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'I'm a financial expert with ADHD – this is how I solved my money problems'

Are you one of the estimated 1.8 million UK adults living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? If so, the chances are that you struggle to manage your money effectively.

I was diagnosed with ADHD over two decades ago, when I was 23, and while traits such as quick thinking, being incredibly creative, and great at tackling urgent tasks have been helpful for my career as a journalist, other symptoms of this neurobehavioural condition, including restlessness, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and issues with concentration, mean we can have issues doing things that we consider “boring”.

This doesn’t stand us in good stead when it comes to managing money, or making sure what goes out of our account tallies with the amount we have coming in, which often leads to feelings of anxiety, shame, frustration and low mood.

So many people living with the condition will, at some time, have experienced a sinking feeling as it dawns on them they’ve missed a payment, and the subsequent frustration of being forced to then fork out for penalty fees. Or felt shame wash over them as they realise pay day is still weeks away, but they have already blown the whole month’s budget on impulse purchases.

I wasn’t surprised when I read that a research study carried out by digital bank Monzo had revealed that those with ADHD are more than three times more likely to have budgeting issues and struggle with debt, and four times as likely to impulse buy as the general population.

I have lived with all the symptoms described above, so I understand how difficult it can be and spent my early twenties living pay cheque to pay cheque. It wasn’t until I started writing about personal finance for a national newspaper, and talking about the things that I found difficult about balancing budgets, that I began to turn my relationship with my finances around. If you have ADHD and you’re worried about money, you’re not alone. I’ve come a long way from the twentysomething struggling to keep my finances afloat.

My secret? Realising that my brain wasn’t broken, it just needed a different manual for managing money. Over the last 15 years I’ve tested lots of ADHD-friendly methods for being better at dealing with cash and gradually found the ones that worked most effectively for me.

Here are some of my favourite tried and tested ADHD tricks, which I regularly rely on to help keep my finances on track.

I hope they will do the same for you – make you feel more in control of your cash and, most importantly, less anxious or ashamed when facing your finances.

Create a shopping “speed bump”

The fact: Being impulsive is generally considered one of the most common symptoms of ADHD and it can sometimes mean you buy things even when you probably shouldn’t. To make matters worse, thanks to one-click online shopping, you’re only a second away from making an unplanned purchase that you’ll regret later on.

The fix: Work your way through any shopping apps or websites you visit regularly and delete your card details. Next time you’re browsing online, you’ll have to manually enter your 16-digit card number to buy something, and this might be enough of a speed bump to slow you down and make you think before you click.

If this doesn’t do the trick, go one step further and contact your bank for a replacement card. This will have a brand new number and so your original details will no longer work.

Then, resist the temptation to tick the box when a shopping site asks “shall we save your card details for next time?”. It really is worth it.

Know your score

The fact: From overdrafts to loans, credit cards, mobile phones and mortgages, we all have endless accounts these days. But ADHD symptoms can mean it’s hard to keep track of your finances and it can be all too simple to find yourself in the dark about how much debt you actually have in total. But this information forms your credit score, which in turn determines whether you’ll be offered the best rates and offers for financial products – or whether you will even be accepted when you make an application. The higher your score, the better.

The fix: Sign up for a free credit report tool, like MoneySuperMarket’s Credit Monitor (moneysupermarket.com/credit-monitor), so you can see all your account balances in one place and be notified when your credit report is updated monthly, meaning you can act quickly if you spot anything of concern.

This can be a huge help in avoiding any financial problems from spiralling without your being fully aware of how you are faring.

Find a financial wingman or woman

The fact: For many of us neurodivergent people, “ADHD paralysis” is the type of procrastination which leaves you hesitating at the moment when you know you need to sort something out – and want to – but just can’t seem to kick into action and get going.

While you might be tempted to berate yourself for being lazy, it’s actually down to a lack of dopamine.

The fix: Even in non-financial areas – such as getting to the gym, starting a new hobby or finishing a work project – I have found that having a ‘body double’ to partner up with was a game changer when it came to getting motivated.

If I am working on a task and there’s someone in the same room – whether physically or virtually – it helps me to stay focused and on track.

This is especially effective for tasks that I view as boring or repetitive, including sorting out a budget or doing an end of month financial audit. If you can’t find someone willing to commit to working alongside you, try Focusmate (focusmate.com).

Like online dating for your financial activities, or indeed anything you need to find motivation to get cracking with, the network will pair you with an accountability partner for a live, virtual co-working session at a time that suits your schedule.

They offer everyone three free sessions each week – of 25, 50, or 75 minutes – but if you find it particularly effective you can always choose a paid subscription of around £5.50 a month, which provides unlimited sessions.

Another way of getting cracking when you’re suffering from ADHD paralysis is to enforce the 10-minute rule. The concept is simple, but it works. When it comes to getting started with financial tasks you’ve been putting off, tell yourself, “Just do 10 minutes”. And then do it. It’s not a huge time commitment, and the bite-size chunk will seem less daunting.

Plus, once you actually start the ball rolling, you will probably work to the end of the task rather than quitting as soon as you reach your time goal. Before you know it, you’ll have finished a job you never believed you’d manage to begin.

Go automatic

The fact: Less activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain (responsible for focus and decision making) among those with ADHD can lead to time blindness, which makes it tricky to know how long a task may take. This can cause lateness which is a massive issue when we’re talking about bill paying.

The fix: Make things simpler for yourself by setting up Direct Debits to deal with all your regular bills. This means you can forget about keeping an eye on the calendar and won’t fall behind. A standing order straight to a savings account will take the hard work out of siphoning something off each pay day.

Time to talk finance

The fact: Many people with ADHD feel shame from years of struggling to balance their budgets. New research by Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and MoneySuperMarket reveals that three-quarters of people who have money worries haven’t talked to anyone about the issues they are experiencing.

The fix: CALM and MoneySuper Market’s Money Talks campaign aims to break the taboo that stops people talking about money worries because they’re embarrassed, fear that they’ll be judged or don’t know where to start.

Visit the Money Talks hubs on CALM and MoneySuperMarket for tips if you’ve got money issues. You’ll find videos and a variety of guides on topics such as how to start a chat about money with friends, family or your partner, tips for talking to children about the rising cost of living and a script of what to say when you reach out to helplines, your bank, credit card or other businesses for a helping hand.


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