CNM 043: Financial Abuse: Signs and Strategies for Coping – with Tracy Malone

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Welcome to the show!

Today we’re talking with Tracy Malone of Narcissist Abuse Support all about financial abuse – the warning signs, how to protect yourself, and what to do if it’s happening to you.

Tracy herself is a victim of financial abuse by more than one abuser, in more than one way. It can take many forms and fashions, and be extremely costly – so let’s get educated.

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Moving on, here’s my interview with Tracy!

Interview with Tracy Malone on Financial Abuse

Brian: Tracy, welcome to the show. We’re so glad to have you here today!

Tracy: Thank you so much for having me. It’s my pleasure. Let’s get right into this topic of financial abuse, something we’ve never talked about on the show before. We’re really interested to get your feedback on this.

You deal with a lot in the realm of narcissistic abuse and abuse in general, so it sounds like you have some interesting things to bring to the table that people might not be aware of. Let’s get into that a little bit.

My first question for you is…

Question: Let’s say that you suspect that somebody is abusing the finances in your house (and we’ll talk about what that looks like more in a second). If you think that you’re being wronged in terms of the money situation, what sort of advice do you have to confront the other person?

Tracy: Well, I would definitely be careful whom you approach with this information.

Obviously, you’re talking about an abuser here, and they generally don’t like to be found out. So, if you are suspecting that you are being financially abused, it is absolutely imperative that you create your own documentation. If you approach an abuser and accuse them of doing something, all they have to do is go in and change everything. If you don’t have documentation and proof, you’re out of luck because abusers tend to – as soon as they find out the gig is up – they start burning the trail behind them, so to speak.

It’s very important to make sure before you do that, that you have all the documentation that you need and then approach it in a way that is non-confronting to them, express your concerns or ask them for verification of things. You’re going to get a different story if you are attacking them. If they’re on the defense, you’re going to very quickly become the enemy. So, by approaching it with more of an attitude of, ‘I want to learn more about this’, they don’t see the method behind your madness, and you get more information out of them to help yourself.

Question: When you talk about documenting, are you talking about having a journal where you’re recording different transactions? Are you talking about saving credit card statements, receipts, etc.? What do you mean when you say ‘document’ exactly?

Tracy: I’m talking about documenting as if you were going through a divorce. In other words, yes, all your statements, all the information that you can find about money coming in or money going out.

There are so many different types of financial abuse. But if you are married to someone and you’ve got joint accounts, if you’ve got retirement statements, you need to have those statements. If you are if you’re locked out of these accounts and you had a hundred thousand dollars in your retirement, but now you can’t even access it without having the proof that you had a hundred thousand dollars in there before they started to muddle with it, you have no leg to stand on.

Question: In terms of confronting them when the time comes, is there any more detail about how to do that? Should you have a third party in the room? Is there a certain script that you should follow or words that you should use? Anything else to say about that?

Tracy: I think that it’s hard to have a script because every situation is different. So, if we’re talking about someone just coming in and taking the money out of accounts and things like that, you have to understand before you confront them what the repercussions could be. If you’re confronting someone that you think has just stolen all your life savings – yes, get a third party involved. Bring those records to a lawyer. Again, the documentation is your only hope of any kind of redemption to getting money back.

Question: What can you do if you come to a point where you confront them and maybe they’re not cooperative, and so you need to take matters into your own hands because they’re not cooperating. Are there fallout ramifications that you should prepare for? What if it doesn’t go well when you try to take control of the situation?

Tracey: Well first of all, go into it not thinking the worst, but preparing for the worst. If you go into a situation talking with an abuser about financial dealings that you don’t have a handle on before, but now you’re starting to understand and want more information on, they’re probably going to be very defensive. And if you go into this situation unprepared, what could happen if you start to think, ‘Okay, I’m going to say that I want to know where this money is’, picture them – they’re on the defense and they’re going to fight back like an angry dog.

So, when you’re in that situation, if you can analyze it in your mind beforehand, then you’re prepared with an answer. ‘If they say this, then I can do that.’ Don’t go in saying, “I’m going to send you to jail”, and all of that unless you’ve got some good evidence and unless you’ve got some really good support, meaning maybe the police, maybe a domestic violence agency that can stand behind you and help you with this situation. It’s never going to be easy, and they’re not going to take it well.

Question: Suppose they don’t take it well, they resist, and they make it a really big challenge for you. Is there any sort of legal recourse that we have when it comes to the finances?

Tracy: The best thing is to call the police because these things are actually crimes. The caveat to that is – and this has happened to so many people in my community – when you’re married to someone and you’ve legally given them rights to your accounts, they have the right to do whatever they want to it. Even if they’ve taken it and spent it, the police can’t do a thing because you’re married. So, it’s really important to understand that and get agencies involved. Don’t do it alone because abusers can definitely turn on you, especially if you’ve just discovered a crime.

Question: With that in mind, how can you test whether a potential partner has the ability or the potential to abuse finances once you’re in a committed relationship. Are there some telltale signs that you need to look out for to go on the alert?

Tracy: Well, I think you need to understand the different types of financial abuse because it’s not as simple as just taking your money out of the 401k. They can be stealing money all along, emptying accounts, moving accounts, hiding money, hiding assets. There are a lot of the puzzle pieces you really have to pay attention to. For example, stealing a victim’s inheritance; if you get money from an inheritance and you commingle it into your joint account, it’s gone. You have no rights to it. They can steal it all, and there’s nothing you can do.

Any money that gets comingled like an inheritance or your 401k, if they have access to it, it’s half theirs. Now, that doesn’t mean that they can’t steal all of it because again, you’re married and there’s nothing the police can do. So, knowing that you’re going to get an inheritance, keep it separate. If you own a house, don’t put their name on it even if you’re married. Be very cautious and protect yourself when you’re looking at these potential risks.

