I'm sure you are probably wondering what the connection is between the two. I've posted before about the virtues of an Emergency Fund and how much they've helped me in the past. I'm sure this will be a controversial post but I wanted to stress again how important it is to have money set aside for those unknowns in your life. Consider this real life example....

I have a friend who is currently in an abusive relationship. Her husband is verbally and physically abusive to her but she continues to stay with him. She's left home a few times only to end up going right back. I couldn't understand why she kept going back so I kept nagging until I got it out of her. The reason she is still there is because she can't afford to leave. He has taken most of the money out of their joint savings account and the individual savings account she had on her own. He has access to all of her accounts but she only has access to their joint checking account. He has his own savings account that she has no access too. She thinks he has taken all the money and put it in his account. He knows that without money, she won't leave him.

I could not believe my ears when I heard this. What kind of person would do that to another person? I then started to think about how she could let this happen to her. I am a firm believer in having a little money set aside in your own name when your are married. Things happen and unfortunately, marriages don't last as long as they used to. When I get married, I plan to have a joint checking and savings account but I also want to have my own savings account. I may want to purchase something that my spouse does not agree with or my spouse may want to purchase something that I don't agree with. By having our own separate savings account, we can buy what we want without causing a huge financial argument .

I've offered to help her but she has refused my help. At this point, I'm not really sure what to do. I'm really concerned that the only way she will leave that house is in a body bag. As harsh as it sounds, I think this is what it will eventually come to. 

By the way, there is NO excuse for domestic violence!!!

I'm going to need some input from my readers on this one. Have you been in a situation like this? How did you get out of it? Do you keep a separate savings account? Do you and your spouse/significant other have equal access to each others separate account?


  1. leslie@27andfrugal.com // December 4, 2009 at 10:34 AM  

    I definitely agree with you but it is unfortunate that having her own savings account still didn't help since her husband had (probably by demand) access to it.

    This is why women's shelters, specifically for victims of domestic violence are so important. They provide a temporary place to live, clothing, food, job assistance, counseling, child care and tons of other resources for women who leave their abusive husbands but have no where to go.

    For your friend, I suggest you recommend a local shelter to her or even call one and ask them for advice. In the mean time, she can try to stash away any cash she can get her hands on. Also, support from family and friends is crucial. It is terrifying to leave a situation, even as terrible as that one, just to be alone.

  2. Anonymous // December 4, 2009 at 11:29 AM  

    From my experience with a friend whose husband nearly killed her, your friend needs professional help. Domestic violence is more than simply not having a savings account. The sad reality is that even if she did have a significant amount of money saved on her own that he couldn't find, the stats are against her.

    If you can, encourage her to call a domestic violence hotline. You can call one too, actually. They provide advice for removing women from violent situations. If you can get her to temporarily relocate to a shelter, that would be even better. They can get her back on her feet while providing the emotional support that she will need.

    It took me months to convince my friend to leave her husband. I honestly think what got through to her was getting her to realize that it wouldn't simply end with her death (which she was disturbingly okay with), but the eventual abuse of her daughter.

  3. Nancy Carroll // December 4, 2009 at 11:36 AM  

    Great article, I would like to cross-post to my site? Many women that come to my site are trapped in a situation like this, with children. Having emergency money should be part of a total separation plan, where you have important numbers, extra keys, needed documents together...just in case. Thanks for your point of view on this...


  4. Lulu // December 4, 2009 at 1:00 PM  

    I am not in an abusive relationship but I always believe in the (at least) 3 accounts for couples. There should be a combined account for dual bills like electricity and food and then each person should have a separate mad money account.

    I don't need my significant other wondering why I spent X amount on vanilla scented lotion and I don't want to know why he spent Y on another beer mug.

    I wrote a post on that on my blog..so feel free to check it out.

  5. Cat // December 4, 2009 at 5:09 PM  

    My ex-husband wasn't an abuser per-se- he had a psychotic break and chased me out of the house with a gun one night. Up until then, he had been mildly threatening at worst. But that night I ran- I moved into my mom's canceled every expense possible, and used a personal checking account he didn't know about (although by then he was institutionalized so he couldn't have tried to access it if he wanted to). I left with nothing but my job, a car with a 16k loan on it, my pajamas, and my pregnancy, although I was fortunate to be able to go back to my house and get my stuff after he was locked up, and I was extra fortunate to be near my mom.

    She needs to get an account in her name that she doesn't tell him about. Let her use her mailing address or another friend's for statements and such. She needs to establish some credit in her name- same thing on the address.

    But frankly, if it's really bad, she should just leave. Couch surf for a week at a time until she can get her feet under her, go to a shelter, but my God, she shouldn't put her life at risk for want of money.

    I agree with previous posters that she needs to seek professional help from a DV shelter or hotline. Before she has kids.

  6. Walker // December 4, 2009 at 6:13 PM  

    Holy crap. That's so intense. I definitely agree, separate savings accounts makes a lot of sense, especially since most divorces stem from financial problems (unless you're listening to Jan Andersen, I guess).

    This reminds me of Marala Scott's 'Indicators of an Abuser' (you know, the domestic violence author from Oprah?), one of which is "Keeps access to money away from you." In her memoir, even, her super-abusive father steals her money, and she was just a child!

    Abusers, after all, only abuse because they want to feel in control, like God. Money's just another thing that can be controlled.

  7. Anonymous // December 4, 2009 at 8:12 PM  

    I read the memoir, In Our House; Perception vs. Reality that is on Oprah.com. Marala Scott really hit hard with her memoir telling the ugly truth about domestic violence and child abuse. I think we need to take a closer look at what we allow to happen in our relationship and ask ourselves why. I do agree that the Indicators of an Abuser are beneficial in identifying the signs that tell you somethings not right with a relationship or person before it gets too deep. I'd recommend anyone reading the book that's going through any type of abuse because you'll want to get out of it after reading Marala's story and seeing the damage it causes over a lifetime for those that made it. The ugly truth is laid out. You need a separate house not just account!

