19 March 2024

    Finances and neurodiversity

    Kate Meyers

    Head of Institutional

    Kate Meyers

    Head of Institutional

    I listen to a lot of podcasts (including The Curve, Girls that Invest, She’s on the Money) and one recently got me thinking about how the finance and advice industry can better support neurodiverse people when it comes to managing their finances – finding ways to make things easier and being more approachable.

    March 18 marks the start of Neurodiversity Celebration Week. This worldwide initiative aims to break down the stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences and build greater diversity, equity, and inclusion across communities.

    For some neurodiverse people, things like managing their money can be more difficult and achieving financial independence more challenging. Here’s how being neurodiverse can impact your finances, and some suggestions and strategies that could help.

    What does neurodiversity mean?

    Neurodiversity relates to the development of a person’s nervous system. The nervous system is the communicator between our body and our brain. It controls our motor functions, senses, thought processes and awareness and plays a part in our learning and memory. It is also responsible for regulating our internal physical state. These conditions can constantly change and grow.

    While for some neurodiverse people managing their finances can be more challenging, for others it may be their superpower. Neurodiverse people can have lower executive function (organisation and time management skills) along with dopamine-seeking brains, slower speed of thought and procrastination. This may make managing savings and finances difficult in a financial world that is designed for neurotypical people.

    How may neurodiversity impact your finances?

    It is estimated that between 15% and 20% of the population lives with one or more of the over 600 identified neurodivergent conditions.

    We can all struggle with getting (and keeping) our finances in order. Neurodiverse people can struggle with:

    • time management and organisation skills (remembering to pay bills on time);

    • trouble with future thinking (why should I be contributing to KiwiSaver when I can’t access it for many years?);

    • difficulty staying focused on less preferred tasks (budgeting, administration);

    • being quickly overwhelmed with an overload of information and numerous options;

    • procrastination; and

    • impulse spending.

    Helping busy brains achieve their financial ambitions

    Neurodivergent people may have preferences for processing information in different ways. This may be thinking in words, numbers or pictures. If you can work out a way to tailor your financial interactions to support your learning style, this will make things easier for you and will put you on a road to being more financially secure.

    Here are some suggestions and strategies that could help.

    1. Automation is your friend

    Automation can help you build your savings. Transferring money directly from your pay into your investment account means no ongoing action is required - think of it as “paying yourself first” and removing any spending temptation. Instant balance updates give you greater visibility over where your money is and how it’s working for you. Automating bill payments by using direct debit payments also means there is less chance of forgetting a payment.

    2. Friction is helpful

    Impulsivity is often experienced by neurodiverse people. If you have saved your card details and address when making payments online, it enables future impulse purchases to be achieved quickly with less steps and clicks required. I like the idea of “adding in friction” which increases the number of steps required to complete a purchase. You can do this by deleting all saved payment details from online shopping sites and removing the auto-fill passwords.

    3. Consolidate your finances

    Having your money spread across too many financial services has been described as having too many tabs open in your brain. It’s often much easier to manage your finances if they are all in one place, or in as few places as possible. Try to consolidate with one or two financial institutions.

    4. Visualisation

    If you're a visual learner, there are tools like the Fisher Funds app and website that integrate charts and graphs so you can visualise how your savings are growing.

    Some banks also let you personalise your account images, so if you are saving for a first home or a special holiday you can add a photo of your goal.

    5. Talk to someone

    MoneyTalks is a free financial helpline, offering confidential budgeting advice and can connect you with relevant community services. Or if you’ve got questions about your KiwiSaver or Managed Funds account, our team of friendly advisers can help you to get the most from your investment.

    Doing things differently

    Managing your savings and finances successfully may mean starting with small changes. Becoming comfortable with these changes and with a growing confidence you will improve your relationship with money, feel more in control of your finances and confident around achieving your savings ambitions.

    As a financial services provider we need to embrace everyone’s differences and ensure that our platforms are as inclusive and user friendly as possible. This is something we’re working towards at Fisher Funds, but we’re conscious we still have a way to go.

    If you’ve got any questions about your investment or how we can help make sure you’re on track to reach your goals, our friendly team are happy to help. You can call us on 0508 347 437, chat with us online, or drop us an email.

    Learn more about Neurodiversity Celebration Week

    Neurodiversity Celebration Week was founded and launched in London in 2018 by neurodiverse teenager Siena Castellon with the intention of bringing acceptance, equality and inclusion to enable neurodiverse people to develop a sense of empowerment and belonging at school and in the workplace.

    You can learn more about New Zealand events scheduled during the week on the Divergent Thinking website.