What to know about financial planning with ADHD
At a glance
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common condition that affects almost two million adults in the UK. People with ADHD exhibit certain behaviour patterns such as impulsivity and trouble with concentration.
- ADHD behaviours can have an impact on financial management; for example, individuals with ADHD might spend money impulsively or forget to pay bills.
- If you have ADHD, working with a financial adviser can help you set long-term goals and work towards them. To get the best from your relationship, be clear with them about the support you need.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition with symptoms that include difficulty with concentration and focus, plus sometimes impulsive and hyperactive behaviour. Although it’s often associated with children, it affects around 1.9 million adults in the UK1, with a growing number receiving a diagnosis at that stage in their life.
Why do people with ADHD struggle with finances?
ADHD can have an impact on many aspects of adult life, including work, personal relationships – and finances. Research by YouGov and digital bank Monzo found that living with ADHD could cost as much as £1,600 a year2, due to the complexity the condition can bring to certain financial tasks.
For example, impulsive behaviour – a common trait among people with ADHD – can make you overspend and buy things you can’t afford. The research found that almost half (48%) of respondents with ADHD said they often spent money impulsively, compared to just 12% of the general population. Forgetfulness is also a problem – those with ADHD are almost three times more likely to miss bill payments occasionally or often (49%) than those without the condition (18%). Meanwhile, 31% of people with ADHD reported struggling with debt, compared to 11% of those without3.
The struggle to manage personal finances and guilt felt from impulse spending has other knock-on effects, too; three-quarters (76%) of people with ADHD said that dealing with their personal finances causes them mental-health issues – twice as many as those without the condition (38%)4.
How can people with ADHD manage money?
Jake Bevans, Specialist Escalation Adviser – Technical Services at Technical Connection, understands this; he was diagnosed with ADHD six months ago.
Working out whether something is an ADHD symptom or part of his personality can be challenging, explains Jake. “I went for a long time without being diagnosed so I have developed coping mechanisms,” he adds.
Jake says he can sometimes be impulsive with purchases. He can also be forgetful, which means he sometimes misses bills and can find time planning difficult.
“I try to make sure things are automated. I put reminders on my phone that I need to do something,” he says. “I find that useful; it can take the responsibility off me. But I know that may not be the same for other people.”
Working with a financial adviser who is sensitive to the needs of clients with ADHD could help those with the condition take control of their finances and increase overall wellbeing.
If you have ADHD, Jake recommends being clear during the first meeting about how you’d like to work with a financial adviser. This may not mean stating that you have ADHD but could simply involve asking for reminders of things you need to do, as you can sometimes be forgetful when it comes to topics you aren’t engaged with.
This advice is the same for everyone dealing with advisers for the first time, but it’s more significant for neurodiverse clients. That way, the adviser will know they may need to go the extra mile to help you as a client with ADHD, says Jake.
“It’s worth highlighting to your adviser that understanding the ‘why’ is more important to you than the ‘how’; the ‘why’ is what will keep you interested,” Jake adds. “A good financial adviser should make this clear anyway. As for the ‘how’, if you can be part of the financial problem-solving, it may also help with engagement and commitment.”
ADHD is often associated with difficulty concentrating, but this is only one behaviour. Jake explains he can also hyperfocus on certain things, which can lead to its own problems.
“It’s a common misconception that you can’t focus if you have ADHD. [But] hyper-fixation can lead to a crash. If something is engaging for me then I can stay focused on it for hours. I have a lot of hobbies – I may sit and draw for four hours and then I’m bored of that. So instead, I need to break that time down into smaller parts, otherwise I may say, ‘I can’t do that again’.”
When it comes to financial planning, Jake says, this trait can mean that if you spend too long on a single topic with an adviser, it could be very difficult to engage on it at all another time.
“It’s better to do even an hour and stay engaged and interested,” he says. “Then leave the rest and plan it in for next time.” He also recommends identifying financial goals that lead to something tangible, which may be more likely to keep you engaged.
“Advisers should think of the needs that any client would have and then be prepared to exaggerate those for a client with ADHD,” he concludes.
1ADHD Incidence, ADHD UK, accessed March 2023
2, 3, 4Living With ADHD Can Cost You an Extra £1,600 a Year Because of Difficulties Managing Your Money, Monzo.com, June 2022 (from a survey of 506 people living with ADHD, with a shorter survey of 2,068 UK adults to provide comparison answers)
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