Journal of Financial Planning: November 2021
Meghaan Lurtz, Ph.D., FBS, is a professor of practice at Kansas State University where she teaches courses for the advanced financial planning certificate program, a lecturer of financial psychology at Columbia University, and a writer and researcher of financial psychology at Kitces.com. Her research interests vary as she studies both practitioners of financial planning as well as financial planning and financial therapy practices and interventions. Her research and expertise have been featured in Journal of Financial Planning, Journal of Consumer Affairs, Financial Planning Review, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Million Dollar Roundtable, and New York Magazine. She has also contributed chapters to the CFP Board’s textbook, Client Psychology. Meghaan is a past president and current board member for the Financial Therapy Association and Financial Psychology Institute Europe.
Andrew Komarow is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) and founder of Planning Across the Spectrum. The firm specializes in helping individuals with autism and other intellectual/developmental disabilities pursue financial confidence. He provides comprehensive guidance for life decisions that are either unknown, not easily accessible, or can be complicated to pilot for someone with unique needs.
Financial well-being is understudied in neurodiverse populations. Previous work on the financial lives of individuals with neurodiversity demonstrates that many of these individuals need to acquire basic financial knowledge to help manage and earn money without losing benefits. This study adds to this literature by providing a model of financial empowerment that places a specific emphasis on financial engagement and personhood. Practitioner implications for working with the neurodiverse community, as well as ideas for future research, are addressed.
It is common to see financial planning research articles and trade publications discussing the needs of a particular group (e.g., women, underrepresented populations, families of individuals with special needs, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease), often with the goal of promoting inclusion and addressing the specific planning needs of these groups. A recent article on Alzheimer’s was written not only to discuss the special needs of individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s but also to instruct financial planners on the role played by the therapeutic theory of ambiguous loss (Smodic, Forst, and Rauschenberger 2019). Another group that can benefit from this special attention comprises neurodivergent individuals who can and do live on their own—a smaller group when compared to neurodivergent groups at large, but one specifically in need of specialized financial support and advice to enable them to live full and independent lives.
Neurodivergent individuals, depending on the source, constitute somewhere between 20 percent and 41 percent of the human population (NDGiFTS 2020). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is perhaps the most well-known type of neurodiversity; however, the term “neurodiversity” also applies to many other groups, including those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and dysgraphia. And while there are many neurodivergent individuals who may not be able to live independently, there are also a great many that can and do. This article will narrowly focus on this group, as independent living brings great financial complexity that deserves its own spotlight.
Previous research on ASD has shown that 15–25 percent of autistic individuals are able to live independently (Marriage and Marriage 2009). It is important to note that the sample size of this particular study was relatively small (N = 80) and likely included fewer autistics who are “high functioning,” and thus the findings may not be representative of the population as a whole. Still, it is widely accepted that independent living rates among other neurodiverse populations are often higher compared to ASD (Parker 2012; Pelham et al. 2020).
Financial concerns of neurodivergent individuals, as they affect day-to-day living, are greatly understudied (Cheak-Zamora, Teti, Peters, and Maurer-Batjer 2017; Gowen et al. 2019). The dearth of research may be due to the protected nature of this group and researchers’ interests compared to population interests (Gowen et al. 2019). It may also stem from factors related to guardianship and conservatorship, and, moreover, many neurodivergent individuals may simply never have been asked about personal finance (Cheak-Zamora et al. 2017; Cowen 2020). In fact, to the authors’ knowledge, there has only been one study that asked individuals with ASD about their financial concerns (Cheak-Zamora et al. 2017). Findings indicated that participants’ concerns mirrored those of “neurotypical” populations in that they needed to be able to make and manage money, especially those participants who lived independently.
This article has three goals. First, it endeavors to highlight the financial needs of neurodivergent individuals who can and choose to live on their own, as previous research has often focused on financial dependence. Second, we will introduce an intervention based on the Inclusive Financial Well-being Empowerment Model (IFWEM) (Jorgensen 2020) that focuses on the financial empowerment of underrepresented populations. Financial empowerment involves helping individuals discover their capabilities (Ford, Baptist, and Archuleta 2011). Third, as previously stated, there is growing concern among researchers and members of neurodiverse communities when it comes to research priorities and the practicality and day-to-day usefulness of the research being conducted (Gowen et al. 2019). This study therefore aims to provide neurodivergent individuals who are able to live on their own, as well as the financial planners serving this group, with a practical way forward with respect to day-to-day finances.
