Be alert to the warn­ing signs of fi­nan­cial abuse


FI­NAN­CIAL abuse is more com­mon than many peo­ple think and pre­vent­ing it starts with spot­ting the warn­ing signs early.

Fresh guid­ance from the Aus­tralian Se­cu­ri­ties and In­vest­ments Com­mis­sion’s MoneyS­mart ser­vice has listed eight warn­ing signs, and says some­times it takes a friend to spot them and help peo­ple find sup­port.

“Of­ten it’s some­one from out­side who will notice a change in be­hav­iour or cir­cum­stances,” said MoneyS­mart se­nior ex­ec­u­tive leader Laura Hig­gins.

Fi­nan­cial abuse – also known as eco­nomic abuse – is when a part­ner, child, other fam­ily mem­ber or friend ma­nip­u­lates your fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion mak­ing or con­trols your as­sets with­out your con­sent.

Re­search re­leased ear­lier this year by RMIT Univer­sity found that 15.7 per cent of women had suf­fered eco­nomic abuse from their part­ners, com­pared with 7.1 per cent of men.

“We found that eco­nomic abuse peaked for both men and women aged in their 40s and 50s,” the RMIT re­port says.

“We have found that women with dis­abil­i­ties or long-term health con­di­tions, high lev­els of fi­nan­cial stress and lower lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion have greater odds of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing eco­nomic abuse.”

ASIC’s eight warn­ing signs of a fi­nan­cially-abu­sive re­la­tion­ship are when an­other per­son is:

your ac­cess to bank ac­counts or other money;

• pro­vid­ing enough money to cover liv­ing ex­penses;

• you ac­cess to in­ter­net, phone or trans­port that pre­vents you from work­ing;

out debts in your name or pres­sur­ing you to sign up for loans;

• you ac­count for how you spend your money;

• or threat­en­ing to sell your prop­erty with­out per­mis­sion; • money from you; • you feel like you are fi­nan­cially in­com­pe­tent.

Fi­nan­cial abuse also hits older peo­ple, and is the most com­mon form of elder abuse.

The Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Fam­ily Stud­ies es­ti­mates be­tween 2 per cent and 10 per cent of Aus­tralians ex­pe­ri­ence elder abuse in any given year.

Of­ten it is moth­ers be­ing abused by sons, although abuse by daugh­ters is also com­mon and fathers are vic­tims too, it says.

Moneys­ lists sev­eral places to get help and sup­port, in­clud­ing Fam­ily Re­la­tion­ship Ad­vice Line, Re­la­tion­ships Australia and Life­line.

ASIC’s Ms Hig­gins said the best place to start was 1800 RE­SPECT, a con­fi­den­tial coun­selling ser­vice, on 1800 737 732.

“That’s op­er­at­ing 24-7 and is quite a sub­stan­tial ser­vice,” she said.

Ms Hig­gins said for fam­i­lies with age­ing par­ents, dis­cussing fi­nan­cial mat­ters early – and not in a time of cri­sis – was im­por­tant. “The ear­lier you start plan­ning what’s next, the bet­ter the chance peo­ple are on the same page.”

She said a good way to com­bat fi­nan­cial abuse was to build knowl­edge and con­fi­dence about money mat­ters.

“If peo­ple are more con­fi­dent in talk­ing about money, they may recog­nise that things aren’t quite right.”


TIME TRI­ALS: Karen Mathie and her kids Hay­ley, 9, and Blake 12, test a new pay­ment sys­tem by Garmin with wait­ress Emily Ban­ner at Bon­ditony's Burger Joint.

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