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  • By Karen Hogg
  • Posted August 16, 2022

The Benefits of Working with a Certified Financial Planner for Autistic and ADHD Individuals

Many neurodiverse individuals have challenges in different areas of executive functioning. According to Merriam-Webster, executive function is defined as “the group of complex mental processes and cognitive abilities (such as working memory, impulse inhibition, and reasoning) that control the skills (such as organizing tasks, remembering details, managing time, and solving problems) required for goal-directed behavior.” Executive functioning skills help you to follow through on tasks and get things done. If you lack executive functioning skills in one area, that does not mean you lack them in all areas. Many autistic folks excel at projects and goals that involve their special interest. It is common for autistic, ADHD, or dyslexic people to have “spiky profiles”, where they might excel at certain things and need support in other areas. This can sometimes be referred to as the “ADHD TAX”. Which is the price you pay for costly mistakes due to symptoms of ADHD and autism. Food not eaten, late fees charged, and getting things at the last minute for a higher cost are common examples.

For some autistic and ADHD people, money management is an area where they need support. Since money is still a taboo subject throughout much of our culture, this support need can easily fall through the cracks. This is where working with a financial planner or coach who understands the needs of the neurodiverse community can be beneficial. An autistic person may be very aware that they need help in this area but may be too overwhelmed to know where to start. Well-intentioned financial professionals who are not familiar with the needs of the autistic community can unknowingly add to this overwhelming feeling. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A certified financial planner team that is in tune with these unique needs will be able to meet a person where they are at in their financial literacy, as opposed to having an unrealistic, preconceived notion of where they think a potential client should be based on neurotypes that don’t fit them. They will assume competence, whatever the support needs of their client may be.

Here are some ways that working with a financial planner can help an autistic person.

  1. Tracking monthly expenses: One of the first steps to financial wellness is knowing what’s coming in and what’s going out. Tracking expenses can be overwhelming for many people. Perhaps they have already tried multiple ways of tracking expenses before, but nothing worked for them. People often recommend things like Excel spreadsheets to track spending but that can visually be overwhelming for some. It is important to find a financial planner that is open to exploring different ways of tracking expenses, even if it means “thinking outside the box.”
  2. Looking at Expenditures and Cutting Out Unnecessary Spending: Once a person can get a handle on what they are spending every month, the next logical step would be to cut out unnecessary spending. For an autistic person who has executive functioning difficulties in this area, this process might need to be broken down into smaller steps. Instead of “cut out all unnecessary spending,” which is a vague, non-specific task, a client can benefit from smaller, more specific tasks that lead toward the greater goal of cutting out certain expenditures. For instance, canceling a subscription service or an app that isn’t being used is a small, concrete step that builds confidence and good habits. Once that task is accomplished, another small goal can be set.
  3. Pay Yourself: Establishing routines is crucial to neurodiverse financial health and wellness. Saving is one of these habits that is important to establish. While this may seem like common knowledge to some, knowing something and putting it into practice are two very different things. Creating small, reachable goals can be very helpful in building confidence and financial independence. Again, this is where a financial planner familiar with neurodiversity can be a useful ally. One potential habit might be to write down a list of bills that the client has to pay each month. One of the “bills” should be savings. In this way, the client pays themselves, putting money into savings on a monthly basis. Maybe the financial planner can give them a goal of saving for one month of living expenses, then two months, etc.
  4. Small Habits: While the idea of building small habits has been previously discussed here, a financial planner can coach a neurodiverse client in ways that extend into everyday life. For instance, brewing coffee at home as opposed to buying it from a place like Dunkin’ Donuts can save hundreds of dollars over the course of year. Bringing bottles to be recycled at the grocery store and getting the deposit back is another small, but important habit. These seemingly insignificant, quotidian acts can coalesce into powerful forces of consistency, gently guiding a client towards financial goals. That being said, a financial planner who is autistic themselves, or at least has an understanding of the autistic community, will recognize that these examples will not be easy for everyone. For instance, if remembering to clean out coffee grounds is difficult or if the experience presents a sensory challenge, a financial planner who understands this will realize that another workaround or habit can be established. (Case in point, the author of this blog post may have let coffee grounds grow mold on them in the past. Sometimes, it takes a few days to get around to cleaning out the coffee maker.)
  5. Looking toward the Future: To ensure financial wellness and stability, it is important to not only support a client and their family in what they can do in the present moment but also crucial to think about planning for the future. Different people will have different support needs. For some folks, just providing a minimal structure might be all they need. For others, their needs will be greater. Those conversations will be different and might include family members and other loved ones. It is vitally important to assess what their financial picture is, and whatever their support needs may be. This is where working with a financial planner can be very beneficial!

The professional certified financial planners at Planning Across the Spectrum not only understand these needs but also experience them, as neurodiverse people themselves. They work not only with individuals that are autistic but with other disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia. This ensures that they are able to meet people where they’re at - mentally and financially - and provide the help necessary to get you on the right track for your future. Reach out to them today to see how they can help you achieve your unique neurodiverse financial goals!


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