How Narcissists Use Money to Abuse

“He cut off my credit cards.”

“She’s hiding her income.”

“Where is all the money going?”

These are just a few of familiar refrains heard in every divorce lawyers’ offices around the world, especially when dealing with high conflict personalities or narcissists.  For these types of people, lying, gaslighting, lining up flying monkeys, intimidation manipulation tactics are just a regular Tuesday.  Terrorists may seem like pikers when it comes to the types of deliberate fear mongering strategies employed by narcissists in divorce.

Narcissists or people afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder have a very fragile, no inner sense of self and no ability to truly care for another human being.   How that manifests for anyone who dares to enter into a relationship with them is complete and utter devastation and trauma.   Depending upon the type of and degree of narcissist, the path of destruction can include covert operations such as cleverly couching their smear campaign in the form of “concern.”    (Such as “I’m so concerned about Angela.  She’s drinking so much more than she used to.”

Another very common way narcissists exert control over their targets is using money.   Jason Crowley, a financial advisor who specializes in working with people recovering from narcissistic relationships puts it this way, “A lot of narcissists really like to use money as a tool for power, control and leverage.  It’s not about the money. It’s about the power and control.”

That need for power and control over their target results in money or assets being hidden, income being manipulated to appear to be less, and cutting off access to funds.

Negotiation with a Narcissist

Hiding Assets and Income

Oftentimes, the process of hiding income or assets starts long before the actual divorce or breakup.   There are three phases to a narcissistic relationship – love bombing, devaluing and discarding.   The confusing thing is that love bombing can be happening during the discard phase, and devaluing can be happening during the love bomb phase or the discard phase.  The phases do not take place in a linear fashion.  They can overlap with each other.   This means that even while you’re being “love bombed”, they can be planning to discard you, and moving money to hidden accounts offshore, or asking their employers to pay a portion of their pay to a separate account.  Being paid in cash is another favorite of narcissists.

Targets or victims of narcissists will sometimes catch glimpses of what’s going on and even question the narcissist about where the money is.   The narcissist will then engage is one of the “4 Ds”; deny, deflect, devalue, or dismiss.  This leaves the target feeling paranoid and even traumatized.   The snowball effect is that the feeling of paranoia causes the target to question the narcissist, which causes the narcissist to hide and sneak around even more, which draws more suspicion.    Many times, by the time the exhausted target makes it to the doorsteps of the divorce attorney’s offices, he or she is convinced that the narcissist is hiding millions of dollars and earns ten times what they say they do.   The truth is probably somewhere in between.

One of the ways to find those hidden assets and income, is to engage the services of a forensic specialist to help perform tracings to literally “follow the money trail.”  This can be a slippery slope because the return on the investment may not be worth it.   According to Crowley, “People can kind of work themselves into a tizzy where the fear of the unknown manifests into a massive concern about something that may or may not exist.   Then have to consider the options to address that concern. You can hire a private investigator and do a world search of different bank accounts and see if something like comes up, you can do full forensic accounting tracing, but all of those things come with pretty hefty price tags.”

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Crowley suggests a “smoking gun analysis” as a way to save on fees and costs, but also determine if moving forward with a forensic specialist will be worth the endeavor.   By foregoing a full tracing, but instead analyzing all financial records for a year, then determining what the income was, what the total expenses were, then look for discrepancies.

Another way to look at income that works well if the person is paid as a W-2 employee from one company is to subpoena the company for all pay records, including all forms of benefits that were conferred upon the employee.  This may mean stock benefits, bonuses, or car allowances.   The subpoena should also include all account information where pay or benefits were deposited.  Ask the company for a full breakdown of every dollar earned by the employee and where it went.   Make sure to ask for the exact bank names, account numbers, and routing numbers.

Subpoenas often are a more efficient way of getting to the bottom of things if full disclosure hasn’t been made during the discovery process. Company’s will comply and oftentimes the documents come in a very organized packet as opposed to boxes of documents that have been pieced together, and which can have missing parts.

Before filing for divorce, it is critical to gather as much information about the finances as possible.   Making copies or taking photographs can be an easy way to be sure to have the necessary information to get subpoenas started.

If it is suspected that there is a lot of cash, then consider using the services of a forensic auditor, who will actually spend several days in the narcissist’s business and eyeball what cash is flowing in and out of the business.   As they say however, dirty deeds don’t come cheap, and neither do auditors, so it’s important to have some idea of the amount of cash that may be flowing in.  Obviously the amount of cash income to be discovered should far exceed the amount that will be paid to the auditor.

Cutting Off Access

Another way narcissists financially abuse targets is by cutting off access to funds.  This can come in the form of removing spending powers from a credit card, removing the target’s name from a bank account, or redirecting their pay into another bank account, one in which the target either has no knowledge of or access to.   Narcissists will also just not pay certain bills, or promise to pay for items that they then renege on and don’t pay.

A lot of jurisdictions have court orders which prohibit this kind of behavior, but narcissists believe they are entitled and above the law, so deciding not to abide by a court order is as easy for them as swatting away a fly.

One way to get out in front of this happening, which can leave the target without money, and feeling powerless, used and abused, is to file a request with the court system right away requesting temporary support.  It can take time to get a hearing so by getting it filed immediately, before it is needed, that sense of urgency isn’t as dire.


By anticipating what the narcissist will do, the target has the opportunity to be on the offensive rather than constantly playing defense.   Narcissists will do whatever they think they can get away with, and making life a living hell for their target is very enticing to them.   By using the tools of the court, such as subpoenas,motions and hearings, the target can create a strategy which will ultimately help them build leverage and actually beat the narcissist and their own game.

If you are dealing with a narcissist and you want to know more about how to communicate with them, come join me at my FREE Webinar, the 3 MUST HAVE Secrets for Communicating with a Narcissist. You can sign up for that RIGHT HERE.

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