Neurodiversity, Disability, and Ableism
The relationship between neurodiversity and disability is akin to a Venn Diagram; there is some overlap, but they are not the same. The term “disability,” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, applies to “. . . a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity” (ADA National Network n.d.). This broad description is a legal definition meant to protect individuals and end discrimination, and it could encompass neurodivergent individuals. However, Dachez, Ndobo, and Ameline (2015) point out that autistic individuals “do not consider autism a disability in itself, but a characteristic that may put the person with autism in a situation of disability when the environment is not adapted” (Dachez et al. 2015). A recent opinion article published in Scientific American by Bailin (2019) echoes the same sentiment, making two important points: (1) neurodiversity may be disabling in some contexts but should not necessarily be seen as a flaw that needs to be corrected and does not mean that the person is “less”; and (2) disability, in any context, does not diminish personhood.
The importance of personhood and working to avoid ableist language and behavior cannot be overstated for this population (Bottema-Beutel, Kapp, Lester, Sasson, and Hand 2021). According to the Center for Disability Rights (Smith n.d.), ableism comprises “beliefs and practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ in one form or the other.” The effects of ableism on autistic people include, but are not limited to, underemployment, mental health conditions, and victimization (Bottema-Beutel et al. 2021).
One area that is inevitably impacted and that can be disabling is the transition into young adulthood (Friedman, Warfield, and Parish 2013). In most states, government support for neurodiverse individuals ends at age 22 (except for Michigan, which extends support to age 26). Families and individuals can prepare for this enormous transition with proactive planning regarding: (1) housing, (2) employment, (3) social support, and (4) healthcare (Friedman et al. 2013). Separating the neurodiverse population from the neurotypical population can be seen as a form of educational segregation. A recent report from the National Council on Disability (2018) on the impact of this segregation found that, although it is common, it does not promote positive outcomes for children when compared to inclusive education. In other words, members of neurodiverse communities feel, and research shows, that government programs (e.g., special education) do not allow neurodiverse individuals to experience the sorts of “growing pains” and “mess-ups” that neurotypical individuals experience. And missing out on these learning opportunities, such as having a first job or making basic decisions, unfortunately limits their ability to successfully transition to adulthood and independent living.
Programs exist to prepare families and youths for this transition (Friedman et al. 2013), and many financial planning articles discuss ABLE accounts, special needs trust arrangements, and means-tested benefit retention (Lacey and Nadler 2012; McCarthy, Pilato, and Silliman 2016). But there has been no discussion about how to prepare a neurodiverse individual to handle the money that has been set aside for them, a support from which any heir, including their neurotypical peers, would benefit.
The management of money is a common source of stress and anxiety. Indeed, nearly every year, the American Psychological Association finds that money is one of the top two stressors for all Americans (APA n.d.). Therefore, difficulty with money management and financial knowledge is a well-documented concern, even within the “neurotypical” population (Lusardi and Michell 2011; Lusardi and Tufano 2009). Teaching money management skills can be difficult. Most research on financial education finds that it is not well-received unless it is offered in a just-in-time approach, and that the impact of financial education does not last long because you need to “use it or lose it” (Ward and Lynch 2019). Financial education provided on its own does not improve financial well-being (Knoll and Houts 2012), yet many models of general well-being include an aspect of financial health or financial well-being (Xu, Beller, Roberts, and Brown 2015; Grable and Joo 2001; Joo 2008).
Financial Knowledge and Well-being
Financial knowledge is a key foundation for building a healthy financial life (CFPB n.d.), but little is known about the financial knowledge of neurodivergent individuals. More research will need to be conducted at the intersection of neurodiversity and financial knowledge, as neurodiversity can create relevant situations of disability. However, it is worth noting that previous research has confirmed that most people struggle with this topic and indeed have low objective financial knowledge (Lusardi and Michell 2011; Lusardi and Tufano 2009). Therefore, most people could stand to improve their financial knowledge, and there is no reason to believe that disability should be an impediment in this regard, assuming that the right type of intervention or training is provided.
