Financial Disaster Area

Financial Disaster Area

I screwed up again. Nothing new there: it’s a regular occurrence. This time I paid three bills twice, but luckily I’ve got the money in my account to cover it. Finances and me are not a felicitous combination: left to my own devices I will forget to pay bills, lose track of my balance and go overdrawn. Why should this be? I studied math to university level, I was an A student at school and won a Gold Award in a national mathematics competition, I’ve been working as a software developer for most of my adult life: I am completely comfortable with numbers and higher mathematics.

So… it’s not the numerical or arithmetical aspect that gives me trouble. It’s executive function (EF). Or rather executive dysfunction, specifically as it relates to planning and working memory. I’ve tried to manage household finances over the years but I always come unstuck, losing track of what’s paid, what’s due and how much money remains in the account. I’ve tried using written accounts, spreadsheets, internet & mobile banking and still I fail to keep on top of it.

Of course the household budget is not the only area where I suffer these or similar problems, but it is the most serious. I can’t multi-task – I am only able to concentrate on doing one thing at a time, which can be a limitation in the kitchen when I’m trying to toast bread at the same time as frying bacon. I’ve lost count of the number of times it has resulted in burnt toast since I forgot about it being under the grill until I smelled the burning! And at work I have problems with meetings – I sometimes forget about the meeting until after it has finished, or get confused about what day it is scheduled. And this is with a reminder on my PC: without one I am totally at sea.

Grocery shopping is another problem area (even without the associated sensory issues and the severe discomfort caused when they reorganize the shelves, but that’s a whole other subject). I have a routine – no surprise there – where I make a list first, sorted according to the store layout. I pick up the items in list order, and I still miss one or two items as often as not.

It’s a curious, sometimes frustrating state of affairs. I can hold down a full-time job, I can drive, I even run a darts competition in my local pub. But I can’t live independently. There are key areas where I need assistance that center around running a household: finances, laundry, cleaning, maintenance. I know that I have the skills to perform these tasks, which is the most frustrating part. I just lack the organization to do them consistently in a timely manner. I’ve tried, I really have. I’ve lived on my own for periods when I was a student as well as when I first moved away from home permanently to take up a new job. And every time it has been the same end result: things fall apart after only a few weeks.

It’s a benefit of being married that I have somebody else in the home whom I can rely on to do the organizing, to balance the books, and to remind me when jobs need doing. As I said to my wife only this morning, I don’t know what I’d do without her.

9 thoughts on “Financial Disaster Area

  1. Hi Ben, your post really hits home here. My son has this problem too, and my husband has it to a degree. My husband has a very particular pattern/order he does things in or he'll forget to do several things, if not all of what he was supposed to do. Our son, however, really has a horribly difficult time with it all and was told he had Executive Function issues. He forgets things all the time, gets confused about appointments, forgets to do his laundry, even when he knows the next day he'll be going out and need clothes… he simply doesn't put the two things together in his mind. Money is tough for him as well. My husband and I work to balance each other out, so if my husband had trouble talking on the phone to a service we may need, I'll take care of that. If I have a problem navigating a contract or understanding of a situation, he'll help me through it. We both help our son. I believe you when you say you've tried. My son has tried over and over again. Even with alarms, calendars, and notes, he will still get confused and mix things up or forget and it's truly very, very frustrating to him. Thank goodness we have people in our lives that can help guide us through the things we have difficulties with.

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  2. I do this too, more than I'd like to admit. One month I set up an automatic payment to pay the credit card bill weeks ahead and moved money into the checking account. Then a week later I said, "why is there so much money in the checking account?" and moved it back to the savings. Then the next week I got an email saying the bank couldn't make the payment on the credit card because there weren't enough funds. Fortunately I'd set the auto payment up to be sent 5 days early so I was able to do it all over again and still pay in time. And then I paid the same electric bill twice.*headdesk*I'm really a very responsible adult otherwise.

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  3. Oh yes! Having to do things in a particular order is so familiar to me. One problem I have is that I might notice or remember something needs doing while in the middle of a routine sequence of tasks and I can't break the routine to take care of it there and then… so it gets forgotten.

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  4. It's reassuring to know it's not just me. I find it worrying just how incompetent I can be with financial matters in particular, but the only coping strategy I've found that has worked is to delegate the responsibility to somebody else.

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  5. This is so recognisable! And I still beat myself up over "being too stupid to take care of my finances" when I obviously am smart enough to understand it. But understanding it and doing it? Two whole different kettles of fish.My (long distance) partner helps with reminding me about bills whenever I screw up the courage to ask him. It really is a necessary support for me. But that doesn't make it any easier.I should really know better than to feel guilty about it. He's horrible at planning things and making scenarios to deal with possible eventualities, which is an area I absolutely excel in. So it's about even. I still feel like a failure though.

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  6. Oh, I have the opposite problem at times. I get so scattered that I will start doing something, say the dishes, and then I think, oh yeah!, I have to do the laundry, but then forget to go back to the dishes and somewhere in there I've started messing around in the garden weeding or something. I have no idea why this happens. It doesn't happen when I'm intensely interested in something that I like, but for everything else… well, I tend to be in the middle of several things at once. very disorganized.

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  7. I know this one as well – the classic example is when I'm making my wife a cup of tea. I'll boil the kettle, pop the tea bag in the cup, pour the boiled water… and then go away while it brews and forget about it because I've started something else. Until she asks me "How's my tea doing?" and I think "I did it again!" 🙂

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  8. I also find it hard to accept that something as seemingly simple as this can be beyond my competence, and yes, I get the guilt (and even anger at myself). It comes back to my perfectionist trait which makes it very difficult to tolerate any failure.I think that the hardest aspect of taking care of finances for me is the need to maintain a level of attention over an extended period of time: no matter what method I use to try and keep track it takes such an effort to get back up to speed whenever I have to tackle the latest bill or whatever that I become prone to mistakes.

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