Last week, I asked for peoples ideas on how to hide money from an abusive spouse/parter. I realized that my site didn’t have enough information for someone in a real predicament and wanted to remedy that. You responded wonderfully, and I’ll be doing a short series about it. I’m not an expert and this isn’t professional advice. If you are in an abusive situation, there are ways out. Every situation is different, but I don’t believe any is hopeless. At the end, I’ll include some resources I discovered. And if you can’t save money, you can still get out.
The first topic is where to put the money. If you’ve found a way to hide it or squirrel it away, you will need a spot. One option is putting it in a bank. Another is hiding it with a trusted friend or possibly a family member, or finding your own place to hide it. (Thoughts, readers, on where to hide a secret fireproof safe if you don’t have any friends you can trust?)
Hiding your money is part of your escape plan. It helps if you can work out the escape plan with a trusted friend or perhaps a relative or social worker/domestic violence professional. Ryan of Uncommon-Cents is a social worker and recommends getting professional help in making your escape plan if possible.
One important safety tip if you’re using the internet is that certain software can track your computer actions (such as keystrokes for passwords and e-mails), including earning money online and researching solutions. Consider using your local library’s computers.
Ideas for storing the money safely:
1. If you get a bank account, talk to your banker about needing to keep it a secret. One of the best ways to do this is get the account in a friend’s name. See below about some of the disadvantages of having an official bank account with a potential paper trail.
2. Arrange with a friend to hide the money at her house. She may even be able to cash paychecks for you. This should probably be the same friend who’s involved in the rest of your escape plan.
3. Get a safety deposit box. Your money won’t earn interest, but it’s easier to hide a key than it is to hide an ATM card or checkbook. It’s like a fireproof safe. You also won’t have as much access (like when the bank is closed), but it can be pretty secret. This is my favorite idea.
You can also put things like your birth certificate and passport in there so that you have them if you need them.
4. Get a PO box. Deepali suggests getting this first. That way you have a place for them to send the paperwork for bank accounts or safety deposit boxes.
Disadvantages of the bank account:
1. Mamaber reminded us that money in a bank account can be found by divorce lawyers and may go to your abusive spouse if you get a divorce.
One possible solution is to immediately remove the money after you leave. The lawyer may be able to find out about a safety deposit box, but I don’t believe they’re able to discover the contents.
— removed for rewriting.
3. You have to report real earnings including bank interest on your taxes. So you may need to plan your escape in part around the tax season. From January to December, you can work and save, but the forms for interest and employment forms for tax purposes will get mailed in the following January, so you want to be careful.
Tax season shouldn’t affect an account only in a friend’s name, though you’ll need to let her possibly pay taxes on the interest. You may still have to think about your earnings, unless you’re being paid under the table.
4. If your spouse discovers the account, you can explain that you made it in case something happens to them. If they’re killed or seriously impaired, the money in your joint account (or their account if you don’t share one) may get tied up while things are sorted out. You’ll need that money to buy groceries. It’s like an emergency fund. But unfortunately, they can’t be added because that would make it liable to be tied up too. They may not be likely to see reason, but it’s a valid reason.
I can’t imagine how scary all of this would be. But there are ways to escape. You don’t need to have money to escape if you can’t find a way to put it together. Some people make it out with the clothes on their backs and they still make it. But I hope this can help you find a way to save some money to ease your transition out.
The Halton Women’s Place has a list of ideas and options for abused women who aren’t able/ready to leave just yet.
End Abuse has a Get Help page with some resources and safety-plan templates.
From the BBC, some information about how to tell if you’re in an abusive relationship. Rule of thumb: If you wonder that you might be, you probably are.
Note, some people are in abusive situations with boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners which are similar to those of the married. Married people may be able to find out more about each other’s bank accounts and credit, but some of this may apply to the other situations as well.