The statistics are high and are on the increase. One in four women and one in seven men have suffered some form of financial or economic abuse from someone they know in the UK. Yet only 16% of people report this crime.
It’s the perfect time for the financial planning and advice sector to step up.
Most people in the general population, never mind the financial sector, are unaware of the issues connected to financial abuse. This article aims to highlight the ways financial planners and their support teams can identify and support people who are victims and victim survivors of one of the most pernicious financial crimes in our midst.
Financial and economic abuse does not discriminate in any way shape or form
It doesn't matter what the person’s background, race, sex, class or religion is. The impacts are long-lasting and horrendous for anyone affected.
The definition of economic (including financial) abuse is when a person prevents, restricts, exploits or sabotages another person from gaining the economic resources that are needed to live their lives. It’s essentially a form of coercive control that takes place between people (normally those in an Intimate Partner Relationship (IPV)) who know each other, whether siblings, parents, married couples, partners and friends.
It’s a very subtle crime, but once people are aware it, then financial professionals can play a critical role in preventing it and even helping to prosecute the perpetrators. The advantages of learning about these issues are that once all the facts and tell-tale signs are recognised, suddenly it becomes easier to identify what might be going on.
The signs that financial abuse is happening may present themselves in a slip of a sentence or in a conversation, so it’s important to become highly sensitive to these signs.
It could be that food, housing, shelter, supplies and personal products are being restricted. It can be everything from being unable to access your mobile phone, technology, work, friendship circles and family. In fact, it could be access to anything that gives a person economic and personal wellbeing.
To put it bluntly, if a person is prevented, restricted, exploited or sabotaged from accessing their financial assets or what they need for wellbeing then that's a form of economic and financial abuse.
There are many stories of it happening recently by those experiencing it directly or who have known someone who has experienced financial abuse.
In my own family, I now recognise signs of financial abuse between my grandparents; at the time I was completely oblivious to the signs that were very apparent, simply assuming that it was a ‘generational thing’.
In fact, historical generational behaviours around money and control are sadly presenting themselves in today’s relationships, and it wouldn’t take you long to identify some of these traits even in your own client banks.
It happens to rich and poor alike
There’s the example of the wealthy married couple where if the wife didn’t ‘obey the husband’, he would take the car keys from her. Essentially restricting her access to what she needs to conduct her daily life.
Then there’s the lady whose partner used to restrict and control the amount of sleep she got. He would tell her when she needed to go to bed and woke her up in the morning when he felt it was deemed necessary. Although this isn’t likely to be the only form of abuse in the household, it demonstrates the clear signs where exploitation and coercion are going on in the relationship, and should those signs be present, financial planners and advisers are perfectly placed to dig deeper when they see this type of abuse happening within their clients’ life. These conversations can be had without causing too much suspicion but can make all the difference.
It’s not just women who suffer. Men are often the most hidden statistic since they’re more likely not to complain due to embarrassment.
As a certification body, our aim is to certify one million financial abuse specialists globally. That's accountants, lawyers, coaches, financial advisers, financial planners and more. And we want it to be a recognised achievement that can be sought out by those who may need the help the most.
Like it or not, as a financial planner or adviser, all factors need to be considered, including the presence of coercion, abuse, and exploitation.