Managing money can be extra challenging for someone that has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). To help learn what type of challenges someone with ADHD has when it comes to money and for money management tips for someone with ADHD, I have interviewed therapist Todd Bresnick, Psy.D.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I currently maintain private practices in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I work with a range of issues including depression, anxiety, issues of modern life, bipolar disorder , ADHD, trauma, couples therapy and work with Synaesthetic Surround, a technique I researched and developed that involves the use of light, sound and vibration to influence brainwaves to induce deep, accelerated change and growth.”
What type of challenges does someone with ADHD typically have when it comes to money?
“One of the principal symptoms of ADHD is the reduction of what is called ‘ executive functioning ,’ which includes planning, prioritization and organization. Another symptom is a reduction of sustained focus and an increase in distractibility that increases impulsivity and hampers follow-through on goals. Because these functions are exactly what are necessary for good money management ADHD poses a particular challenge for managing money . Money management requires setting goals, organizing finances, creating a budget , tracking spending and controlling spending to remain within a planned budget. Each of these requirements involves a direct challenge from the specific effects of ADHD. Setting goals requires prioritization, organizing finances and creating a budget requires organization, tracking and controlling spending requires prioritization, follow-through and the control of impulsivity.”
What are some money management tips for the ADHD?
“The following are my 5 money management tips for someone that has ADHD.
Tip #1: Reframe money management as an exercise.
Because money management involves forms of thinking that are specifically challenging for those with ADHD, it can be a particularly good practice ground for learning to manage the difficulties of ADHD in general. The first tip is therefore to reframe money management from a difficult and confusing chore to good exercise. Exercise is not easy. It creates discomfort as we strain muscles that are not used to being used in everyday life. Yet as we increase the strength and dexterity in those muscles the discomfort of exercising them is replaced with a sense of mastery and security, both of which are important for those with ADHD. Money management is a perfect arena where those with ADHD can exercise their muscles of planning, prioritization, organization, sustained focus and impulse control. Thinking of it in these terms helps make it less something to avoid and more an activity that one knows will not be easy, but will have big pay-off for the effort invested.
Tip #2: Prioritize to make limitations become accomplishments.
Those with ADHD often attempt to organize themselves because they sense their deficit in organization. Often these attempts don’t work out well because they haven’t learned to prioritize. Good money management can turn limitations into accomplishments, but it requires that one learn to prioritize. First you must realistically assess the limitations of your finances. After identifying these limitations make a list of goals: short-term, medium-term and long-term. Then go through this list and prioritize each category by number according to the life value you place on them. Assume that not all of the goals will be accomplished. As with money, life itself has limitations and ultimately some of our goals will not be accomplished – save the less important ones for the next life! Match your financial assessment to your list to further prioritize the list, this time not by life value, but by a realistic assessment of what can be accomplished financially within the time frames of each category. Focus on accomplishing only the top couple of goals in each category and don’t move on to goals lower on the list until the top goals have been accomplished.
Tip #3: Create an organizational system for your goals and tasks.
Integrate your financial goals and the tasks associated with accomplishing them into an organizational system whether in one of the many apps available for tasks and goals or as a list, but keep prioritizing along the way so that your lists and systems don’t become overwhelming and impossible to accomplish. If the system you chose is too complex it will reduce your focus and create anxiety and confusion rather than the clarity and calm required to make good financial decisions and plans. If you find this to be the case you should find a simpler system or just use prioritized goal and task lists.
Tip #4: Carry your goals with you.
Whether integrated into a smart phone app or listed on paper, carry your goals with you to use as sign posts in moments when decisions need to be made about spending money in order to increase discipline and prioritization. Check in with your goals periodically to increase your focus and follow-through.
Tip #5: Celebrate the accomplishment of your goals.
Though the achievement of the goals themselves will be a reward, celebrating your accomplishment of your goals and the strengthening of cognitive muscles that are typically weak in those with ADHD creates a positive feedback loop that encourages further work on challenges and increases a sense of mastery and security, which are particularly important for those with ADHD. Set aside specific time and activities to celebrate your financial achievements.”
What type of professional help is available for someone that has ADHD and has a difficult time managing money?
“Someone with ADHD that is having difficulties with money management should find a therapist who works specifically with ADHD symptoms and is trained in practical methodologies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, as money management specifically involves the practical challenges of ADHD. In addition, I would recommend reading a good book on ADHD that helps identify both the challenges and strengths of someone with ADHD such as Hallowell and Ratey’s books Driven to Distraction or Delivered from Distraction . In addition, working with a financial planner would help in assessing finances and identifying realistic financial goals. Consider telling the financial planner your condition and asking for help in being realistic about goals – there is no need to be ashamed of having ADHD – each of us deals with our particular challenges in life and we only make ourselves stronger when we can work openly with our challenges. Suggesting a conversation between your therapist and your financial planner could also be helpful, as creating coordinated support from multiple sides can be very effective for those with ADHD.”
Thank you Todd for doing the interview on money management tips for ADHD. For more information on Todd Bresnick or his work you can check out his website on www.drtoddbresnick.com .
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