Let’s talk about ADHD and financial planning.

OK, maybe you can tell where this is going. ADHD and any kind of “planning” tends to spell trouble.

That’s because if you have ADHD, well, I’m sure there are many things you’re good at, but chances are that delaying gratification isn’t one of them.

MoneyPsychologists sometimes talk about this in terms of delay discounting, which is about how much people undervalue future rewards. If I gave you twenty dollars today, you’d probably be more excited about that than if I promised to give you twenty dollars five years from now.

Everyone values short-term rewards over long-term rewards to some extent. But people with ADHD tend to be more focused on short-term rewards than most.

Now, back to financial planning.

Here’s an example of a short-term reward: buying something shiny.

And here’s an example of a long-term reward: saving money.

To put it another way: people with ADHD tend to be impulsive, and being impulsive tends not to be conducive to stable finances.

Keeping good finances requires organization, discipline, planning ahead, and remembering to pay your credit card bill on time. All things that people with ADHD struggle with from time to time.

You don’t have to take my word for it either. A new study just found that people with ADHD tend to have:

  • More late credit card payments
  • Higher credit card balances
  • Higher personal debt
  • More use of pawn services

The researchers who ran the study did control for income, which means people with ADHD aren’t at higher risk for these financial problems just because they earn less. Although, as a side note, the study also found that even compared to people with comparable incomes, ADHDers have more checkered employment histories.

The authors of the study suggested delay discounting – that is, the tendency to prioritize immediate rewards rather than delay gratification – as a possible reason for ADHDers’ financial woes. And sure enough, they found a correlation between ADHD symptoms and higher delay discounting.

Of course, none of this means that there’s nothing you can do about it. Try looking for ways that ADHD could be interfering with your personal finances, then seeing how you can expand some of the coping strategies that work for you into the financial side of your life.

Keeping budgets, creating lists, following routines, and setting rules for yourself can all help. Oh, and if you haven’t discovered it yet, automated bill paying is magical! If you have other tips for ADHD and managing finances, share them below!

Image: Flickr/Sean MacEntee