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How to Hide Money from an Abusive Husband or Wife Part 1 — Banking

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.

Also see, Part 2 with Lin’s advice and a link to the post she did on the subject.

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Resources:

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.

Recommended by a reader, this site supports people who are victims of verbal abuse and controlling, which are just as wrong as physical or sexual abuse.

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.

Some ideas on eHow for finding a shelter.

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.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky@FamilyandFinances March 3, 2008 at 10:16 am

Excellent post, Mrs. Micah!

I’ve never hid money from my husband, but I hide his small Christmas presents behind my shoe rack in my closet (don’t tell him!). A woman’s mound of shoes is something a man usually stays away from!

Hilda March 3, 2008 at 6:58 pm

LOL. I totally agree with Becky. Shoes are quite powerful like that.

I don’t know much about hiding money but I saw a CourtTV show once where women hid money on a buried coffee can under some bushes. Probably not the safest place but it worked for them.

kathryn March 4, 2008 at 7:51 am

I read somewhere that savings bonds are a good way to hide cash. They earn some interest, they are guaranteed, can be replaced if lost, can’t as easily be stolen, can be cashed at most any bank…AND there are no paper statements that come to the house and interest doesn’t need to be reported on the tax forms until you actually cash them out. Just buy and hide somewhere (and write down the serial numbers and stash in a different spot.)

sara l March 4, 2008 at 10:06 am

One option for a bank account is to have a friend or family member open the account and make you (the person who needs to hide money) the second person on the account. Depending on the situation having an account with debit access and at a major bank (more ATM’s/branches) would be most helpful.

Debbie M March 4, 2008 at 4:35 pm

If you buy savings bonds online, you don’t even get them in the mail anymore. Totally safe, but you’ll still need some cash you can get to quickly.

Dan Simmons May 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm

“This site supports people who are victims of verbal abuse and controlling, which are just as wrong as physical or sexual abuse […] rule of thumb: If you wonder that you might be, you probably are.”

Mmmmmmmm.

I deplore physical, sexual and emotional abuse. But the latter category is not as straightforward. There are many cases where both parties are being emotionally abusive. So I don’t agree that if one of them wonders if they are in an abusive relationship they probably are.

Mrs. Micah May 18, 2010 at 4:11 pm

@Dan actually, what you just said was that they probably are. You’d just expand it to be one of mutual abuse from both parties., not a single abuser. Either way it’s still an abusive relationship.

Dan Simmons May 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Yes, I think you’re right.

Teresa February 17, 2012 at 2:42 am

I personally don’t hide any money from my husband, and I’m positive he doesn’t either. Fortunately, we are both on the same page when it comes to our finances. I do not have a secret account. However, I think just that almost everyone has once tried to hide or “minimize” his or her expenses. Telling your spouse you spent less on an item then you actually did. This is not healthy behavior, but as humans we are prone to deceiving others and ourselves in order to indulge in unhealthy behavior. It’s a reality that we might change some day.

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