June 09, 2019
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In this episode of Women & Money, Suze shares an email from podcast listener Natalie, who describes her heartbreaking experience with financial abuse.
June 9, 2019. Sometimes when I sit down to do these podcasts, I think what is it that you really want to hear? What is it that I can talk with you about to make your lives be what I know you want them to be? Yes, I can give you financial lessons. I can tell you whether you should have a trust or not. You should have one in most cases by the way. Should you have a Roth or a traditional retirement account? A Roth by the way in most cases. Should you be investing, should you be doing this? What about real estate? What about that? What about life insurance? Which I hate in most cases unless it's term. I can tell you all that. But what it's really about, is it's about you. You know I'm the expert in personal finance. Sometimes people come up to me and they say, what stock should I buy? Where should I invest? What about the marijuana stocks? What about Bitcoin? What do you think? And then I asked them simple questions such as, do you have debt? Yes. Are you having at least an eight-month emergency fund? No. All these things. Credit card debt, emergency funds, student loan debt. And they say to me, no I still have it. I go well how old are you? And they go 50. I go and you're asking me about where to invest and you still have student loan debt? Do you all want to know one shocking thing about student loan debt? Is that one in five people today that have student loans, those are people who are 50 years of age or older. Think about that. One in five of the $1.5 trillion, 250 billion of it is with people who are older. They've been paying on the student loan debt forever. And when I really get into it and talk to them about it, they say well Suze, truthfully I started to save, everything was great and then all of a sudden I got behind on everything. My spouse left me, I couldn't pay any of my bills, and so I just stopped paying my student loan debt and it just skyrocketed on me. It doubled. It tripled. It quadrupled. So really I have this debt because of the relationship that I was in. And then I go on to talk to them about the relationship that they were in, and nine out of ten times, once again we come back to financial abuse. This is a big topic everybody. Financial abuse. And it can happen in the most subtle levels. People are still coming up to me today and they're still saying to me, what is this financial abuse that you are talking about? Can you just give me a definition of it? And even a little bit ago when I was on the island, you know, I live on an island in the Bahamas. Some man came up to me, this great man, and he said to me Suze, do you think I'm financially abusive to my wife? And I said, what would make you think that? And he said, I've been listening to you talk about financial abuse when we're out to dinner. You're sitting at a table next to me, or whatever it is, you're always talking about it. And I'm wondering, maybe I'm financially abusive and I don't even know it. Can you talk to me about it? I love that because here was a man, a very wealthy man, who wanted to know if he was guilty. So the question becomes, are you talking about this topic? Are you having the conversation like I'm having with you? And I'm always having them no matter where I am because it's so massive. Again, one out of four women in the United States of America are financially abused. And if you need more definitions on that, go back and listen to my financially abused podcast. There are many of them that I've done. But are you having the conversation? Are you speaking up, are you doing that which you need to do to help those that may be in a financially abusive relationship, even if you're not? And recently I got an email from a Natalie, who writes such a profound email that I just simply wanted to read it to you because you have a voice, you have thoughts, you have feelings that everybody should be hearing, and in this case Natalie and what she had to say deserves to be heard by all. Suze first off, thank you, you are an amazing advocate for women and their money. And more than that, you are an advocate for our next generations and their money, as women are the mothers of those generations and still in 2019, the predominant care and support for the next generation. To give you some background, I am the victim of financial abuse. I was in a seven-and-a-half-year relationship with my ex before I really recognized the extent of this financial abuse last summer and started to slowly admit to myself the extensive psychological and emotional abuse I had suffered the entire relationship. When I met him, I was a single mother in my second home that I bought on my own and had equity in. I had a pension from six years of state service. I also had small retirement accounts. When I met my partner, he was a self-employed consultant, not paying his child support, living in a friend's condo with no more than a few boxes of items to his name. Even wearing most his friend's clothing. He had no money, no retirement, and no equity in anything. When I met him, I thought he was down on his luck after a difficult divorce. I have been through the same thing with my first marriage and divorce, and it had taken years for me to get on my feet again. I overlooked many red flags that are glaring at me now in hindsight. Before I go on, the reason that I am reading this email from Natalie is I want you to see if you can identify with what Natalie is talking about when referring to herself in this email. You overlook the signs, you think you can save somebody, you see what they're doing, you recognize what you're doing. But no, as the mother of all as a woman, you think you can take care and change everyone no matter what, and you cannot. So again, I'm reading you this email to see, can you identify any danger signs that you may be seeing right now in your relationships, or things that Natalie is about to talk about. So I just want you to think about that. Now I'll continue with Natalie's email. Last summer I discovered our home was in foreclosure while he was out of the country on a mission trip with our church back to back with a trip to Italy with his daughter. This house was financed very suspiciously from the start, which I had always questioned, but because my ex is a mortgage broker, I trusted he was doing things on the up and up. This house had my pension, and the equity from my home rolled into it as the down