ADHD and Your Money: An Interview with Stephanie Sarkis PhD

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Editor:  This week we are pleased to be able to share an interview with Stephanie Sarkis PhD.   Dr. Sarkis shares her financial management wisdom as the author of ADD and Your Money:  A Guide to Personal Finance (and three other books listed at the end of this post.)  A National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) based in Boca Raton, Florida, Dr. Sarkis provides counseling and coaching to children and adults with ADHD/ADD. 

Edge:  Let’s start with the big picture.  What do you see are the unique challengesthat people with ADHD have concerning money that other people don’t?

Dr. Sarkis: People with ADHD have more impulsive spending that people without ADHD, and lack of organization skills can be a real challenge.  Bills may be paid late (or not at all) due to the simple fact that a person with ADHD has difficulty remembering when a bill is due, and may have difficulty figuring out where they put the bill.

Edge:  How can parents help their ADHD students get started with building money management skills?

Dr. Sarkis: While in high school, parents should get their teen a checking and savings account (many banks have “starter” accounts that require a low minimum balance).  Have your child start paying some of their costs (for example, their cell phone) out of this account.  If your child does not have an after-school job, they can earn money by doing chores around your house.  Also show your child how to keep their financial documents in a file cabinet.  In addition, teach your child how to use money management software, such as Quicken.

Edge:  What advice would you give to ADHD college students who are responsible for their finances for the first time?

Dr. Sarkis: Find a bank that has branches both where you live and where your parents live.  Get your account and your parents’ account connected online.  In case you need money, your parents can transfer it right online.  Use direct depositfor paychecks and student loans and use automatic withdrawal for bills.  Also, if you do use a credit card, only use one with a low limit ($500, for example).  Also remember that debit cards automatically take money out of your account, so it’s important to keep track of those withdrawals.

Edge:  What are the signs to watch for that indicate you need help with your finances?

Dr. Sarkis:

  • Consistently asking for money to cover your debts
  • Regularly making impulsive purchases
  • Not making at least the minimum payment on your credit cards
  • Creditors are calling you because of late payments
  • You are paying late fees because you forget to pay your bills

Edge:  Many ADHD experts suggest that you ask your husband or wife to be the responsible party for managing the money.  What are things a single person can do to get that kind of outside support?

Dr. Sarkis: Hiring a bookkeeper or personal assistant can help you get your finances organized and can help you get some money saved up in the bank.  If you are concerned about the cost of hiring someone, see if you can barter services.  If you are considering asking a relative or friend for help, ask yourself if this person can keep information about your finances confidential.  There definitely are money management options for those that are single!

Edge:  What should you look for in a person who can help you get your finances under control?

Dr. Sarkis: It is important that the person is local, as they may be able to meet you where you live and help you get organized.  It is also important to get references for the person (and check them).  It is also recommended that you do a background check either online or going to your local police station.  You also want someone who has worked before with people who have chronic disorganization issues.  You don’t have to mention “ADHD”, but it does help to tell the person that you need help getting organized and getting your finances under control.

Edge:  How can an ADHD coach help you get your finances under control?

Dr. Sarkis: An ADHD coach can help you organize your financial papers and find a system that you can keep organized.  Sometimes the issue isn’t so much getting organized,  it’s more of an issue keeping things organized. An ADHD coach can also show you tips and suggestions for curbing impulsive spending.  ADHD coaches can also help you set up (and synchronize) online banking software.  They can also set up direct deposit and automatic withdrawal for you.  It also helps to have someone who helps keep you accountable for your spending habits.  If you know someone will be checking up on you, you are less likely to splurge on an item you don’t really need.

Dr. Sarkis is the author of four books: 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD: How to Overcome Chronic Distraction & Accomplish Your Goals (2006); Making the Grade with ADD: A Student’s Guide to Succeeding in College with Attention Deficit Disorder (2008); ADD and Your Money: A Guide to Personal Finance for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (2009); and Adult ADHD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed (May 2011).

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