“Money makes the world go round.” If you’ve ever struggled with money, you know the truth behind that frustrating saying. Financial issues can make you feel stuck, like your whole world is on hold. For someone leaving abuse or thinking about leaving, this can be one of biggest factors that gets in the way.
A survey sponsored by Mary Kay, Inc. in 2012 found that 74% of survivors stayed with an abusive partner for longer than they wanted to because of financial concerns. It’s also one of the main barriers for those who are trying to leave.
Exiting an abusive situation is more challenging if a victim is stressing about finances while trying to rebuild their life. Financial difficulties can also be a reason victims return to abusers.
In a time when there are so many other things to think about and plan for, how do you safeguard against some of the financial risks that come with leaving? We’ve put together some tips for economic safety and recovery that are helpful right after leaving. Please know that these may not be the right options for everyone. Please evaluate your own situation, and keep your safety in mind.
Securing your financial information
If your ex has knowledge of or access to your passwords, SSN, credit card statements or other identifying info, it could be a good idea to take measures to keep your personal info safe.
Call banks, credit card companies and utility companies (including wireless phone services) to change your account numbers, PIN numbers and passwords. Change the passwords to online banking and email accounts.
Close any joint credit cards. You may consider opening your own checking account and applying for a credit card if you don’t already have one, in order to start building your own credit history.
To further secure your financial information, open a P.O. box for mail and any financial documents you might receive.
Accessing your credit report
A credit report shows if bills and loans have been paid on time and if there are any outstanding loans or money owed. You can request a free copy of your credit report from any of the following agencies — and that’s a good place to start. Review your credit report at least once a year.
Equifax at 1-800-525-6285
Experian at 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289
Annual Credit Report at 1-877-322-8228
Credit reports can determine the amount and interest rate of loans you apply for. A good credit history is also important for renting a home, getting insurance, applying for a job and more — employers, insurance companies and creditors often check your credit report.
Addressing and rebuilding a bad credit report
In starting to repair a bad credit score, remember to make consistent payments on rent and loans. While these often won’t show up on your credit report, you can ask landlords, utility companies and other creditors to supply this info when you’re applying for credit. A record of on-time payments looks good.
You can also ask these people to write positive credit reference letters for you when you’re applying for credit.
Building up a good credit score takes time, but paying bills on time, paying off debt, correcting and disputing any mistakes and refraining from building up additional debt are steps in the right direction.
Local domestic violence programs have different resources you can access for support and these programs can also help with your safety concerns after leaving. If you call NDVH at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) our advocates can locate programs in your community.
- The Allstate Foundation’s Click to Empower is an organization designed specifically to assist survivors with economic challenges. They have online resources, courses and grants to help survivors “get safe, stay safe and thrive.”
- The Women’s Institute for Financial Education (WIFE) has many helpful articles in the Divorce category.
- Women’s Law includes more information on financial protections to take if you’re getting ready to leave or have just left an abusive relationship.
Are you a survivor who faced financial hardships once you left? How did you handle financial obstacles?