Financial well-being is a multifaceted concept that goes beyond financial knowledge or capability (Drever et al. 2015). Indeed, financial well-being includes aspects of a person’s identity (Jorgensen 2020), such as financial socialization (i.e., how a person was raised and socialized with regard to money) and personal abilities related to executive functioning (e.g., impulse control and perseverance) (Drever et al. 2015). Financial well-being as defined by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has designed a financial well-being scale, includes: (1) control of day-to-day and month-to-month finances, (2) capacity to absorb financial shocks, (3) being on track to meet financial goals, and (4) financial freedom to make choices that allow one to enjoy one’s life (CFPB n.d.).
The only existing study that actually asked individuals with ASD about the financial aspect of their lives made it clear that financial wellness was lacking, as they reported discomfort with financial skills and financial worry (Cheak-Zamora et al. 2017). This research also indicated that being financially informed, and to some extent independent, was closely tied to an individual’s personal identity and view of oneself as an adult.
Guardianship and conservatorship were designed to be protective and advantageous to neurodiverse populations. Definitions of guardianship vary by state but generally focus on protecting individuals in need of support, either due to physical or mental impairment or both, and guiding their life decisions (Fearn-Zimmer 2020). Conservatorship involves a narrower scope of decision-making, pertaining specifically to finances. Yet recent changes in elder care law and special needs planning point to an extremely important caveat related to personhood and identity. Recent research has shown that these protective relationships can result in loss of personhood and identity, leading to self-neglect. There have also been a great number of documented cases of outright abuse in guardianship and conservatorship relationships (Eisenberg 2015; Fearn-Zimmer 2020).
Other decision-making arrangements also exist, such as supportive decision-making, where “. . . the individual with declining or diminished capacity continues to make his or her own decisions with the help of a champion to facilitate and implement the decisions the individual with impaired capacity would be inclined to make” (Fearn-Zimmer 2020). While a supportive decision-making arrangement may better support personhood and self-care, this model is unfortunately not without its own issues. Supportive decision-making is a complex process. Therefore: (1) a person or group of people, sometimes known to the individual needing support and sometimes not, must be chosen; (2) this person or group of people can work in a variety of ways depending on the needs of the individual and the relationship, and their work, once decided on, needs be documented legally using a power of attorney or advanced directive; and (3) even if all goes well, the decision process itself can take a very long time (i.e., information is presented, individual consults team, individual reaches a decision, decision is documented and carried out, and decision is then legally enforceable) (Jeste et al. 2018). While this may be a “promising” alternative, there has not yet been research documenting its benefits (Jeste et al. 2018). In addition, some studies show that supportive decision-making results in the same outcomes as other decision-making models, suggesting that this method may not actually serve to empower the decision-maker after all (Kohn, Blumenthal, and Campbell 2012).
The notion of shared decision-making and of actually participating in financial decisions that are made on one’s behalf is crucial. Indeed, studies of married couples show that, even when couples start out on an equal footing related to financial knowledge, once one member of the couple takes over the financial helm, financial knowledge and capability dramatically decline for the individual who is no longer responsible for financial decision-making (Ward and Lynch 2019). It is worth considering these sorts of issues and the importance of ensuring that neurodiverse communities have the opportunity to practice financial decision-making in order to support the development of financial well-being.
Theory and Intervention
The Inclusive Financial Well-being Empowerment Model (IFWEM) considers financial wellness, social inclusion, intersectionality, and empowerment and is structured to promote interventions focused on financial empowerment with respect to identity (Jorgensen 2020). The IFWEM’s elements of financial wellness echo those of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as the neurodiverse population struggles with the same financial concerns as other underrepresented and underserved groups. These include: (1) control of day-to-day and month-to-month finances, (2) capacity to absorb financial shocks, (3) being on track to meet financial goals, and (4) financial freedom to make choices that support quality of life. The IFWEM aims to recognize an individual’s identity by addressing three key barriers to financial inclusion—access, action, and affect—with each dimension of financial inclusion acting as a stepping-stone to the next, while monitoring and accounting for overall empowerment (Jorgensen 2020).
