How ADHD Makes Money More Complicated For Women

Photographed by Anna Jay
"Ever since I started getting pocket money I’ve struggled with impulse spending. I’ve also struggled with budgeting because the idea alone felt exhausting, without factoring in the shame I felt about my finances," says Hannah Stringer, a 31-year-old London-based virtual assistant for neurodivergent people.
"Budgeting meant having to be honest with myself about my situation and for a long time I wasn’t prepared to do that."
In 2020 Hannah was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and it gave her a renewed understanding of her financially "chaotic" 20s. Her ADHD predominantly manifests as impulsivity and a desire to bury her head in the sand when it comes to administrative tasks, both of which impact her money management.
Assessments for ADHD among women are higher than ever beforemore than 250,000 were tested in 2021, up from 7,700 in 2019 – and new findings suggest the disorder has a substantial impact on how they manage their money compared to men.
Research commissioned by Monzo and conducted by YouGov, shared exclusively with Refinery29, reveals that a much higher percentage of women than men think their ADHD impacts their personal finances (72% versus 56%), and it costs them £200 a year more than men (£1,695 versus £1,494). These findings are particularly pertinent given the gendered nature of the cost of living crisis in the UK.
What’s more, 80% of women say that money problems caused by their ADHD lead to anxiety, compared to 71% of men.
"I’ve often overspent to give myself a dopamine hit," says Hannah. "Beyond that, falling into high-interest debt because of my 'bury my head in the sand' approach felt embarrassing and shameful. There was the constant, gnawing anxiety about my debt and how I would pay it off."
ADHD impacts money management in several ways, says Professor James Brown, cofounder of the charity ADHDadultUK. "People with ADHD often lack the thinking skills known as 'executive functions', which are higher level thinking skills like planning, working memory and inhibiting our behaviours.
"This means that things like impulse spending, forgetting to pay bills on time and avoiding dealing with financial issues often leads to increased debt and reduced credit availability."
Monzo’s research found that women with ADHD consider themselves more likely to impulse spend than men, with 54% saying they do this frequently (versus 40% of men). They also find it harder to stick to a budget – 59% identify this as a regular issue (versus 39% of men).
Nadia*, 24, who lives in London and works in tech, received an ADHD diagnosis this year after several years of suspecting she had the condition. Impulsivity and forgetfulness are dominant traits of her ADHD, both of which impact her ability to manage her money. 

I get anxious about not being able to regulate myself in the moment without spending money to self-soothe.

Nadia has discovered that whenever she struggles to regulate her emotions, she has an urge to spend money on skincare, takeaways and travel. "I get anxious about not being able to regulate myself in the moment without spending money to self-soothe."
She also experiences "time blindness" – the inability to sense the passing of time – which feeds into her impulse spending as it makes financial planning difficult. "I struggle to think too far ahead and prefer to live in the moment."
Neither Hannah nor Nadia is surprised that, according to this study, money problems caused by ADHD seem to have a greater impact on women’s mental health than men’s.
This all begs the question: Why does ADHD appear to have an outsize impact on women’s money management compared to men's? Professor Brown says there’s evidence that women with ADHD self-report higher levels of impairment in several areas of life than men, including money management. "It’s possible this is due to women’s expectations for their own performance being negatively influenced by societal expectations," Professor Brown suggests.
"Women may perceive their ability to perform financial tasks as being poor because of the stereotypes society holds that women (and people with ADHD in general) have a decreased ability to manage their lives."
Since receiving their diagnoses, both Nadia and Hannah have a better awareness of how their ADHD manifests and impacts their money management. This has enabled them to design ways of managing their money that work with their ADHD.
"I try to make it fun," Hannah says. "I make sure my budget spreadsheet is decked out in pretty colours and I have an aesthetically pleasing photo tied to each savings goal, like a mini vision board." By making her banking "dopamine friendly", she no longer dreads opening her banking app to check her account and has started saving for the first time using savings pots.
Nadia also enjoys "gamifying" her money goals to keep her engaged and ensure her finances don’t feel like a "burden". She’s set up several hidden savings pots so that saving money doesn’t need to be an active choice. This is helpful given her propensity for forgetfulness and discovering the pots "gives me that little dopamine hit, which is something people with ADHD struggle to maintain," she says.
To reduce the urge to impulse spend, Nadia also has an account that doesn’t allow her to withdraw cash unless she goes to the bank, "which of course I’ll put off and never get around to". 
She also tries to interrogate her "urge to splurge" when it happens. She asks herself: "Am I anxious? Upset? Excited? Self-sabotaging? If so, why? Is there another way to meet my needs that doesn’t involve impulsive spending?" She tries to understand the root cause of what she’s feeling before spending money unnecessarily.

Am I anxious? Upset? Excited? Self-sabotaging? If so, why? Is there another way to meet my needs that doesn't involve impulsive spending?

For those with ADHD who want to stop impulse spending, Professor Brown suggests: "Try taking a photo of something you want to buy and look at it later to see if you still want it. Even freezing your credit card in a block of ice so it’s harder to use but still available in emergencies can help." If you have significant debt, seek help from organisations like StepChange.
Hannah recommends keeping your banking app notifications turned on if you have ADHD as they stop your bank account from being "out of sight, out of mind".
Another thing that helped Hannah was "ripping the plaster off and talking to people about my money problems," she says. "Friends and family were able to help me gain perspective on my situation and find a way forward. Now I feel more comfortable asking for advice."
As simple as it sounds, she also suggests getting into the habit of checking your bank account regularly. "At first it will feel horrible and anxiety-inducing but the more you do it, the more those feelings will go away until they’re practically nonexistent."
She continues: "Habits are hard for ADHD-ers but you have to make money management a habit. I chose one tiny habit to focus on, which is checking my bank account several times a week. That has had a domino effect on everything else."
*Name has been changed