Poor Financial I.Q.
Poor Financial I.Q. is part of Living on the Autism Spectrum. Those of us with learning differences have some or all the following:
- difficulty with focusing, easily overwhelmed
- difficulty reading words and numbers;
- difficulty retaining what we have just read and/or heard;
- constant procrastination; and more.
So how in the world are we supposed to also be smart with money, let alone financially intelligent? As with all the previous topics, it’s complicated.
Poor Financial I.Q. Is all in the Family
I once read an article explaining that our financial knowledge comes totally from how our parents managed their money. This means we continue using the same financial tools our parents did for our family. As Baby Boomers, our parents were like most from that post-World War II period: blue-collar, time-card punching, union-member working class. Our mothers may or may not have worked; many did not. Even though these times were often described as good years economically speaking, most families lived paycheck to paycheck. Why is that?
Our parents learned from their parents: pay bills on time and do not take on any debt except for a mortgage and, possibly, an affordable car. Few families had college savings plans. Many of our parents did not even consider that an option; I know mine didn’t. My father thought I should stay home, become a teacher by attending the local private Christian college founded by our church. Or, I could attend the nearby technical school to become a nurse. Those were my only two options. But go to college I did, to study art, eventually earning a teaching degree. However, upon graduation, my father still asked me when I would get a job as a secretary! A college education had no meaning for him. I do not remember any of my parents’ friends having college experiences, let alone degrees. Most of them learned on the job, even those who became engineers.
Investing? Except for employer stock options, which were automatic deductions, investing was not part of our family vocabulary. The “savings plan” was paying off the home mortgage. I remember many heated discussions between my parents: mom trying to make the dollar go as far as possible; dad periodically raging because he wasn’t allowed to buy (for cash) a new power tool. He never understood why there was no money left after working forty hours a week. So, he acted out, regularly, about every six months, with lots of rage. He stormed out of the house, and stayed out the entire day. Many years later we realized this was just one example of his bi-polar illness exacerbated by his ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia which was never diagnosed. Sadly, we also now know that learning differences, along with alcohol addiction, was throughout both sides of my family.
My dad was a jack of all trades. Besides his 30 years with a major corporation, he:
- repaired cars for others,
- remodeled, repaired and added to homes for others (also building our solid masonry home from scratch, by himself), and
- farmed land for other owners.
At one time he owned a grading service while my mother managed the books. Neither had any business experience. None of these services earned much money for the family, but my father was very popular!
We carry on the family way
All three of my marriages lived paycheck to paycheck. My first two husbands made solid middle class incomes; we were college educated professionals. I was a poor family money manager. Each marriage taught me more about finances, but it was mostly balancing a checkbook: money in, money out. But by marriage number three I met someone for whom I believed in so much I wanted to help support his lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant. Therefore, I had to step up to bat and learn everything I could about financing, commercial real estate, legal fundamentals, accounting and more.
Five years of studying, including that failed attempt at obtaining a realtor’s license referred to in my “Diagnosis” Blog, my parents allowed us to take a second mortgage on their home to buy a historical property with owner financing. We opened, my father had a heart attack, we took on a financial partner, my father died, and the partner eventually took over the business, all in just thirty-six months. We were in way in over our heads. This was so traumatic it took ten years for me to sit down with an accountant to complete the last paperwork.
Two bankruptcies later, and facing retirement age, I have finally learned how to manage money. But it is so much easier if you have money to begin with! Ironically, every class on becoming an entrepreneur reminds you that it is not about waiting to save enough money to start a business; we all know how to make money. It’s about taking action to manage your funds now to reach that goal today. Making money is the easy part! We just choose to miss-manage it! What are my best tools for dealing with finances and my ADD-ADHD-Dyslexic brain?
- Read constantly, anything and everything about business and finances,
- Use a written Daily Journal to log every dollar spent, cash and charges, each day,
- Use the Journal to log in all bills due, paychecks received,
- Use the Journal for regular savings deposits made,
- Use the Journal for end-of-the month totals,
- Use the following year’s Journal for summarizing all your spending and saving notes for the year before,
- Set new goals based upon last year’s actual expenses, planning to save more.
Working with our ADD-ADHD-Dyslexic learning differences requires us to manually write things down, pen on paper. Our differences do not allow us to remember what is on a computer spreadsheet unless we manually write the numbers and then enter them onto the computer. We do not feel the pain of money spent until we add all the expenses up at the end of each week, month, quarter and year. The more we write and absorb the totals, money in — money out, the more it hurts until the light bulb goes off! We want a new car? Where will the down payment and extra insurance expenses fit into the budget? What are we willing to give up to make that happen?
In our family it started like this: first we gave up
- lunches out
- clothes requiring dry cleaning
- cable t.v. (new antennas work great; and we stream Netflix, Hulu, HBO)
- eating dinners out (except for special occasions)
- movies out (except for panoramic blockbusters)
- meat (becoming vegetarians has more benefits than just savings)
- medicine (healing with the food we eat instead)
- and more.
In conclusion about Poor Financial I.Q.:
Having a Poor Financial I.Q. is probably the most destructive thing about Living with ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia. It can affect our ability to have a successful career, although people who have been diagnosed and learned the proper coping tools often excel beyond all expectations, especially entrepreneurs, writers, and financiers. Our learning differences are initially daunting, but with today’s technology we have unlimited sources of support and encouragement. Stay tuned. We plan to publish some financial planning tools along with the basics of starting a new business specifically for people Living with ADD-ADHD-Dyslexia learning differences.
“There are in the world some mischievous people.”