The first dimension is access to financial services. In the original model, this referred to banks, credit, home stability, and financial knowledge (Jorgensen 2020). For the neurodiverse population, access might also include specific financial knowledge related to accessing funds from different financial vehicles, such as an ABLE account. This dimension must be addressed before moving onto the next: action. Action pertains to financial behaviors (e.g., spending, saving, budgeting, earning). Access to knowledge and accounts comes before one is able to take informed action, such as budgeting, spending, or earning. The final inclusion criterion, affect, refers to how people actually feel about their money (Jorgensen 2020). After access and action, does the person feel good or bad about their financial decision?
Empowerment is not an inclusion criterion; instead, it is an overarching concept within the model (Jorgensen 2020). Empowerment, within the context of IFWEM, refers to individual effort and individual control. The practitioner and the individual can work toward this goal, using the individual’s unique identity and abilities to focus the education and financial skill-building to fit his or her needs.
The access stage is a preparation stage. At this stage, practitioners work with clients to identify sources of income (e.g., accounts, trusts, government benefits, employment) and financial goals (e.g., do they want to save, go to school, travel, move) and to organize a budget. As noted in prior research, many individuals want to understand what they spend, what they have access to, and what they could do differently, but typically no one has taken the time to explain or organize this information for them.
Once access is complete, action can begin. Individuals may be reluctant to take action and may worry that something could go wrong. Practitioners can use simple communication techniques from counseling and cognitive-behavioral therapy to pose open-ended questions, with the goal of inspiring a discussion of these fears, concerns, and anxieties and working through them. The practitioner and the client can work together to promote the client’s sense of empowerment, relating back to the elements of financial wellness: (1) control of day-to-day and month-to-month finances, (2) capacity to absorb financial shocks, (3) being on track to meet financial goals, and (4) financial freedom to make choices that support quality of life.
Finally, we reach the affect stage. Practitioners can serve as a trusted source for developing positive affect surrounding financial behavior. Developing the confidence to pay one’s bills, move out of an apartment that one dislikes, or splurge on a take-out dinner without fear of running out of money or incurring another financial anxiety is a huge win. As noted by Jorgensen (2020), “when financial knowledge is increased, there is less ambiguity, and more of an understanding of the power and control every person has to impact their own financial circumstances.”
Case Illustration Using IFWEM
There was a neurodivergent woman for whom a trust had been established in her father’s will. Considerable time and money were spent on probate court and hearings to ensure that the trust was properly set up. The father wanted his daughter to be able to live as autonomously as possible, and in many ways she could. She was a smart, capable, and resourceful woman, and she was her own guardian and made many independent decisions. Yet there was no denying that she needed support.
Before her father passed, he identified two family friends, who were attorneys, as trustees over the daughter’s trust. They were excited to help but underestimated the time and responsibility needed to manage a special-needs trust. They lived in another state and had their own lives. At one point, the trustees forgot to pay the daughter’s car property taxes. She felt like a burden.
Over time, this feeling impacted the young woman’s personhood, and self-neglect ensued. She felt that she could not request and access what was rightfully hers. For instance, she was afraid to ask for things that she needed, such as money to pay for food. She developed the impression that she was irresponsible with money and finances. At one point, she actually stopped eating for fear of bothering the trustees and appearing financial irresponsible.
Years of believing that she was incapable took their toll. As she was excluded from financial conversations surrounding her own well-being, she never developed a sense of the value of money. This occurred not because she was incapable, but because she was never given the full opportunity to participate in her finances in ways that neurotypical people may take for granted.
Thankfully, the young woman decided to reach out for help and asked to work with a financial adviser who specialized in special needs. This started out as most financial planning relationships do, with a review of access to financial services and of current financial assets and debts. The planner, using IFWEM, also took the time to ask the young woman how she actually felt about her finances and about her current and future financial goals.
Once the source of funds, support, and assets had been accounted for, and an outline of current and future financial goals had been generated, the next step in IFWEM was to review the young woman’s abilities and knowledge. With this data, it would be possible to “build out and build up” financial skills relative to her needs. In practice, the financial planner asked questions about the woman’s everyday life and how she wanted to use her money to live it. The planner also asked her to reflect on how the use of her money made her feel, and on the skills she felt that she already possessed and those that she wanted to acquire through their work together. Through this process, the adviser and the young women generated a picture of what it meant for her, as an individual, to feel financial empowerment.
