Understanding financial abuse: A silent danger

By Thotoane Ramakhula

Have you ever been in a romantic or any form of relationship that started off well, but suddenly left you with nothing but emotional damage?

No job, no cash of your own?

This could be a sign of financial abuse.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse can be explained as a form of mistreatment where one person uses financial resources to gain power and control over another person in a relationship. It is not often talked about like other forms of abuse, but it can be just as damaging. Individuals use financial resources to control and keep their victims dependent and trapped.

Who can be affected by financial abuse?

Anyone can experience financial abuse, regardless of your standard of living, job status, gender, health or background. It can also happen whether you live with your partner or not, and within family settings.

How does financial abuse happen?

Financial abuse often starts at a low level and gets worse over time. At first, the perpetrator may seem as caring and loving, providing their victim with money or showering them with gifts. Then gradually, they use money to create dependency and gain power over them. Common tactics may include, but are not limited to:

•  Limiting access to money: Controlling how money is earned, spent or saved, which can prevent the victim from having financial independence.

• Withholding financial resources: Refusing to provide their victim with money to buy basic needs such as food, clothing or medical expenses. 

• Sabotaging employment or financial opportunities: Preventing the victim from working or advancing in their career or sabotaging their efforts to secure financial stability and independence.

• Manipulating debt: Forcing the victim to take a debt in their name or taking debt without their partner’s consent or coercing them to pay off the abuser’s debts.

• Stealing or hiding assets: Taking control of the victim’s money, property or assets without permission, or hiding financial information to maintain control.

Why is financial abuse harmful?

Victims of financial abuse often feel trapped because they rely on their abuser for money. This dependency can make it hard for them to leave the abusive relationship or to stay away once they do leave. It is more than just about money, it is about losing control over your own life and decisions.

Recognising the signs of financial abuse is the first step to breaking free. Finding support from friends, family or organisations can help victims regain independence and rebuild their lives. Remember, everyone deserves to have control over their own money and their own future!

Thotoane Ramakhula is a Financial Paraplanner at TKO Financial Wellness & Advisory and has a strong passion for financial planning and wealth management.


  1. To think that some of us actually going through this subconsciously. Thank you a great insight. In your next article I’d like to know of strategies and ways on how to deal with financial abuse.

    1. Thank you so much for the positive feedback. We are glad to hear that you found the article insightful. We note you suggestion and will work on it. You can also listen to a podcast episode on Financial Abuse on My Money Adventures Podcast available on Spotify and Apple podcast.

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