In a time when women don’t have to stay in relationships that they don’t want to be in, it’s important that we make absolutely sure that we don’t have to be in them. But how do we do that? The answer is FU money, which is money you have stored away that provides a safety net for jobs and relationships that require us to put our middle fingers up and walk away. Unfortunately, even with the progress we’ve made, there’s one thing that should always be at the forefront of women’s minds, and it’s that breakups can be life-threatening.
According to the Violence Policy Center, 62 percent of the women murdered in 2019 were wives, ex-wives, and common-law wives of the men who killed them. It must also be noted that femicide, which is the killing of women simply because they are women, is not tracked in the US. Women are most likely to experience violence when they are on their way out of a relationship, and that also happens to be exactly when FU money is needed.
Many of us grew up watching our mothers hand over their checks to be managed by our fathers, or we didn’t see healthy examples of how to handle finances while in a relationship at all. It’s easy to revert back to what we know, which is exactly how financial abuse starts, according to financial expert and money coach Delyanne Barros. Our generation is just starting to develop tools to overcome generational financial trauma.
“[Men] will use some sort of financial control, and it starts very slowly and it builds up over time, and you may not even notice it at first,” Barros says. ‘ or ‘oh, I’ll handle the bills,’ and before you know it, you don’t know the passwords and you don’t have access to the accounts. Now you wanna leave, and you don’t have a credit card or a bank account.”
Not having complete awareness of everything going on financially as a couple is not an option for women. Barros says women also need to be on the lookout for partners who discourage them from taking promotions or seeking better career opportunities or minimize their ambition. “[It’s] so he can stay in power and in control of you, and this is how a lot of men see money,” Barros says.
In order to protect ourselves and be ready for what life throws at us, Barros says it’s absolutely vital that women have a backup plan. “Yes, you can have common goals, but you have to have your own funds that you have access to, separate from your partner. And I say that’s not just for people who are dating [and living together] but also people who are married. There’s nothing wrong with having a joint bank account and then you each having your own account where you get to spend — no questions asked.”
This is easier said than done, especially in this economy, however, Barros suggests that women should start taking the steps to protect themselves no matter where they are financially. “I’ve always made sure to rent apartments — when I’m moving in with somebody — that I can afford by myself. Like, oh yeah, I want a nicer apartment, but can I pay for it myself if something happens?” If you can’t afford to rent solo like many Americans can’t, are you comfortable getting a subletter? Would you want a roommate? “I don’t recommend commingling anything until you’re married,” Barros says. “You don’t have any legal protections until you’re married. I would not copurchase a home with a boyfriend unless you have a solid contract in place. You can have contracts, at least so you can protect yourself.” Barros also suggests women don’t cosign anything or give partners access to their accounts and says to use the splitting of costs to their advantage by saving as much as possible.
Part of protecting yourself is knowing your numbers, as well as having conversations about money and possible scenarios beforehand. “Are you talking to this person about money?” Barros asks. “What is their expectation? Have you guys talked about splitting the toilet paper? Are we splitting the rent? What happens if one of us loses our job? What is the expectation there?”
There are also a few foundational things Barros says women can do to be prepared financially. “Make sure your credit is clean; I would have at least two or three credit cards, savings and checking, and a high-yield savings account like an Ally,” she says. “Make sure that you’re contributing to your 401(k) and your Roth IRA. You’re not stopping any of that just because now you’re in a relationship.”
There are also help and resources available if you’re currently experiencing domestic violence. You can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 800-799-7233.