Then the action phase could begin. During this phase, the adviser and the client used the aforementioned information to determine how to achieve a financially desirable situation. The young woman was rather nervous about actually taking steps. Again, she had believed for a long time that she was irresponsible with money and incapable of taking an active role in managing her finances. Unlearning those beliefs and adopting new beliefs (i.e., that she could be competent with money) took time. Thus, in order to support her through this period of personal growth, the planner spent time discussing her fears and challenges as they arose and continually reminded her of the goals of financial wellness and empowerment. For example, the young woman wanted to work, but working meant that she would have to give up some of her benefits, which was a frightening prospect for her. The adviser worked with the young woman to imagine what it would be like to live with and without this benefit, so that when the time came to take the job, she felt confident about her choice, but also knew what needed to be done to make the choice work.
In the final stage of IFWEM, affect, which is ongoing, the adviser remains a trusted source for questions but also for reassurance. The adviser often lets the young woman know that she is doing well and that she should be proud of her financial freedoms. With a large trust of well over $1 million, there was no need for her to go hungry or feel ashamed to ask for access to her own financial resources. Working with a financial planner who was an expert in special needs and who ultimately became an expert on this woman’s individual situation and unique needs enabled her to relearn maladaptive financial beliefs and behaviors and actually make her money work for her. The client continues to have a job and to live independently, free from shame related to her finances. She plans for the future, knows how to ask for help, feels confident asking for support when she needs it, and enjoys a happier, more fulfilling life.
Scope of Competence
If planners are interested in working with neurodiverse individuals or being a greater resource for families with a neurodiverse individual, here are some key behaviors and knowledge areas for consideration.
Consider your time and energy: Much like the trustees in the hypothetical case study, it is easy to underestimate what is required to work successfully and meaningfully with the neurodiverse community (and need ranges depending on the neurodivergent individual in question). Therefore, start by getting to know members of neurodiverse populations and begin to network and volunteer with complementary organizations, such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, local autism societies, and various grassroots and local organizations. In addition, organizations such as The Arc of the United States provide advocacy and information for professionals through their Future Planning initiative.
Get educated: There are designations, such as the Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC), that provide technical knowledge regarding benefits, taxes, investments, and ways to use these different tools in tandem. Understand the differences between Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicare, and how various programs and services are funded. Other foundations, such as the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) and the National Disability Institute (NDI), provide special education for working with and addressing issues that impact neurodiverse communities.
Meet other professionals: Get to know service providers and familiarize yourself with the Medicaid waivers and how they can help your clients in the state where you live and work.
Interact with multiple families and individuals: Join a Facebook group for special needs in your state, see what parents talk about, and notice the questions that they ask. Then ask yourself, how can I help parents answer these questions, what are they looking for, and how can I help these individuals?
Understand ableism: Ableism is putting someone in a box without sufficient knowledge or information and, even when unintended, can impact an individual’s mental health, personhood, and functioning.
Here is a recent, real-life example, derived from a special needs advisers Listserv email:
“Does anyone have any information about a conservator’s liability with regards to a conservatee that drives? CEB (one of California’s research tools) states that the conservator could face personal liability, and that the conservator should decide whether the conservatee drives with the help of a physician. I am inferring that there could be an argument of negligence on the part of the conservator for allowing the conservatee to drive when the conservator should have known the risk? Has anyone here had the conservator obtain a letter from a doctor declaring the conservatee capable of driving? I would think it would be hard to get a doctor to actually do this. This question of liability has come up specifically with a client whose autistic son would like to drive.”
While this attorney clearly had good intentions, they assumed that an autistic individual would automatically be a riskier driver. A more nuanced and individualized course of action may simply have been to register the car in the son’s name and obtain car insurance and an umbrella policy. Therefore, this need not have been viewed differently from any other minor’s wish to drive. Also worth noting, research has recently shown that autistic drivers are safer than non-autistic drivers (Curry et al. 2021).
Advisers who are interested in working with this population are encouraged to ask themselves some basic questions, including what comes to mind when they hear that someone has autism. In some instances, their assumptions may be correct, but in the majority, they will likely be wrong—individuals, not just members of the neurodiverse community, differ and should be treated as individuals.
Acknowledge the power of your role: The financial planner’s technical competence may matter less than the competence that he or she attributes to the neurodiverse individual. We need to assume that everyone has the right to make their own decisions and is capable of advocating for themselves. We need to assume that everyone deserves to live their life as freely and independently as possible. And we need to assume that individuals who cannot work still want to contribute to society, with the right supports and encouragement.
