Savvy Ladies Founder Stacy Francis on Financial Abuse

For Stacy Francis, founder of the nonprofit Savvy Ladies, a crusade against financial abuse is personal.

Her grandmother was the inspiration for the nonprofit, which is focused on helping women learn about money and finances for free, Francis says. Her grandmother’s abused her emotionally, physically and financially.

“I finally had the courage to ask her why she stayed, and the answer she gave me was one that completely changed my life,” Francis says. “It was about money.”

Financial abuse can include anything from being left in the dark about finances or having one’s finances used, forcibly, to cover costs for the abuser, says Francis.

Financial abuse is sometimes difficult to spot. In a romantic relationship, it can mean that one partner may only give the other a small allowance, or may not allow their partner to access the money at all. The abusive partner may even take their partner’s paycheck or other assets. They may also use their partner’s name to rack up debt they don’t intend to pay.

“No one talks about financial abuse,” Francis says. “When you say abuse, it’s such a word that has strong connotations and meaning. It can take many different forms.”

And yet, it happens quite often. One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the Purple Purse Foundation, and nearly every domestic violence case includes financial abuse.
Savvy Ladies worked with a New York mother of two who was given a stipend of $500 per week by her husband, despite the fact that there were millions of dollars in her husband’s bank accounts, Francis says. The woman was not allowed to touch that money, no matter how difficult the situation got.

“Living in New York City, that’s just not enough,” Francis says.

Another Savvy Ladies client had one credit card that sent a text to her husband every time she used it.

“This is a really important topic because when you use the word abuse, most women turn the page and just assume that their situation is not dire enough to be called that,” Francis says.

So what can someone experiencing financial abuse do? Francis suggests starting with a therapist.

“Often the woman is not going to go into that office knowing for sure what she needs to do and whether or not she is being abused,” says Francis. “She doesn’t realize that all couples don’t work in that way. We don’t talk about money as women. It’s hard for her to gauge whether it’s normal.”

Those who suspect that they’re a victim of financial abuse can also reach out to a financial adviser through Savvy Ladies’ helpline.

“The piece of it that I am most proud of is the helpline,” Francis says. “It matches women up with certified financial planners for free. We’ve seen over and over how desperately women need that.”

You don’t have to be an abuse victim to use the helpline, though. It’s set up to provide women of all backgrounds assistance with their finances, completely free.

If you’re not looking for financial advice, but you want to get involved with the group, consider donating money or offering your skills as an accountant or CFP to the group.

Note: If you’re experiencing abuse of any kind, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #28