Who doesn’t want to save money, whether it’s for a vacation, emergency planning or retirement? It may sound easy, but for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, handling finances may be more of a struggle than it is for a neurotypical person.
“Managing finances can be a challenge for people with ADHD,” notes CHADD’s National Resource Center on ADHD. “The symptoms of procrastination, disorganization and impulsivity can wreak havoc on your finances.” Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a nonprofit organization working to “improve the lives of people affected by ADHD.”
[See: Hoarding, ADHD, Narcissism: Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities.]
The Role of Executive Function
“Executive function, which involves planning, organizing and learning from consequences, are skills needed to manage money,” says Stephanie Sarkis, an author and psychotherapist in Tampa, Florida. “However, these are all impaired in an ADHD individual.” Sarkis, who co-wrote “ADD and Your Money,” explains that people with the disorder may be inclined to spend too much without being mindful of the fact that the month prior, they did the same thing and ended up overdrawing their bank account. Additionally, she says many people with ADHD often don’t take advantage of their employer’s retirement plan because they tend to “live day to day and not think too much about the future.”
“The impulsive, live-in-the-moment lifestyle of the individual with ADHD makes it difficult to remember upcoming expenses,” the CHADD National Resource Center notes.
Sue West, a productivity and ADHD coach who resides in New Hampshire, fully agrees that executive functioning issues are at hand when it comes to ADHD and money management issues. “It’s a classic executive function skills puzzle,” she says. “There are lots of moving pieces such as different dates and matching up bills with when the money is available.” Things like keeping track of paper bills, what’s paid automatically versus what’s not and even the notion of having to face bills in the first place are all challenging for someone with ADHD, West explains. Add to that the responsibilities of self-employment or managing bills for aging parents or younger adults, and she says challenges with executive function skills can surge even more. She notes that there’s also “an uneven sense of time inherent in the ADHD brain,” which can be problematic when it comes to date-specific concepts such as paying bills by their due date.
The problems that can result from such mismanagement transcend merely what’s happening in the ADHD person’s bank account. West explains that it can become emotionally draining, where a person may develop negative feelings if there’s been more spending than saving or if “you’ve gotten into debt or been late on a few bills.”
It can even put a strain on relationships. In her blog, 8 Proven ADHD Money Strategies, West notes her observations of couples where differing money management styles and related expectations create stress. In one case, where one person has ADHD and the other does not, she writes about money being “boring” and expressions of not feeling in control of their financial life were often expressed by the frustrated couple.