The occasional bounced check or unpaid bill can usually be chalked up to forgetfulness or a demanding schedule, but if you're an adult with ADHD and find managing your money to be a constant struggle, it's time to confront the root of your problems. After all, your financial health affects your physical health, too.
"Adults with ADHD often find the task of organizing their finances too tedious. As receipts and bills pile up, they may become overwhelmed to the point of denial or paralysis," said Jane Massengill, a licensed clinical social worker and a certified master ADHD coach in Danville, Calif. Poor money management and negative consequences can lead to shame and avoidance of bills until they’re long overdue. The good news, she said, is that it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Money management and financial issues can be overwhelming for anybody, but even more so for adults with ADHD symptoms. "Adults with ADHD can have a lot of fear around financial issues," Massengill said. "Like most adult ADHD problems, taking things in small steps works best." For instance, she says, "it might start with just going to the bank and arranging an automatic mortgage deduction."
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4 Money-Saving Strategies for ADHD Adults
If you have ADHD, you need to bite the bullet and create a budget. Don't let boredom or impulsiveness dig you into a huge financial hole. Your plan will depend on your own finances, your age, and your lifestyle. Here are four tips for getting started on a budget:
- First identify your problem areas. These could include bouncing checks, losing bills, making impulsive purchases, or having large credit card balances. Listing the situations when you manage your money poorly is the first step to coming up with solutions.
- Figure out your short-term and long-term goals. Do you want to pay down your credit card debt, save up for an important large purchase, or build up an emergency fund? Make a list of your top priorities, then figure out how to accomplish them in small but measurable steps. For example, you might need to cut up a few credit cards or learn some new recipes so you can eat at home more often.
- Organize financial paperwork. "The key for adults with ADHD is to keep it simple," Massengill said. "Just like kids with ADHD who use big bins to organize their clothes and toys, adults need big financial bins." She recommended simple ledgers and folders labeled by the month for paid and unpaid bills. Open all your bills as soon as you get them, and program monthly payment reminders into your phone or computer.
- Avoid impulse spending. Giving in to your impulses can be a challenge with adult ADHD, but it's an important behavior to learn to control, especially when it comes to your wallet.?Keep only one credit card, and when you shop, bring cash (and only the amount you can afford to spend). Besides always shopping with a list, use a calculator to keep a running total.
4 Solutions to ADHD Financial Problems
Money management doesn't have to be painful. Making some simple changes can have a huge positive effect on your financial health.
- Use technology to help you.?If you have trouble keeping track of your bills, consider automating your payments. You can also do your banking online so you have one place where you can find all your deposits, payments, and balances.?Using direct deposit and automatic bank drafts can halt a cascade of problems resulting from unpaid bills, which might even prompt insurers to deny you health coverage. "Setting up automatic drafts [can] make sure insurance premiums are paid on time," said Joseph J. Porco, a financial adviser and managing member of the Financial Security Group, located in Newtown, Conn. "If these payments are missed, it can result in a lapse of coverage, which means your claims could be denied. Reinstatement of coverage, in some cases, might not be possible if the insurable risk has changed."
- Get expert financial help. An extra set of eyes may be exactly what you need to start seeing solutions to your problems. "For those who can afford it, and especially those who are self-employed, using a bookkeeper, financial adviser, or an assistant to help with scheduling and all other financial matters can make all the difference," Porco said.
- Consider an adult ADHD coach. "Many adults with ADHD benefit from the assistance of a certified ADHD coach," Massengill said. "There are now ADHD coaches who specialize in money management and financial issues."
- Share financial responsibility. You may not be able to afford a coach or an adviser, but you might be able to get the help you need from a partner. "Many adults with ADHD are secretive and afraid to talk about financial problems with their spouses," Massengill said. "Open communication is always the best policy. Husbands and wives often work best as a team when it comes to money management."
ADHD symptoms do not have to lead to financial disaster. Start with a plan and work forward step by step. Don't be afraid to ask for help; you don't have to do this all by yourself. And don’t feel embarrassed. Lots of people without adult ADHD also have money management problems. You can do this, so step up to the plate and get started.