payment. One of the many things I felt forced to do financially by my ex, and I would now be losing all of that with this ensuing foreclosure. I was shocked and decided I had to leave and be out of the home when he returned. I knew he would end up blaming me for all of this, as this is the gas lighting emotional abuse tactic he most frequently uses with me. I wanted to be out of the home and in the protective care of friends and family to help me navigate my next steps, because I knew in my gut this was really bad. I won't go into any more detail, although I could because there is so much more, I just wanted to set the stage for my question. Now, here is another important factor. I am a licensed psychologist. I'm going to repeat that everybody. And just before I go on, I just have to say this again. So many times when I talk about financial abuse, you say to me or you think without voicing it, oh it must be about poor people. Must be about uneducated people. Must be about people who are raised in situations where abuse always happened, or there was one excuse after another, but it could never happen to me you think. To an educated woman. I'm here to say think again. I will reread what I just read to you now. Here is another important factor. I am a licensed psychologist. I am smart and good at what I do. Did I know there was emotional abuse? Yes. My mistake was that I thought I could handle it, and was hopeful it would change over time. I'm going to read that line again because that is why you stay in situations that you know you should get out of. Did I know there was emotional abuse? Yes. My mistake was that I thought I could handle it, and was hopeful it would change over time. It did change, for the worst. I just wasn't admitting that to myself. I should have left a million times because of this abuse and did not. When I uncovered the financial ruin he had put us into, it clicked for me that I must leave to protect my children, a son from my first marriage and a daughter I have with this ex. The threat to them was clear. Again, I just have to stop. Women, you leave to protect your children. That's why you normally leave a relationship like this. But what if you didn't have kids? What would it take for you to leave and protect yourself? You, not just your children, but you. It's almost as if you don't count unless you have to do something for your kids. So I'm asking you to think about the question that I just asked you, what would it take for you to do something just for you? I continue with Natalie's email. He was bleeding me dry and with no intent to care for me. If I didn't leave, we would both go down financially, and then where would my kids be? But here everybody, here is where Natalie gets the point that I just made to you a few seconds ago. It is sad that it took threatening my children for me to wake up. But I am not alone in this. So many women are abused in the silent closed doors of their homes in ways that no one can see. Sometimes, including them. I am healing every day from my abuse, and as I do, I am more and more incensed by our laws, our social order, our communities, our churches, etcetera that are ill equipped to understand this and sometimes deny it is happening. Here is the thing about abuse. If we are not supporting the victims and trying to help them out of their turmoil, then we are helping in their abuse. It is as easy as that. Anything that is not directly ending the abusers tactic is inherently allowing for the abuse to continue. This is a malignant neglect that movements like MeToo or Time’s Up are trying to fight. But we are just scratching the surface of giving awareness to this insidious nature of this unseen abuse and the pervasiveness of it. I want to be part of what fixes that. Not just for me and my children, but for our nation. This, in capitals now she has, has to stop. So here is my question. How do you suggest we begin to get the three in four women who are not being financially abused to help the one in four who are? Think about what Natalie just asked me, and I ask you to ask yourself that exact same question. How do you suggest we begin to get the three in four women who are not being financially abused to help the one and four who are? Women are little more than 50% of our population. If three of four of these women were to start working for change, the sizable nature of that voice won't be able to be ignored. I really want to work at this, I want to get others working at this. I'm not only wanting to do this for the one in four, but for the children and other caretaking individuals of those one in four who suffer the trickle-down effect of what happens to those women. I have a 15-year-old son. I do not, in capitals again, want him to unknowingly start participating in a system that is unfair to women and does not recognize financial abuse as something that is criminal in nature. I have a four-year-old daughter whose father is adamant that he has not financially abused me. Who I do not want to find herself suddenly giving in to one little thing here, and one little thing there with her future partners, not noticing the small insults of abuse she is letting into her life. I want to help encourage the three of four women that are not abused to rise up for the one in four. And for our nation to demand change be made for the sake of all of us, men included. I am just starting to read Melinda Gates’s book, The Moment of Lift. I completely agree with her that when we invest in the women of a culture, we invest in all of us. When we tear down the injustices to women, we tear down the negative effect of these injustices on all of us. Signed, One of the One in Four. Well, Natalie, I read your email, you said you wanted to help, and I believe from the bottom of my heart that there will be women who hear the email that you wrote, and they will be inspired by your words. Because those were not just words, those were truths. Truth from your heart. And if you can inspire women with such words, then your dream of getting the three out of the four to help the one in four will come true. As far as I'm concerned, I thank you for that email. That email moved me. That email even made me want to get more involved and do something even more than I'm doing now because I know. I know that one by one, woman, by woman, we can change this world to make it safe for all. So that all women can be strong, smart and secure. And no women ever suffer financial abuse again. Let's make that a goal for every one of you.
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