I am an adult with ADHD and learning disabilities. While I have been successful at learning how to read and write through teaching children with special needs, there is still one area of my life that is left in a mess. I cannot seem to get a grasp on my finances.
I have tried the organizational strategies that I teach to my students. I have tried using the websites set up by banks. Nothing seems to work for me. Is there any technology that can help me with this? I’m sure I’m not the only one.
This is a difficult problem that many people struggle with, whether they have a disability or not. Particularly as we get older and perhaps begin investing money, saving for retirement, paying back student loans, buying a car, thinking about buying a home or other major purchases, our finances get more and more complicated. Fortunately, because it is such a common problem, there are many tools out there to help us make sense of it all.
A first step might be to educate yourself about financial planning, retirement, investing, whichever topic you feel you might need additional information on. Many adult community education centers will offer inexpensive courses on everything from financing a home to balancing your checkbook. While you may know much of this information already, it might not hurt to have a refresher on a few topics. And you may learn some new strategies for keeping things organized.
You can also find much of this information online on one of the many financial help websites out there. The Motley Fool is particularly well-known and they tend to write things in a way the average person (i.e. one with no background in finance) can understand. They also provide a number of calculators, worksheets and planning tools that may be helpful.
Another source for calculators and planning tools is Bankrate.com. These calculators may not help you with the organization part of financial planning, but they may help you with running numbers and figuring out what you need to do to achieve certain financial goals.
This would also be a great time to evaluate what you want from personal financial software. There are a variety of options out there, from the fairly simple to the incredibly complex. Do you need something to help you create a monthly budget? Would you prefer software that can track all of your assets and spending? Do you need a tool that can connect to your online banking information?
When it comes to software to assist you with financial planning and organization, it is really a matter of choice and needs. Some people are fine with creating an excel spreadsheet to track their spending and create budgets, others prefer to use a software program that does most of the work for them.
Because people with learning disabilities often struggle with organization, you may want to keep an eye out for tools that track spending for you by category. This way you can see exactly what you are spending and where. Many programs can update your records automatically with information from your bank statement. This means you don’t have to be organized enough to remember to enter things on your own. Simply download your bank statement and load it directly into the software program.
Some of these types of programs include Quicken and Microsoft Money. These programs are well-known and fairly easy to use, so they may be a good place to start. Most software titles such as these will offer you a free 30-day trial, so you can shop around a little.
Finally, there are also a number of free (or mostly free) online budgeting and financial planning tools, such as: Clear Checkbook, Pear Budget, and Gnu Cash. Some of these programs are designed to interface with your mobile phone, meaning you can access or change your budget or financial information whenever you need to. Others are designed with very simple interfaces and limited features to give you only what you need. Because you can try these all out for free, you might want to play around with a few and see if anything clicks.
Of course, each of these programs requires some degree of effort from the user. If you have a hard time staying organized, or remembering to balance your checkbook, it may be difficult to remember to upload the information into your planning software. If your struggles are more in the realm of staying on top of things and keeping organized, you might also supplement your use of personal financial software with an online tool like Remember the Milk.
Remember the Milk allows you to create reminders, to-do lists and manage tasks from anywhere and have them sent to you via text message, email, and instant messenger. You could set up a variety of reminders related to financial planning (i.e. once a month upload bank statement, every two weeks check balance, etc.) and ensure that no matter where you are, you keep your financial life organized.