Financial Wellbeing and
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is a term that describes how humans vary regarding their neurocognitive ability and was first defined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer:
“Neurodiversity refers to the virtually infinite neurocognitive variability within Earth’s human population. It points to the fact that every human has a unique nervous system with a unique combination of abilities and needs.”
These differences impact how humans think, feel and act, resulting in variances in their strengths and challenges. These differences can create major difficulties in some areas and make other things very easy.
Neurominorities that fall into this category include autism, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and dyscalculia, amongst others. Depending on where cited, it is reported that 5% of the population has ADHD, 1-2% of the population is autistic, and 10% of the population is dyslexic.
The Role of Executive Functioning
Executive function is a general umbrella term for various cognitive functions, most notably those related to attention control, cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control and working memory. When executive functioning is compromised, there can be challenges in planning, prioritisation, organisation and impulse control, as well as staying on task.
People need the skills associated with executive function to do things like setting financial goals, deciding when to buy and when to save, and making and following a budget - all of which contribute to adult financial wellbeing.
The Interaction of Neurodiversity and Financial Wellbeing
The Money and Pensions Service defines financial wellbeing as “feeling secure and in control of your finances, both now and in the future” and “knowing that you can pay the bills today, can deal with the unexpected, and are on track for a healthy financial future”.
The concept of financial wellbeing encompasses various aspects that extend beyond just financial knowledge or proficiency. People who are neurodivergent often face challenges with executive functioning that create issues with financial management and decision-making. Examples of this include:
control of day-to-day and month-to-month finances
capacity to absorb financial shocks
being on track to meet financial goals
financial freedom to make choices that support quality of life
Financial struggles can have a direct impact on the state of someone’s mental health, causing stress, worry and overwhelm, and financial stress can lead to sleepless nights, anxiety and an inability to fully focus on work. Research by Money and Mental Health at Work before the pandemic showed that in England alone over 1.5 million people were experiencing both problem debt and mental health problems. Research also finds that 60% of presenteeism is due to having an unhealthy financial mindset, with 30% of employees blaming financial worries for reduced productivity.
People with neurodiverse traits are more susceptible to struggling with their finances, experiencing low financial wellbeing as a result, and limited performance and productivity.
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