Implications for Practice
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that neurodiversity and disability are part of any diversity and inclusion initiative. In particular, the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and even large registered investment advisers (RIAs), such as Private Advisor Group, have made important strides in recognizing the value of individuals who are different and think differently. When you are more inclusive, everyone wins.
For advisers in practice, it is more important than ever to be educated on issues impacting the neurodiverse community and to receive diversity and inclusion training, which is more readily available than ever before. The neurodiverse community needs (and wants!) to feel financially empowered. The IFWEM model provides at least one way forward that includes financial education and technique but also, perhaps most importantly, considers the person at the center and the implications of their unique intersectionality, embracing neurodiversity as both an ability and a disability that is different for each person.
Advisers who are interested in or already working with this population are encouraged to seek out extra training on special needs benefits and how they work, similar to an adviser wanting to specialize in Social Security planning. Start with understanding what benefits the client is receiving and why. Advisers should not assume that a client with a disability should automatically be receiving benefits or opening an ABLE account. For example, most states have “working disabled” Medicaid programs that allow adults to work and receive benefits at a premium.
Furthermore, it is important to point out that financial advisers are not necessarily on their own when it comes to knowledge of benefits and benefit planning. Advisers can network with benefits coordinators who can help answer questions and think through ideas. For instance, state benefits (Medicaid/Medicaid Waivers) have state rules, but many also have their own criteria. In other words, learn what your state has to offer. For example, an individual in Connecticut’s Medicaid working disabled program can have $10,000 in the bank, can put an unlimited amount in a retirement account, and can earn up to $75,000, while retaining Medicaid benefits. A planner’s capacity to simplify and explain benefits and state level nuances is reassuring to neurodiverse individuals, who are often worried about losing available benefits and services. For example, in the case study described above, it was essential to understand what benefits applied and to generate a scenario plan to consider the ramifications of choosing to let go of a benefit in favor of working.
Advisers are also highly encouraged to receive additional training in communication. Many financial advisers understand the importance of asking open-ended questions, but using these sorts of questions with a neurodivergent individual may look and even feel very different. As mentioned in the case study and the literature review, members of the neurodiverse community are not often asked how they feel about their money or what financial goals they have for today and for their future. Therefore, learning and practicing how to pace questions and ask follow-up questions, as well as maintaining patience in the data-gathering process, are essential communication skills. Additional communication training can come from a variety of sources, both formal (e.g., an additional designation, such as the AFC or the CFT-I) and informal (e.g., networking with neurodiverse communities and simply having more conversations with neurodivergent individuals).
This intervention or way of working with a member of the neurodiverse community is untested at a population level. Researchers on this project support these ideas from an anecdotal perspective, which has been highlighted throughout the paper. However, also noted throughout the paper is the fact that members of the ASD community, for example, may not have the same rights, and some of the same abilities, as a neurotypical individual. The IFWEM was designed to work with underprivileged groups, giving special attention to identity and ability, and we believe this model could address these issues in the neurodiverse community.
We see this limitation as a call to action for other researchers, practitioners, and members of the neurodiverse community interested in financial empowerment and financial wellness. The proposed intervention opens the door for working together and encourages new lines of research and inquiry.
The limited research currently in existence, paired with a wealth of anecdotal reports, suggests that the neurodiverse community is interested in financial empowerment and its many offshoots: education, well-being, and behavior. Financial advisers who are interested in serving individuals in this community have an immense opportunity in terms of both an untapped market and an opportunity to work with individuals who need and appreciate professional financial help. The aim of this paper has been to shed light on how to work with this group more effectively, thereby helping these individuals achieve financial empowerment.
Financial planners and their relationships with their clients, neurodiverse or not, can be a great source of support and empowerment. When a financial planner works with a neurodiverse individual and their family, they can help that neurodiverse individual live independently and, perhaps most importantly, with self-assurance and self-respect. Everyone has the right to pursue and achieve financial well-being.
The neurodiverse community is underserved, but this need not remain the case. Helping individuals and their families to discuss goals, abilities, and limits creates more space to build a life that will truly feel worth living. Again, when one considers the very real fears of self-neglect and shame, the need to serve this community in an unbiased and balanced way is clearly all the more beneficial and necessary.
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