Abusers very often control assets and access to money. So, even though they might say, “Hey, you take care of the kids and I’ll go to work,” that can be a form of financial abuse because the victim becomes basically unable to work and they become reliant on someone to give them all the money that they need to run the house, to buy food, to buy clothes, and even to escape. If you have no access to the money, you can’t escape an abusive relationship. It’s all about control.

Question: That’s a big question I hear from time to time – questions from people about situations where there are kids in the picture. They’re married, or maybe they’re not married but they’re living together with kids. She’s raising the kids, and he’s going to work. She has zero income whatsoever, and then she realizes there are signs of abuse in the relationship, and she’s questioning what to do.

If you’re in that situation, is there anything you can do? Do you have to go get a job? Do you have to start demanding money? What is it you would tell someone in that particular situation that their options are?

Tracey: The thing to do is to first get help to identify the depth of the problem. When someone is home with the kids and the other person is out working, they control you. They basically dole out the money, they decide when you can buy a new toaster. And they might also try to control whether you work if you’re in charge of the kids. Now, your salary is going to have to cover the childcare costs, and that is generally something that’s not easy for families to do. Domestic violence hotlines have amazing support for financial abuse to get you on the right path to understand it.

If you feel that you need to start stashing money, you could get a secret job. If you’re home with the kids, you could pick up a babysitting gig while the abuser is at work. Even if it’s thirty dollars a day, then you have the money to escape if you need to bail.

Question: Let’s say that someone’s not in a relationship, or maybe they’re in a new relationship but not committed yet. They don’t have children with the partner and they don’t live together.

What sort of things can they do to test the waters with that person, gauge the integrity level or the potential that their potential partner might be abusive, whether it’s financially or otherwise? How can they look out for any potential red flags?

Tracy: That can be difficult because abusers tend to put on a mask of ‘charming’. They might even put the mask of ‘successful’, and some of the best authors that I know out there in the domestic violence world have been fooled. Donna Anderson from LoveFraud.com had a quarter of a million dollars stolen by her husband.

Even if you’re not in a dedicated relationship, how you identify them can be a hard question because they’re going to mask it. But if you start to see patterns of things that just don’t add up – they appear to be generous, but then they don’t tip the waitress, for example. That sounds so small, but as you start to look at it, if their bills aren’t being paid, or they express concern, they show money as an issue, then those are things that should be a red flag for you to explore and not forget. Because if you forget about these things and they come back later, you don’t have anything to base that information on.

Question: Back to protecting your finances, you mentioned not mixing certain assets together unless you absolutely have to. Are there other things you can do to protect your own finances?

Let’s say you have a source of income or particular assets, and you’re not perfectly comfortable with the person that you’re with. Are there any other measures to bring to the table to protect your finances so you don’t find yourself in an awkward situation?

Tracy: Well, prenups (prenuptial agreements) if you’re going to be marrying someone. They are certainly a very good guideline to not comingling and keeping what’s yours yours and keeping what’s theirs theirs so that there isn’t that kind of problem.

As far as protecting yourself and your assets, you could purposefully not have joint ownership of anything that you can avoid because this gives you the independence later if things don’t go well.

Question: Is there anything that we haven’t talked about yet that you want to add into this conversation about financial abuse?

Tracy: Well, I know that your audience is on the codependence side, as am I. I want everyone to understand that money codependency happens so often because we tend to take responsibility for ‘everything’. If someone can’t afford lunch, we say, “Well, I’ll take care of that, that’s a small thing.”

We’ll try to make things better, and this overgenerous kind of behavior is a form of control. We’re trying to control the situation or make people like us. We’re trying to be the helpful ones. People that abuse can actually pick this up and look at us as a perfect prey, thinking, ‘Oh, look at her. She’s generous. She does this, and she does that.’ If we’re not paying attention to our own needs, these abusers are going to pick that up.

Question: Are there any resources out there that you know of, whether it be books or software or anything that people can check out; good tips for people about financial abuse?

Tracy: There is an amazing website by the Allstate Insurance Company. It’s an incredibly robust program free of charge that teaches you how to identify it, the steps you need to take to protect yourself, what to do in this situation, and so many different parts. I love that program.

Brian: Great. We’ll link to that in the show notes for this episode.

Question: Obviously, you know that this podcast revolves around codependency and recovery from that. So, as we get ready to wrap up, what would be your biggest piece of advice for a codependent person?

Tracy: Well again, hands up in the air. I was financially abused in multiple different ways by multiple different people, and it’s very important to learn what abuse looks like. When we are financially abused there’s shame. Codependents don’t like shame so much. We feel like a failure. How could we be so stupid? How could we have trusted this person? What’s going to happen? Things like that start to bring in fear, and we can control this but we must recognize that these things are going to happen.

The best thing to help yourself is to be understanding of all the things that could be going wrong and what people could be doing to you that put your money and your future at risk.

Question: As we get ready to wrap up the show here I want people to know that you have your own platform as well, and I have recently appeared on a video interview on your platform talking all about codependency. Would you like to take a quick second and tell people about what it is that you do?

Tracy: Sure.

I have founded a company called Narcissist Abuse Support and my website is that plus a dot com. I have a YouTube channel and podcast, and I try to teach people all about different types of abuse, specifically when dealing with someone with narcissistic personality disorder. We also handle all the different aspects from financial abuse to physical abuse; the whole gamut. And so that’s where you can find me.

Brian: Great. And I will also be linking to those resources, Tracy’s platforms on the show notes page for this episode.

All right Tracy, thank you so much for being on the show. We appreciate your expertise on this matter. And we’ll talk to you next time.

Tracy: Great, thank you Brian.

Resources Mentioned In This Podcast

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