its victims. It can affect your mental health, for example, and lead to experience of anxiety and depression. It can increase your risk to other types of gendered violence, making it easier for the abuser to control you because you don't have access to your own money. It makes it really hard to leave the relationship.

00:06:46:06 - 00:07:03:19

It can also like affect your career, which can affect your confidence as well as your financial position. And it can also make it harder for you to access finance, particularly if they're forcing you to take out loans or not paying lines on time. That then affects your credit score, which affects your ability to borrow money in the future.

00:07:03:20 - 00:07:25:01

The impact of the financial abuse. It can also delay your ability to retire potentially, if you've not been able to attend work or you've had higher expenses, then you might not be able to contribute to your retirement savings and thus not retire as early. So for the victim, it can really put them at risk of financial hardship and experiencing poverty, particularly if it's happening later.

00:07:25:03 - 00:07:58:28

And I think one 800 Respect has more information about financial abuse on its website at one 800 respect dot org dot EU so go to one 800 respect dot org today and do your research for financial abuse Support Tool kit. You can also call one 800 respect on one 870 37732 or text them on 045873732 for help via SMS.

00:07:59:00 - 00:08:24:12

Those are such fantastic resources and really valuable to those who are trying to navigate these difficult situations. Now, when you're in an unhealthy relationship and you decide to leave, this can be a really challenging and almost dangerous time for the individual. So if you are navigating this, then the first thing I want you to do is tell a trusted friend or family member about what you're going through and what you're planning.

00:08:24:15 - 00:08:48:01

If you've been cut off from your friends and family, which is another hallmark, sadly, around this kind of gendered violence, then reach out and speak to a support service such as the one 800 Respect Support Service to help you with this. Regardless if you have the help of family or friends or not, look at the one 800 Respect dot org website for advice on how to take action safely.

00:08:48:02 - 00:09:08:11

As I said, this can be a really dangerous time for victims. And remember, there's always someone who's there to help you no matter what your individual circumstances. I appreciate it will feel very lonely and you'll feel very isolated. But help is always there. Go to just reach out for it. Absolutely. I think people think this just happening to them.

00:09:08:11 - 00:09:38:25

And sadly, you know, this is a much more common situation for so many people. So you're not alone. We'll be talking more about some of the financial aspects of leaving an unhealthy relationship when we come back. After the break, We'll also touch on another area of financial abuse that Betsy referenced just earlier, and that's elder abuse. Betsy, we'll discuss some support services that can help people leaving a relationship a little bit later.

00:09:39:02 - 00:10:11:03

But I think for now, could you step us through some of the nuts and bolts of the financial aspects of leaving a relationship? Yeah, of course. And just before I start a reminder that you can also get advice by calling one 800 respect on one 800 737732. Okay. On the financial side, one of the first things to do is change the login details and passwords for any of your online accounts, especially ones for online banking, because you want to make sure that they're nice and secure.

00:10:11:06 - 00:10:34:27

If you don't have your own bank account, then you need to open one so that you can have control over your own income and finances once again. Once it's safe to do so, start closing down any joint finances. Now be aware that some joint bank accounts may require you and your partner to sign to authorize that account to be closed, which can be tricky.

00:10:35:00 - 00:11:00:05

So keep that in mind. Now you can contact your bank and put a temporary freeze on withdrawals from that joint account too. So one person then can't withdraw all the money out of themselves because there's that freeze in place and that can really kind of secure joint finances for a period. If you're receiving Centrelink benefits, you'll also need to contact Services Australia and let them know what's going on and what your situation is.

00:11:00:08 - 00:11:20:22

I know that in some cases abusers might make their partners apply for Centrelink benefits as a single person to receive a higher rate which can saddle you with a welfare debt. In other cases as benefits are calculated on income as a couple. Some people looking to leave an abusive relationship have been denied payments because their partner is earning too much to qualify for.

00:11:20:22 - 00:11:42:27

The rules have recently changed and now Services Australia staff have greater power to recognize the impact of gendered violence when they're deciding whether someone is considered a single or in a couple. So explain what's happening. It's worth it. And once you've gotten out, it can be worthwhile to check your credit report to make sure there's no activity that you don't recognize.

