How ADHD, autism and other neurodiverse conditions may affect your pocket

5 min | 1 November 2021

Chanté Joseph

Being neurodiverse can make money management difficult. Neurodivergent writer Chanté Joseph shares her tips and tricks to help you get on top of your money habits.

No two people are the same; not even identical twins are truly identical. This is no more true when we think about the way our brains work. Neurodiversity describes how people can differ in their cognitive abilities. Different cognitive abilities can affect the way we navigate the world and complete tasks.

While most of us sometimes have trouble with self-management activities like timekeeping or remembering things, for neurodiverse people, these struggles can impact our day-to-day lives. For example, as someone with ADHD, I’m great at coming up with ideas but terrible at the organisation and structure required to follow them through. As a result, I leave a trail of abandoned social media accounts wherever I go.

We're not unusual

Neurodiversity is much more common in the UK than you think; it's estimated at least 15% of the population are affected. ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Tourette syndrome all come under the neurodivergent umbrella.

Of course, not all these conditions are the same, but they all share a similar impact on what's called executive function. This is a set of cognitive processes that deal with:

  • Working memory (how you remember to do things) 
  • Planning
  • Time management and organisation
  • Self-control and self-monitoring

In the context of money, your executive function allows you to manage yourself so you can achieve financial and life goals. The forgetfulness and disorganisation associated with some conditions can lead to constantly losing things and buying replacements. If you struggle to track and manage your time – like me – you can easily spend too much money on taxis to get you around. Though neurodiversity can feel debilitating, you can thrive in the right environment and with the proper support and with proper structures in place you can learn to manage your money.

A considerable part of conditions like ADHD is emotional dysregulation or mood swings; these moments often make you vulnerable to emotional spending and can lead to you spending money unplanned, both when you are at extreme highs and lows. Procrastinating or avoiding bills and payments can land you in financial trouble, and lack of impulse control can make it hard to spend sensibly.

Looking ahead

In 2019, the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology studied neurodiverse children’s long-term money habits. The study found that by the age of 30, people with ADHD had a lower monthly income, less money in savings, and regularly received more financial support from others than those aged 25 without ADHD. Often young adults with neurodiverse conditions will struggle to transition into adulthood and its financial requirements because of their inability to manage their money.

Being neurodiverse doesn’t mean money management will always be a struggle. Here are some tips that could help you make better money decisions:

  • Before overhauling your finances, it is essential to plan and think about what you want to achieve: Is there an event or person you’re saving for? Imagine what you want your life to be like and start from there
  • Divide your financial goals into short term (e.g. urgent purchases and bills), medium-term (e.g. a car or new computer) and long term (e.g. retirement, child trust fund) and review these monthly
  • Start to get into the detail of your day-to-day spending, review bank statements and understand your spending without judging yourself. It is essential to understand and assess your money habits before you start to change things
  • Once you have understood your habits, it is time to budget! Calculate your essential spending, see where you can cut non-essential spending and create a monthly budget that feels achievable for you
  • Organisations such as The Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (Opens in new window) provide several information sheets on spending, saving and money management. If you’re looking for more non-traditional solutions, finance coaching for neurodivergent people is also an option many choose
  • The Neurodiversity Hub (Opens in new window) also runs a short course for neurodivergent people who want to manage money better

If you have always struggled with money and are part of the neurodiverse community (or think you may be), there is no shame in seeking out support and guidance. Your money issues are not about recklessness, and you’re not an awful person for overspending. Our brains are wired differently, and without the proper support, it can be hard to manage your money and your life.

It is also important to remember that neurodiverse people are commonly creative thinkers, fantastic in a crisis, and come up with great solutions to problems. So don’t worry if you’re struggling at the moment, you will find something that works for you.

Sources:

  • ed.ac.uk Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy "Support for neurodiversity" 
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.giv Article dated 2 Dec 2019 "The Long-Term Financial Outcome of Children Diagnosed with ADHD"
  • sciencedaily.com Press Release dated 17 April 2017 "Money a barrier to independence for young adults with autism"

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