Research from the Journal of Neural Transmission has highlighted that individuals in the ADHD and autistic community are more likely to struggle when managing personal finances and investments due to factors such as impulse control, attention deficits and anxiety. After recently being diagnosed with ADHD and autism, Melbourne-based Jacinta (30) is determined to raise awareness on this issue.
Jacinta never used to pay much attention to her finances, but when she decided to take control, it became a hyper-fixation. She found that some investing platforms aren’t ADHD-friendly, giving too little breakdown on how money is invested, which contributed to her financial anxiety.
We spoke with Jacinta to understand more about the barriers neurodivergent people face, and the platforms and strategies that have now helped her find financial freedom.
Can you tell us more about the barriers that neurodivergent people may face when managing personal finances?
There are several barriers neurodivergent people like myself face when managing our personal finances.
Firstly, particularly with ADHD, neurodivergent brains may receive less dopamine than the neurotypical brain (less buzzy, happy feelings to go around), and when they do arrive, they may not last as long. This pull to receive dopamine and feel-good chemicals can lead to increased impulsive behaviour.
Therefore with these impulses, there is a risk that we may slip into behaviours or spending that don’t put us in the best financial positions. Some examples of this can include spending on new items, eating out regularly and on a whim, and even overcommitting to personal saving/ investment strategies and not leaving enough for the day-to-day.
Losing sight of your bank balance
As a neurodivergent individual, it can be easy to forget things we aren’t constantly reminded of. This ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ perspective can be a challenge for some, as your bank balance might not be front of mind , even when talking about or spending money.
For some people, carrying physical cash can be a good strategy to set boundaries and enforce budgets. This doesn’t work as well for me as if it’s in my pocket I’m more likely to splash the cash and run out well-ahead of my budget. Instead I try to keep an eye on the total number in my account regularly where I can. At the end of the day it comes down to what works best for you.
The health costs attached to being neurodivergent is a major barrier that hinders my ability to manage finances and grow long-term wealth. Beyond medical costs like assessment and diagnosis, sessions with professionals and medication (which on their own are eye-watering), there’s also less obvious costs. This includes late fees from forgotten bills, parking tickets from time blindness, repairing or replacing items that have been damaged or lost, or house cleaning costs because things can so easily get out of hand. Some call this an ‘ADHD tax’, but I believe it’s more accurately a neurodivergent tax since many of these occurrences are common across the community.
To try and help those in my community that struggle with these barriers, and to educate others about neurodiversity, I actually have my own podcast ‘Differently Brained’ where I chat with neurodiverse guests or individuals who have lived experience with mental health challenges, with an aim to champion the different ways we all exist in the world, and to help break down the stigmas and misconceptions around neurodivergence and mental health.
How can investing platforms become more inclusive for neurodivergent people?
Transparency is key! I want to know the ins and outs of something before I feel comfortable jumping in. So, easy navigation, accessible educational materials, and clear outlines of how the platform works and what the values of the parent company are, can be (and have been) the difference between me using something and not.
Additionally, automations like recurring investments and transfers can cater to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality, and can work in our favour, helping to make the investing process seamless.
What’s more, clear information on investing performance is absolutely integral. Similar to my budget and bank account, I need to see exactly how things are performing. Coming from a non-financial background, investing has been a little harder to wrap my head around, so having that information readily available through both visuals and text has made it so much easier to understand. Ensuring information like this is available in various formats is also beneficial to the neurodivergent community, so that each person can engage with their portfolio in a way that makes the most sense for them.
What products and strategies have assisted you in your personal financial management journey?
It can be tricky to find the time to sit down and update a budget and cashflow spreadsheet, and to be honest it’s not something that interests me enough to hold my focus for the length of time needed. For this reason, I’m quite phone-based with my finances and steer towards products that can automatically track for me.
In saying that, I am super hands-on with my finances (more of a control factor rather than dopamine) and I love budget apps that track my accounts and show my patterns in spending so I can adjust budgets and be across my cashflow. My go-to product here has recently shut down, so I’m open to any recommendations!
When it comes to investing, I use the Sharesies platform. From the very beginning I knew exactly what the company’s values and missions are and how the platform worked – which made a big difference when choosing an investment platform. Everything is accessible, clear, and easy to use. I can see how much money I have in my overall portfolio, each company or ETF and the divisions there, and I have easy access to a bunch of information on how each individual company or ETF is performing.
Sharesies has also made it so much easier to find investments that align with my values. I put investing off for a long time because I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t feel comfortable supporting companies that in turn, supported things I don’t believe in. With Sharesies, it’s as simple as punching in a few filters to see exactly what industries are on offer, where they are based, and how they fit with your values.
What advice would you give for someone who wants to find financial freedom, but feels overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start?
Taking the plunge can definitely feel overwhelming, especially as a neurodivergent individual facing extra challenges and/or spending habits you’re trying to break. For me, education was one of the greatest resources that helped me feel comfortable to make decisions and build my confidence.
I started with podcasts as they were easier to digest than big books, and helped me break down the jargon I was unfamiliar with. I then progressed to blog posts and articles to build my knowledge (the Sharesies website is great for this), focusing on areas of interest like ethical investing.
I started off slow and small because being autistic comes with a huge whack of caution for me.It was a few dollars here and there, another reason I love Sharesies as there is no minimum investment value. I’ve since grown my portfolio, educating myself further and finding more confidence in what I’m doing. The biggest takeaway for me would be that starting small is better than not starting at all!