A 2003-2004 study from the University of Massachusetts found that 67% of adults with ADHD had problems with money management. This is not particularly surprising. Consider the words typically used when discussing personal finance: control, attention, plan, organize, consistent. It’s no wonder that issues arise.
Studies also indicate that adults with untreated ADHD earn an average of $10,000 less per year than adults without ADHD. With less money to spend, coupled with less control of the money coming in, ADHD adults can experience stress, frustration and embarrassment in the midst of financial chaos.
As with other areas of their lives, however, ADHD adults can learn to bring some structure and order to their financial lives. A system has to be created which deals with impulse buying, late payments and penalties, and long term planning. Most money management systems simply don’t work for adults with ADHD. They require too much attention to detail and too much paper. You can create your own simple system, however, that will put you in charge.
The first step is to establish a budget. Daunting, I know, but this can be very helpful. Most financial advisors recommend that you write down everything that you spend, no matter how little, for a month. Chances are you’ll be amazed at some of your expenditures. This gives you a snapshot of what you spend, where you spend it, and where you can alter your choices. Determine which purchases were needs, and which were merely wants. Decide to make cuts or establish limits where you can, and then calculate your monthly budget from the results.
The first expense every month should be the money you pay yourself. This is actually very good advice, whether you have ADHD or not. The money you pay yourself is for your savings and retirement funds. If you wait until the end of the month and save what’s left, you know what will happen, if you’re honest with yourself. Very little, if anything, will be available for savings. You know that’s true, so take steps to avoid it.
If you haven’t done so already, enroll in online banking and bill paying. Set up automatic payments for as many recurring monthly bills as you can. Then you can relax, knowing that those bills will be paid on time every month. Online banking will list every deposit and withdrawal for you, automatically keeping your check book balanced as you go. Another issue eliminated.
Having a budget won’t automatically bring a halt to impulse buying. However, there are several steps you can take that will help. Don’t bring credit cards or your checkbook with you when you go to the mall. Pay with cash instead. Bring along a non-ADHD friend who can act as a gentle voice of reason when you reach for 18th addition to your handbag collection, or just one more ratchet wrench. Make a commitment to yourself that you will sleep on any purchase that’s over a certain limit – perhaps $100 or so. That shiny object might not look so necessary 24 hours later.
Establish a specific system for your financial records. Have a file for your tax documents. As soon as one comes in the mail, file it. Keep your receipts in monthly files, as well. At the end of the month, throw out any receipts that aren’t necessary for your tax return.
These recommendations will work for anyone, not just ADHD adults. Give them a shot. They’re simple and easy to implement. If you need help, seek it out. Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength.