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ADHD and Money Management

Interview with Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D.

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Updated January 27, 2010

ADHD and Money Management

Struggles around money management can cause a person to feel incompetent, guilty and totally stuck!

Aaron Graubart/Getty Images

ADHD symptoms can make it very difficult for a person to pay bills on time, organize finances, plan and budget money, control impulsive spending, and save for the future. Struggles around money management can cause a person to feel incompetent, guilty and totally stuck! Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to better manage your finances and stay in control. Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D. is the author of ADD and Your Money: A Guide to Personal Finance for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. I turned to Dr. Sarkis for answers to common financial challenges individuals with ADHD face.

Q: What are the most common problem areas adults with ADHD are likely to experience in relation to money management?

Dr. Sarkis: Impulsive spending, higher rate of credit card debt, higher rate of debt overall, lower credit score, getting into arguments with family or significant other/spouse over money issues. Adults with ADHD can go from being excessive spenders to going the other way and becoming excessive savers and so they may have a hard time spending money on anything, which can be just as much of an issue. Not knowing where their financial papers are, having difficulty accessing their receipts or other paperwork when it is time to file taxes - that can be an issue. Also, not saving up for retirement because people with ADHD have a hard time seeing long term and so we don’t think about 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road - we’re going to need money when we retire. And being underemployed can be an issue – meaning that people with ADHD usually aren’t employed up to their ability, so that could lead to a lower income.

Q: Money management can obviously be a very overwhelming prospect for many. How can people begin to make changes slowly? Where is the best place to start so it doesn’t feel like such a gigantic mountain to overcome?

Dr. Sarkis: What I recommend is that people get an assistant and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can go to CraigsList and look for the section called “Gigs” and then “Domestic” and those advertisements are free. You can put an ad in for somebody to help you with your finances. Of course, you want to do a background check on that person first and make sure they are okay. Once you hire someone, this person can sit down with you and go through your receipts and say “well, do you really need this receipt” or they can help you with Quicken, if you use Quicken software. Quicken is nice because you can press one button and all your accounts will be synched and it will balance your checkbook for you. I know a lot of us, we learned how to balance a checkbook but it went in one ear and out the other. So Quicken does this for you.

There are a lot of college students that are looking for work and that works out well because they’re looking for work and you’re looking for help – so it is a perfect match. And also because of the recession there are a lot of people looking for work that are willing to help. So you just put an ad in CraigsList saying you need somebody 5-10 hours a week and then you tell them how much you are going to pay them. The payment is based on what everyone else is paying in your area because the going rate really differs by city. I’d say anywhere from $8 to $25 an hour.

Q: How would you word the advertisement for an assistant?

Dr. Sarkis: Personal assistant needed for organization of finances. Must know how to use Quicken. Must have reliable transportation. And if you have dogs you want to put that in there because some people are afraid of dogs. The nice thing about CraigsList is you don’t need to put in your contact info. It’s an anonymous email, so you don’t disclose your contact info unless you want to contact them. And you can have them email their resume to you. If they have any kind of errors on the resume like spelling or grammar errors, delete the email/resume. You want someone who is detail-oriented, because people with ADHD aren’t detail-oriented people. Then what you do is take all those emails and resumes and narrow them down to about three and interview those three people.

Go with your gut. If you meet somebody and it really clicks and looks like it is going to work well, then that is great. But if you meet somebody and there is a part of you that’s just nagging and questioning, then say “no” because that person is going to be in your home. You want this person to be someone you feel you can trust. And you want to be sure to check their references, too.

Sometimes people say, “Oh, an assistant is going to cost you money,” but actually it saves you money in the long run because you are getting help for the things you’re not so good at and you have more time to do the things you are good at which will leave you making more money. Plus, you’ll have a lot less late fees. You can even have the assistant fill out checks and you sign the check and then they mail the bill and check off for you. This way your bills get paid on time. The assistant can also set up bill pay through Quicken.

I also recommend people get automatic withdrawal and automatic deposit as much as possible because then you don’t have to think about mailing a check in and there is less paperwork to lose or forget about. It is also helpful to get automatic overdraft protection which covers you so your check doesn’t bounce. With overdraft protection if you accidentally write a check or use your debit card when you don’t have enough money in your checking account, the bank will automatically transfer the needed money from your savings account, provided you have enough money in savings.

Interview Continued on Page 2

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