Long-term effects of trauma can be seen in personal finance management

For survivors of sexual assault who seek help through LaFASA and our coalition centers assistance such as counseling and legal advocacy are primary and immediate needs that are met. However, as time goes on survivors often will experience tertiary effects due to trauma. Tertiary effects are long-term effects that are set off as a result of a primary event. These kinds of changes in behavior can include loss of concentration skills, lack of ambition, but also a loss of ability to maintain financial stability. Adults who experienced violence as a child may not even recognize their lack of ability to manage money as a tertiary effect. 

JustMoney.com recognized this ramification. A published article* by Isabelle Coetzee delved into this subject with trauma counsellor, Morgan Mitchell. “Common cognitive problems include thinking that you have little control, low risk taking as you feel unsafe, or the negative view of the self as bad or undeserving,” Mitchell explains. “This can impede ambition, and if someone suffers from post-traumatic stress (PTS) or complex PTS, they may be unable to imagine far into the future,” she adds. (This greatly affects one’s ability to maintain a fiscal budget.) Mitchell asserts that positive side-effects, like strong empathy and compassion, may also have a negative impact on one’s finances. “Survivors can be [overly] generous and therefore may struggle to hold onto financial gains. On the other hand, some survivors may excel in business as they are driven by a compelling need for external affirmation of their worth,” she adds.

Psychologist Anelle Naude-Lester, who once worked with trauma patients through the South African Police Service (SAPS), says abuse and power go hand in hand. “Any situation where money is used to control and marginalize a person, could play a role in financial mismanagement later in life,” she explains. “If you grew up in a household where financial abuse was prevalent, it is possible to adopt a similar attitude as an adult,” she adds. An example of this is when one parent controls the other parent’s salary, claiming it belongs to him or her, with no regard for personal needs or autonomy. “Growing up in a household with unhealthy role models can influence our frame of reference and perpetuate the cycle. One could grow up believing that a wife should hand over her salary to her husband, for instance, having no financial independence as a result,” she explains. This is abusive behavior. Further trauma could include situations where money was used to gain power and manipulate behavior. “Childhood sexual abuse often goes along with monetary manipulation, like gifts or money to buy their silence and implied ‘permission’ for the abuse. This creates a dysfunctional view of money and power that can have serious implications for one’s relationship with money later in life,” according to Naude-Lester.

For anyone who has experienced trauma and finds it difficult to get a grasp on personal finances, don’t fret. It is never too late and there is never a hole that has been dug too deep. There is always hope for financial empowerment. Crystal Campbell gives some sage advice in her follow-up article.

ACHIEVING FINANCIAL STABILITY: It’s yours for the taking!

By Crystal Campbell, Commercial Copywriter & Content Creator

Financial stability may be a term that you don’t associate with yourself, but if you are reading this article, then you will find simple and easy advice to put into action so that it can be you. Many times, we look at our current circumstances or prior experiences as indications of future success. While very real, those feelings are only a backdrop to the beautiful story of your life that is currently being written. I want you to know that financial stability is an attainable goal for you! In this article, I will discuss the financial obstacles you may be facing and how to overcome them. To achieve financial stability, you will have to conquer fear of the unknown and the lack of financial literacy and proper financial planning. 

Fear is defined as an unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined. It’s been said that, “It’s the start that stops most people.” You may be experiencing fear of handling the responsibility of your finances or doubt in your ability to do so. You may not have managed your money well in the past, but by educating yourself and creating a vision for your future it will help to weed out the fear of moving forward into a financially sound future.

Financial literacy is simply knowing what to do and how to go about doing it. There is no one size fits all, but starts with a single step; research to answer your questions. Some popular questions are: What is a checking account? How can I start saving? Is it better to use cash or a credit card? A checking account gives you a safe place to put your money to minimize the risk of loss or theft. I recommend a basic checking account, one that doesn’t charge you a monthly fee, if possible. Savings can be created in different ways. You can put spare change into a jar at home, put aside a portion of your income into a separate account, or contribute to an employer 401k or retirement plan. No matter how small the amount, savings is something you will and should be proud to have done. The use of credit is a decision to be made with wisdom. Many companies offer credit lines associated with high interest rates. The point of credit is to use it to your advantage and not the other way around. The best route to take, if you are using credit, is to only spend what you can pay back in the same month. If you won’t be able to pay back what you spend in a month, it may be better to delay your purchase until you have saved enough. Other great resources for financial literacy are libraries, bank seminars, public broadcasting, financial websites and social media, and podcasts to gain more knowledge.

Financial Planning allows you to move from knowing where your money goes, to telling your money where to go. Regardless of your economic status, proper planning can be a great equalizer. Budgeting is a tool to help organize your finances. It allows you to see the inflow of income and outflow of expenses. I recommend breaking expenses down into two categories, “fixed” and “flexible.” Fixed monthly expenses are items such as; mortgage payment/rent, utilities, childcare, loans/credit cards, groceries, and gas. Flexible expenses are things such as dining out, shopping, and entertainment. Once you have an idea of where your money is going you can begin to plan from there. If you want to keep more of your income, possibly shop around for more affordable utilities or cell service providers, refinance loans for a lower interest rate, or clip coupons for groceries you normally buy. Whatever you measure needs to be managed, so good record keeping of your money will help you stay informed about your finances. Once you have a grip on managing your money, it’s not so scary or daunting to plan for the future.

Financial stability is yours for the taking! No matter what you are facing, I want you to know that with actionable steps you can accomplish your goals. You are strong enough and smart enough to achieve and have victory in your finances!

Crystal Campbell has 16 years of experience in finance, sales, and marketing. She is a creative thinker with great interpersonal and problem solving skills. If you have any questions about this article or if you are a survivor who would like advice that addresses specific concerns about your finances, please feel free to contact Crystal through LaFASA at kelli@lafasa.org.

*JustMoney.com article in full can be found at this link.

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