Are You Being Financially Bullied?


Financial bullies come in all shapes and sizes: husbands who insist on control of their wives’ money; wives who control finances by manipulating the purse strings; domestic partners who insist on making all financial decisions. In fact, bullying is common behavior. A 2013 survey conducted by Credit Karma found that one-in-10 respondents classified their spouse or live-in partner as a “financial bully.” 1

Portrait of a Bully

Couples often argue over money, but sometimes one partner can exhibit behavior associated with financial bullying. By definition, a bully is someone who uses his or her influence or strength to intimidate others and force them to do what they want. Financial bullies control household finances by restricting access to accounts, limiting spending and withholding money. Typical bully behaviors include making their partners show receipts for all purchases, preventing them from having credit cards, making them feel guilty for shopping, or requiring them to live on an allowance. Bullies may even threaten to leave knowing this would place their partner in financial trouble.

The young are especially vulnerable to financial bullying, according to the Credit Karma survey, which found that:1

  • Those aged 18 to 34 are three times more likely to say they are financially bullied than those aged 55 or older.
  • Those with children under the age of 18 in the household are more likely to classify their mate as a bully than those who don’t live with children.
  • Over one-fifth of married 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed said they would get a divorce “if money were no object.”

What to Do About It

If you think you are being financially bullied, there are ways to take back control of your finances. First, discuss your concerns with someone you trust, sharing with them the specific behaviors you have encountered. An objective ear will help you better gauge how real or severe the problem actually is.

Next, consider involving a third party such as a financial advisor when making major financial decisions. He or she can effectively act as a facilitator, and can help you formulate mutually satisfactory goals and strategies.

Finally, look for ways to build trust between you and your partner. Finances, like other aspects of a relationship, are best tackled with transparency and communication, and mutual trust is a critical first step.


1CreditKarma, Is Your Partner a Financial Bully?, 2014

Ivie P. Burns, II 
Senior Vice President
Financial Advisor

The Burns and Binkley Group at Morgan Stanley – Murfreesboro
804 North Thompson Lane
Suite 2-A
Murfreesboro, TN  37129

The Burns and Binkley Group at Morgan Stanley – Franklin
2000 Meridian Blvd.
Suite 290
Franklin, TN  37067

(615) 617-6010  Direct
(855) 358-9355  Toll Free
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One Response to “ Are You Being Financially Bullied? ”

  1. July 9, 2014

    Great article Ivie. Thanks for posting.

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