Managing finance is challenging for everyone. It can be particularly exasperating for individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyscalculia — collectively described as conditions of “neurodiversity”. Neurodiversity is significant as 15-20% of the world population is neurodiverse (5% ADHD, 1-2% autistic, and 10% dyslexic among others).

Neurodiverse individuals may exhibit low executive function which affects their ability to organize paperwork (bank accounts, transactions etc.), manage time-sensitive activities requiring planning (e.g. bill payment), control impulses and stay on task. They might also struggle with financial shocks, tracking financial goals, and controlling daily expenses. The challenges faced by neurodiverse individuals – ranging from forgotten bills to making financial mistakes – pose an additional annual cost of more than £1,600, according to a survey conducted by Monzo Bank. In addition, neurodiverse individuals are at a higher risk of financial fraud ranging from financial exploitation and financial abuse to identity theft. The cons make it overwhelming for neurodiverse individuals to independently manage their finances. According to Newton, an independent consultancy firm, the lack of confidence in handling finances is higher for neurodiverse community (27%) as compared to neurotypical (18%).

The financial services industry falls short of serving the specific needs of neurodiverse customers. The Financial Conduct Authority reports that  “very few firms have paid attention to neurodiversity” in their diversity and inclusion policies. Though there is consensus that the “one-size-fits-all” approach is inadequate and customized services need to be introduced, the wide range of neurodiverse conditions makes it daunting for the industry to provide specialized services. Having said that, considering that most neurodiverse conditions require small bits of information (rather than detailed policy documents), one suggestion for financial institutions is to include short videos (45 seconds to 1 minute) on their website with key takeaways about their products/offerings.

In the absence of institutional support, neurodiverse individuals manage their finances through assistance from family/friends or using financial apps such as Mad about money, Goodbudget, mint etc. There are also a few financial organizations that cater specifically to neurodiverse individuals, such as Planning Across the Spectrum.

One rule of thumb for neurodiverse individuals is to simplify financial interactions through a lower number of bank accounts, credit cards, etc., automating bill payments and unsubscribing marketing campaigns from financial service providers which could otherwise create further confusion. Also, creating savings buckets (travel, emergency, education, retirement etc.) within the existing bank accounts can avoid the need to maintain separate accounts. Certain neurodiverse conditions limit the ability of the individual to resist instant gratification through impulsive buying. In such cases, it is advisable not to store credit card information in the purchase apps. Although these suggestions hold good for neurotypical individuals, it is more relevant for neurodiverse individuals struggling to manage their finances.

These tools and tricks can provide support in managing day-to-day finances, however, long-term financial planning for neurodiverse individuals may be much more difficult. For long-term planning, it is advisable to take support from organizations such as The Neurodiversity Hub which runs short courses on money management. Financial institutions are also introducing services specific to neurodiverse customers.

Despite the plethora of tools and apps available, it is important to understand that every brain is wired differently and it is critical to choose what works for you.