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What Is Financial Coercion And How Is It Used As Control?

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Abuse is a wide term used to cover a lot of different things, and that is why no two cases of abuse are ever the same.

Some abusers will physically attack their victims, others will emotionally manipulate their victims, and others will slowly cut off their victims from the outside world. So, What Is Financial Coercion And How Is It Used As Control?

What is Financial Coercion and How is it Used as Control?

All of these different types of abuse ultimately have the same end goal, and that is to gain complete control of the victim. 

One type of abuse that is becoming increasingly common is financial coercion. Financial abuse has always existed, but the increase in online and digital banking has only made this style of abuse more common. 

Everybody deserves the right to make their own, independent financial decisions.

If pressure is put on you to make certain financial decisions by a family member, partner, or carer, that has access to your finances, then this could be financial abuse and coercion. 

In this guide, I’ll tell you exactly what financial coercion is, how it is used as a form of control and the signs that you could be a victim of this abuse. Read on to find out more. 

What is Financial Coercion?

First, we must establish exactly what financial coercion is. Coercive control is a type of abuse that is most commonly seen in domestic relationships. It is an act, or series of acts that are used to harm, punish, and frighten the victim.

Some of the most common acts that form coercive control include humiliation, threats, intimidation, and assault. 

Financial coercion is a type of coercive control that specifically targets the victim’s finances. We live in a world where you simply cannot survive without money which is why many abusers target their victim’s finances.

By gaining control of the victim’s finances, the abuser gains control of the victim’s life because you now need money to do pretty much anything.

Gaining control of someone’s finances is actually pretty easy, especially if the abuser is gaining control of the finances of someone close to them.

This can make it pretty difficult to spot the signs of financial coercion, so I’ll take a look at them in more depth a little later on. 

Financial coercion is actually one of the main parts of abuse that makes it so difficult for victims to leave the relationship.

Leaving any relationship where there is domestic abuse is very difficult, but it is even harder if you do not have the finances to support you once you leave. 

Losing access to your finances can be demoralizing in itself, and it can leave you feeling isolated from the outside world and trapped by the abuser. This is because financial coercion is a method used for control, so let’s take a look at how this is done. 

How is Financial Coercion Used as Control?

In a world where you need money to survive, disrupting someone’s access to their finances is the easiest way to gain control of their life.

Once an abuser gains control of their victim’s finances, they can suddenly dictate how much money they can use, what plans they can make, and if they can even access money. 

Typically, financial coercion will start off small. So small that the victim may not even notice that it is happening. Financial coercion is something that is also known as financial abuse, and they both really target the victim in the same way. 

Financial coercion could prevent the victim from accessing the money that they have earned through work.

It could involve restricting the money that they can use to buy personal items, or preventing them from making plans with friends or family as they don’t have access to the money that they need to fulfill the plans. 

But this isn’t the only way in which the abuser could utilize their control of the victim’s finances. As well as taking control and spending the money that is earned or owned by the victim, it is common for abusers to rack up a lot of debt on the victim’s behalf.

This could include running up debts through loans, maxing out credit cards, and utilizing overdrafts. 

Once the abuser racks up the debt, it is then common for them not to pay it back to the lenders. This leaves the victim not only in a position of huge debt but also in a position where their personal credit history and finances are ruined.

This makes it even harder to leave the relationship because you need a good credit score for a lot of financial movements.

While financial coercion is mostly accompanied by other forms of abuse, whether that be emotional or physical, it can be the only form of abuse that a victim faces from their abuser. But that doesn’t make it any less damaging, or any easier to leave.

Once somebody gains control of your life, it can be really difficult to get that control back. That is why it is important to spot the signs early on. 

Signs of Financial Coercion

What is Financial Coercion and How is it Used as Control?

Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to spot the signs of financial abuse until pretty far in the cycle of abuse. Many victims of abuse find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what abuse is, but there are some signs to watch out for.

Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable could be financial coercion, so you really should trust your instincts. 

Some common signs of financial coercion include:

  • Being forced to take money or credit out in your name.
  • Asking for proof of what you spend your money on. 
  • Preventing you from accessing your bank account, using your cards, or applying for loans/finance. 
  • Pressuring you to change your will. 
  • Asking for money from you to spend on one thing, then spending it on something different.
  • Setting up direct debits from your bank account without your consent. 
  • Forcing you to take out new life insurance policies. 

How to Leave the Relationship Safely

If you feel that you are the victim of financial coercion, then leaving that relationship can be very difficult.

Leaving any relationship where there is domestic violence is very hard, but it can be even harder when financial coercion is involved as you may not have the finances to allow you to leave. 

The safest way to leave a relationship where domestic abuse is involved is to make a safety plan.

Get copies of all of your important documents (passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates, bank statements, etc.), and try to get evidence of the abuse. 

Leaving a relationship where there is domestic abuse is very scary. But reaching out to domestic abuse charities local to you can help you get advice, and reassure you that you are not alone. 


Financial coercion is a type of abuse where the abuser takes control of the victim’s finances. By doing this, the abuser can take control of the victim’s entire life, dictating their access to their own money and racking up debt in the victim’s name. 

In the early stages, financial coercion can be difficult to spot. In this guide, I have taken a look at what financial coercion is, how it is used to control, and signs of coercive control. As well as how to get resources to allow you to leave the relationship safely.

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