We don’t learn about setting up a financial plan in school. It is often one of life’s big challenges that many tend to avoid (including myself for the better part of my life). It is more challenging for the neurodiverse because financial strategies aren’t made for how our brains work. Many tools and guides that you will find are designed for neurotypicals and will not set you up for success.
What Is Neurodiversity?
The concept of neurodiversity is more known today than ever before. It came from Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist. She first used the term neurodiversity in a thesis paper she presented in 1998. The term neurodiversity refers to differences in how the human brain functions. It impacts learning, mood, social skills, emotions, and attention, to name a few. It was first used to represent people with autism. Today it includes more neurological conditions, such as ADHD, dyslexia and dyscalculia.
What Is Financial Planning?
When people think about financial planning, they often focus on longer goals like retirement and investing. Financial planning is so much more than that. It’s a plan for all things financial in your life today and into your future. A full financial plan includes things like:
- Your current income and spending
- A spending plan (aka a budget)
- Your personal financial goals and the pathway for you to achieve those goals
- Estate planning
- Retirement planning
- Insurance coverage
A Solid Financial Plan Builds Your Path To Long-Term Financial Success!
Building a financial plan for yourself can feel overwhelming. There are many hurdles for neurodiverse individuals, that make it more challenging. The neurodiverse brain can create many roadblocks that can impact your financial well-being. Some challenges include (but are not limited to):
- Difficulty finding employment suited to their needs
- Higher health costs, including medications
- Higher spending as a result of impulse spending
- Difficulty with changes and building new habits
- Increased food costs from purchasing convenience items (like pre-cut fruits and vegetables)
- Increased food waste
These issues can cause financial hardship for the neurodiverse.
If You’re Neurodiverse, How Can You Start Your Financial Plan?
You might be heading into hyperfocus mode with this article, or you could be down the rabbit hole. Either way, I want to encourage you to pair your online education with action! Focus on getting things done vs. getting them perfect. In my experience, you can never predict every financial obstacle that you will face in your life. A financial plan that works today will need to be flexible to support you in the future.
The foundation of your financial plan starts with a budget. Having a plan for your money today will give you the clarity that you need to make decisions about your future. When creating a budget for yourself, finding some of the numbers (like grocery spending) can feel like a lot of work. For items that change (like groceries), use your best estimate to start and adjust if needed. Often the overwhelm of sorting through your spending can be a barrier to creating a plan for your money. I recommend using actual numbers for your payments (like loan payments).
Whatever path you choose, the key is to build new habits. I recommend that you commit to checking in on your money and your goals regularly. For your longer-term goals and investments, checking in once a month to once a quarter is ideal. For your shorter-term goals and to stay focused on your spending, check in at least once a week. However, if you want to flex your habit-building muscle, daily check-ins can be a great place to start! This will help you easily see if you need to make any adjustments.
Ask For Help
My biggest piece of advice for you today is to get help. Find someone you trust. Either a professional or an accountability partner. Even better, both.
The good news is that there are many financial professionals, like Certified Financial Planner and Financial Coaches, out there who are neurodiversity advocates. They will help you find ways to manage your money that work for your unique brain. They do not conform to the idea that people have to manage their money in one specific way.
As helpful as professionals are, having a friend or family member you trust can be life-changing. Together you can support one another to stay on track.
Strategies That Help the Neurodiverse Manage Their Money
- Automating transfers to savings and investing accounts
- Using different accounts to segregate money for spending from money for paying bills
- Automating bill payments
- Setting up equal billing for utility bills where you can
- Including spending on things you love in your budget
- Regular meetings with a partner, friend, or family member to talk money
- Setting up phone reminders to check in on your finances
- Limiting or avoiding the use of credit cards
You may also be eligible for the Disability Tax Credit, which has many financial benefits to help you. If you do qualify, be sure to let any financial professionals that you are working with know so they can assist you.
What I really want you to know is that you don’t have to do it on your own AND that it is possible for you to start and build on your financial plan. The key is that your plan won’t look like everyone else’s. Finding what works for you will be life-changing! The path to finding what works may not be easy, but it will be worth it. When things feel hard, take some time to think about what your biggest challenges are and think outside the box to find possible solutions.