October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and while providing shelter and security for victims is often the first priority, helping them attain financial or economic security is just as important.
Financial security and access to resources is the number one predictor of whether domestic violence victims will stay in or leave an abusive relationship. And insurance is a key component of financial planning that helps survivors prepare for a better life, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Loretta Worters, vice president, I.I.I. says:
The financial cost of leaving an abusive partner can be crushing. Once you decide to leave your partner, you may be solely responsible for providing for yourself and your family and insurance can play a critical role in gaining your financial freedom and self-sufficiency.â€
To mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the I.I.I. suggests the following financial
strategies for anyone who is leaving or has left an abusive situation:
1. Secure your financial records: Itâ€™s essential to prevent identity theft or damage to your credit. Birth certificates, drivers licenses, passports, bank and credit card information needs to be kept with a trusted family member or friend, or in a bank safety deposit. Itâ€™s also a good idea to set up a P.O. Box to conceal all your important mail from your abuser.
2. Know where you stand financially: Knowledge is power, and it is critical that you understand where you stand financially. That means knowing your main sources of income, bank account balances, property owned and debts owed.
3. Build a financial safety net: Once you have a good idea of your financial picture, you are in a better position to plan your exit. Begin with estimating your income and expenses to see if the money you earn right now will allow you to meet your basic needs. Also, start a savings plan and create an emergency fund so you have a safety net if things get difficult financially once you leave.
4. Make necessary changes to your insurance plans: If you plan to take a car with you when you leave your abuser, you will need to get separate auto insurance coverage immediately. Also, when you move out of the house, it is likely you will be renting a place to live and will need to purchase a renters insurance policy. If a life insurance policy on your own life is payable to the abuser, and you own the policy, you have the right to change the beneficiary, and probably should.
5. Maintain good credit: Having a good credit report is going to be essential when it comes to starting your new life, as it can help you more easily rent an apartment, get a new credit card and get better rates on your insuranceâ€”it can even affect your ability to get a job. Take care of your current debts and avoid missing any payments. Obtain a copy of your credit report and monitor your credit often.
6. Seek assistance: If you are in a precarious financial situation, or have limited money management skills, it may be difficult to implement some of the steps mentioned above so it is important that you use all the assistance available. Local domestic violence programs, libraries, the Internet and faith-based organizations are all places that you can go to get assistance, and many offer free workshops and seminars that can help you with money management.