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5 ways adult ADHD can affect your finances, and 4 strategies that help

5 ways adult ADHD can affect your finances, and 4 strategies that help

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ADHD in adults can make it harder to focus on tasks that don’t grab your attention, experts say. When people with ADHD can focus on money, it can sometimes shift to hyperfocus. Strategies for managing your finances with ADHD include outside help and giving yourself extra time. Loading Something is loading.

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If you’re among the approximately 10 million adults in the U.S. living with ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, you know how this complex neurological condition can affect your daily life, from controlling your work or school tasks to managing of your social calendar, to stay organized.

It’s no surprise, then, that adult ADHD affects your ability to take control of your financial management and overall financial well-being. However, experts say there are ways to keep your finances in check with adult ADHD.

See Insider’s picks for the best budgeting apps »

1. Managing finances can get overwhelming

For some adults with ADHD, looking at numbers, bank and credit card statements, and even those helpful charts and visualizations of what your financial life looks like can be an overwhelming experience.

Such was the case with Sarah Potter, a 34-year-old marketing consultant and mental health and ADHD advocate based in Phoenix, Arizona. “When I was managing my business finances and using QuickBooks, it was a visually overwhelming experience for me,” says Potter. “I got distracted and eventually gave up.”

In turn, her finances fell by the wayside and she completely forgot to reconcile her books for her marketing consulting company and personal finances for the month.

2. A small thing can explode into a big problem

People with ADHD sometimes suffer from what’s known as “time blindness,” which is when you don’t have a clear idea of ​​how long a task or project might take. In turn, you may miss deadlines or be late for appointments and social obligations.

For example, you can’t file your taxes on time or forget to pay that bill or parking ticket, which can then lead to late fines and additional fees. And before you know it, you’re very late, and those feelings of stress, overwhelm, and embarrassment can lead to a potential meltdown.

“People with ADHD are engaged and excited by new things that concern us,” explains Dr. Kojo Sarfo, a Los Angeles-based mental health expert and author of “Feeling Good!: A Mental Health Workbook.” “If things don’t get our attention, like taxes or finances and balancing a checkbook, it’s going to be hard to do that thing. The natural tendency will be to put that thing off and you’ll say to yourself, ‘Oh, I’m coming, just not now.'”

3. You can overspend

Potter found that she had a tendency to overspend, and people would think she was a frivolous overspender prone to impulsive binges. “It wasn’t that I didn’t, or that I didn’t care,” she said. “You can really care about managing your money and you just don’t understand where the connecting pieces come together.”

Many people struggle with finances because money always goes out faster than it comes in, Sarfo explains. There are several reasons why this could be, and one of them is that people with ADHD are more likely to take risks. “Whether it’s a financial risk or something you want to buy and you think to yourself, ‘Okay, I don’t have the money, but I’ll get it eventually,'” he says, “sometimes we get impulsive and you want to make a decision because you want to feel a certain way, you want to experience that dopamine rush.”

4. You may become hyper-focused on your finances

Many people misunderstand ADHD, thinking it means you can’t focus on anything. Rather, ADHD causes you to hyperfocus on one thing, which can make you neglect everything else. Sarfo says he’s seen clients become obsessed with managing money.

That is because they have gone through periods in their lives where they have lost significant amounts of money by not paying enough attention to their finances. “This can lead to a lot of anxiety,” says Sarfo, “because a $4 purchase might not make a big difference in the big picture, but they’re obsessed with avoiding a loss, which creates more anxiety.”

5. You may not know your worth in the workplace

Those diagnosed later in life may lack confidence in their abilities. In turn, they may not ask what they are worth in their careers. For Potter, who was diagnosed as an adult and grew up thinking she was less able and intelligent than her peers, she felt she should charge less for her marketing consulting services.

“I didn’t understand how I could earn more,” says Potter. “I kept thinking, ‘here’s some of the ADHD trauma coming in,’ and I felt like I had to ask less to get more business.”

Ways to better manage your money when you have ADHD

1. Enlist help

Potter enlisted the help of financial professionals to help manage her business finances, and when she got married several years ago, she took the plunge and entrusted her husband to manage most of the finances in the relationship.

Robo-advisors, such as those on Insider’s list of the best online financial advisors, can be an approachable option for getting help with complex financial questions. You can also work with a financial therapist.

2. Link an enjoyable task to a difficult one

If you find things like keeping your budget or working on your tax return overwhelming and extremely off-putting, combine them with something fun as a reward, Sarfo suggests.

3. Add a time cushion

Because it can be difficult to estimate how long a seemingly simple task might take, plan in plenty of extra time, Sarfo recommends. “Because when something sneaks up on you, something that would have been a minor convenience turns into a problem, which can lead to an ADHD meltdown,” he says.

4. Charge more for your professional services

Taking on too much work because you’re undercharging can lead to exhaustion, especially since ADHD can make it hard for you to fly from one task to another.

When Potter started charging three times her usual amount, it was a complete game changer. “On the journey of changing my mindset, I had to say, ‘I’m worth so much, I’m worth more than this.'”

Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer based in Los Angeles. She is an accredited AFC® financial advisor.
Jackie is passionate about helping artists, freelancers and gig economy workers with their finances. She has extensive experience writing about budgeting, investing, thrift, money and relationships, and loves finding interesting stories that deal with money.
She is the recipient of Money Management International’s 2022 Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award and the 2022 recipient of the Plutus Awards for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media.
In her spare time she enjoys volunteering, water aerobics, collecting stickers, being in nature and learning to play the drums. You can contact her on Instagram or Twitter.

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