00:11:42:29 - 00:12:04:05

You can do that by requesting your credit report from a credit agency such as Experian, Equifax or ILLION. And these agencies will give you your credit report for free once every three months so you can check it regularly. The other thing you should do is speak to your bank, speak to us. We care about the wellbeing of our members and we have systems in place to help.

00:12:04:05 - 00:12:28:04

When you're in need, we have a financial hardship program. If you have a home loan with us and you need to pause repayments while you resettle yourself, we can help you open up a new bank account and there are a range of other things that we can support you with and that includes any additional hardship or other challenges that you may be having in relation to your finances and your relationship.

00:12:28:07 - 00:13:04:11

And we'll put you in contact with the right people to help you progress at so right. Nicole And as I mentioned earlier, there are also plenty of resources you can turn to. We've mentioned a couple for Australia and this is already right at the top of the episode which included one 800 Respect. Let me say that number again, one 870 3773 to Lifeline 13 1114 and then family relationship advice line on one 800 0050321 And then you can also try financial counseling Australia Their number is one 807, the Live seven.

00:13:04:11 - 00:13:27:05

I always love that one. James Bond is coming to save you. And then there's beyondblue, one 300 double to 4636 And of course if you're in danger, please call 000. Men too can experience abuse in a relationship and these services are available for men to help them in that situation. I also want to mention that Australia has a No.

00:13:27:05 - 00:13:54:06

Two violence men's referral service now. This is a support line for men who are worried about their own behavior and want to change. So if you've been listening along and thought, gosh, I'm guilty of some of these things, there is support there and their number is one 300 766491. Now, we should also say that financial this doesn't only happen in intimate relationships and I touched on that earlier.

00:13:54:08 - 00:14:19:03

Elder abuse is becoming such an issue. And that might be psychological or physical, but it absolutely can be financial Betty. Yeah, it's shocking how prevalent it can be. I certainly know from my time running bank branches that it was it was something we unfortunately saw all too often. And it was always very tragic because it was really difficult for the individual to recognize and to navigate.

00:14:19:03 - 00:14:45:12

And, you know, some of the examples of what we would see would be situations like, you know, someone would move in with an older person, but they didn't actually have the consent to live there. And then they they really took advantage of living in that household and didn't contribute to the household bills or costs. Other examples we saw was an individual would have access to an older persons bank or credit card and be using it without their permission.

00:14:45:12 - 00:15:12:21

Or maybe they had permission to do certain things, but they were actually abusing that and using it inappropriately. We've had really serious situations where they forced them to sign paperwork for either a loan or even change things like they will against the elder person's wishes. And then of course, we've seen situations where people steal older persons belongings and then leave them with no money for essentials and then just surviving off and bikies.

00:15:12:24 - 00:15:38:22

Now, these are just some examples. They're not an exhaustive list, but but certainly if you're worried about an elderly person that you think could be in that situation, then I want you to call one 800 elder help. Now, the number for that is one 800 353374 and get some advice around and how you can support them of course, all those contact support services that we mentioned earlier, you can you can ring them as well.

00:15:38:25 - 00:16:02:15

And if you suspect someone is in any sort of difficult or abusive relationship, let them know that you're there, that you're there for them to talk to, that you're there to help them, and a really nonjudgmental, impartial person who can support them. There's really good advice at one 800 respect dot org. Donoghue on how to do this and of course you can ring one 800 respect yourself.

00:16:02:17 - 00:16:22:06

That's really good to know there is so much help out there. So this feels like a natural place to finish what is a really challenging episode but a really important one. I really appreciate you going through this all with me. Thank you so much, Betsy. And for our listeners, I hope you found this really useful. So thank you, Betsy.

00:16:22:09 - 00:16:47:04

In the next episode, we'll be discussing family finances. So we'll be looking at everything from the cost of raising children to life insurance, wills and estate planning. So thank you so much, everyone. Reach out where you need support and we look forward to talking with you in the next episode. So I'll catch you next time.


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