  8. Anonymous // December 5, 2009 at 11:35 AM  

    I've had two long term relationships where we've handled sharing money very differently. With my ex husband, everything was combined into joint accounts. That was fine - and even when one of us made more than the other, we just shared all the money in the accounts. It worked out amicably when we divorced, as we just split the sale of the house and everything in the accounts.

    My current relationship of three years - we do not have a shared account, but we do share all expenses. We have a joint credit card we put all expenses we share on (all groceries, gas, things we buy for the house) and we pay it off together every month, and reap the airline miles benefits together. Our checking and savings accounts are separate though.

    Having done it both ways - I can say personally it doesnt matter to me - its whatever works best for the people involved. (Though I agree it's good to always have something to fall back on thats just in your name, I always had my retirement portfolio if worse came to worse)

  9. RainyDaySaver // December 5, 2009 at 12:39 PM  

    My experience is that it's always difficult to help women in this situation (not that it can't happen to men, too). An abuser makes a woman so dependent upon them that they feel "stuck" -- and cannot imagine leaving the abuser. It takes a lot, LOT of support and cajoling to convince them to leave. As frustrated as you likely are, always be there for her -- there may come a point where she will finally leave him on her own, and she'll need all the support she can get.

    As far as separate accounts, I advocate them for folks who might snipe at each other about "extra" spending. However, my husband and I so far don't have a problem with fully-shared accounts, since we're both pretty frugal.

  10. Anonymous // December 9, 2009 at 3:05 PM  

    Separate accounts is a must in any relationship.

    I was married to a controlling man who, while not physically abusive, would not allow me to buy my own shampoo or other small, inexpensive things of my own. He said I could just use what he used. But when he wanted a new computer, you'd better believe 'we' got one!

    He gave me an allowance of $20 a week for lunch and anything else I wanted to buy. That certainly did not go far. When I finally realized how it was going to be, I opened up a separate account in my name and anytime I had any money (gifts, refunds, etc.) I squirreled it away. Then I got a nice big raise and didn't tell him about it, and put the difference in my account. That allowed me to eventually feel secure enough to leave him. (That and his cheating, I should say.)

    Male or female, you have to be prepared to take care of yourself. I hate that you have to hedge your bets like that when you're in a relationship. But you never really know someone until they show their true self, and you don't want it to be too late.

    Certainly, if there is any abuse, physical or otherwise, I would advise the person to leave. It won't get better, but you wouldn't believe how much better you can feel when you're out of a relationship where someone has mistreated or abused you.

  11. Anonymous // December 12, 2009 at 1:55 PM  

    As a family law attorney, I see this situation too often. Your friend needs to know that there are many, many options and resources available to her. Help her find those resources. There are many organizations that provide both short-term and long-term relief in the form of housing, food, job placement assistance, financial assistance, free legal assistance, etc. The family court intake office at her local courthouse should be able to direct her to local services.

    If she has been financially dependent on her husband, she can still receive monetary support from him. In many states, she can go to court and seek spousal support from her husband. If she files for divorce, she can seek temporary (sometimes known as pendente lite) support from him. The local courthouse will often provide the necessary forms, or she can download them from the court's website. The support can be garnished from his wages by the court which can then turn around and deposit it into her individual account so she never has to rely on him to cut her a check or have access to her account.

    Absolutely, she needs to open up her own accounts that he has no access to. In many states, a spouse cannot unilaterally close a joint account, stop paying the marital expenses, or withhold support from the other spouse. If she's been paying some of the marital expenses, then generally she will have to continue to do so, but she can pay those directly (i.e., directly to the mortgage company, electric company, etc.) and not to him.

    (As a lawyer, I have to tell you this shouldn't be construed as legal advice, just passing along some general information.)

    Good luck and best wishes to your friend.

  12. Denise // December 17, 2009 at 5:50 PM  

    Having a separate savings account is a terrific idea. As sad as it is to say, you have have to be prepared for the worst in marriages now adays. As stated in the article posted, most marriages don't last that long now adays and many issues DO stem from a financial base. These "issues" can blossom into an abusive situation due to frustrations. I think in hindsight, this is an awesome idea and definitely moving forward. But so many people are oblivious to these real life problems and situations that exist. And those that are privy, chose not to expose or speak about it.

    Luckiy we have women like yourself and Marala Scott that share their wisdom and experiences on abusive situations. Marala Scott, author of "In Our House" Perception vs. Reality has attempted and successfully launched a uniqure approach to Domestic Violence. She has chosen to educate women AND men on the "Indicators of an Abuser." This is beneficial not only because it can help a woman recognize the signs before it is too late ... But b/c it may help a man realize that his actions are categorized as "abusive behavior" no matter how minute or how small.

  13. marpai // December 21, 2009 at 12:32 PM  

    I'm not sure what your friend's situation is, but I was in a controlling abusive marriage myself when I was young.I had no way to 'squirrel away' any money for myself.I was not allowed to work, have any friends that were not wives of his friends, or have any money that he did not give me directly.Even when I went to the grocery store, I had to give him the receipts to prove what I'd spent.I had to ask him for money for personal feminine hygiene products.How humiliating that was!Author, Marala Scott, is providing crucial information to high school & college students across the country with her speeches & the Indicators of an Abuser that she distributes everywhere.I wish I had known of these indicators when I was young & naive. Be supportive to anyone you think is in an abusive relationship.You may be the lifeline they need to hold onto!