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A conversation with Keeping Finance Personal author Ellyce Fulmore


Heather here, bringing you another author Q&A on The Joint Account! We are so fortunate this week to feature Ellyce Fulmore, financial educator, neurodivergent content creator, and author of Keeping Finance Personal: Ditch the “Shoulds” and the Shame and Rewrite Your Money Story. I interviewed Ellyce back in April for our book, wanting to learn more about supporting a neurodivergent partner in a relationship, and more broadly, meeting your partner where they are. Our conversation extended well beyond money in the tangible sense. Ellyce is keenly aware of how personal our money stories are. Unlocking what works for you—and how your story should read—is her goal, and I am so thrilled to share some of her insights here (edited for space and clarity).

H: What are some common misconceptions about neurodiverse individuals?

E: One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that “neurodivergent” is an umbrella term. It includes a bunch of different conditions under that umbrella, such as the most common, ADHD and autism, but then there’s also dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, PTSD, bipolar disorder, etc.

Even within a condition, there’s such variance. So, a very common misconception with all these conditions is that people have stereotypical views of what they look like, and they have a hard time accepting what the variances look like in real life. One person with ADHD can experience things so differently than another person. The original perception of ADHD was this hyperactive little boy who can’t pay attention in class, and people still hold onto those things. They look at someone with ADHD and wonder, well, you don’t look like that, so you must not have it. They say they accept it, but then they don’t.


H: In our book, we plan to highlight ADHD as an example of how your partner may think or behave differently than you. What are some ways that ADHD might manifest in someone's financial behaviors?

E: Your executive function is a set of cognitive processes in your brain that involve planning, prioritizing, time management, decision making, working memory, and is basically the manager of your brain. If you think about all those individual aspects of executive function in terms of money, you can see how much overlap there is. Things such as, remembering to pay your bills on time. Planning to save up for something. How are you going to organize your accounts or create a budget? All of those things are part of executive function.

And then on a broader level, time management is a big thing folks with ADHD struggle with, which affects other areas of your life that will then indirectly impact your finances. I use myself as an example a lot. When in university, I was always running late, waking up fifteen minutes before I had to leave the house. I’d brush my teeth, throw on clothes, and run out of the house, so I never had time to pack my lunch or make my coffee at home. I think from an outsider’s perspective, if I were to talk to a financial advisor or coach, they would say, well, just start making your lunch and coffee at home and you’ll save X per month. But the issue wasn’t spending—time management was the root of the problem. That could also manifest in running late to appointments and having to pay a late fee or a no-show fee, or packing the night before a trip and forgetting something that you then have to buy when you get there.

Impulsivity is another big one for folks with ADHD, because most of your impulses go unchecked. If you think of your brain’s impulse control as a bouncer at a club, instead of them being there all the time, they’re wandering away for a smoke. They’re forgetful, and then a bunch of people get in for free.

Another difference is lower levels of dopamine, so you’re more hardwired to seek out dopamine. Spending and shopping is a super easy way to get dopamine.


H: Would it be difficult to conceive and plan for a long-term goal?

E: Goal setting is a double whammy. The act of planning out a goal is challenging to begin with. But then folks with ADHD often struggle with something called delayed discounting, which is basically where their brain is more likely to overvalue immediate rewards and undervalue long-term rewards.

There’s also conceptualizing. Lots of folks with ADHD struggle with conceptualizing money, because it doesn’t feel real, in a sense, unless you’re holding physical cash in your hands. The skill involved in executing on a long-term goal—creating a budget and sticking to that budget—is going to be impacted. It’s really an uphill battle the whole way. 


H: I love how in your book, you dispel negative self-talk by replacing common tropes such as, “I’m lazy,” with, “I’m not lazy, I just have ADHD.” This reminds me of a couple’s interview, in which our source with ADHD said he grew up in a world of shoulds. How crucial is it to throw out the shoulds in your life? 

E: I think everyone deals with a lot of shoulds. Every single generation does, but I have a chapter in my book about how the formula of success that worked for baby boomers no longer even applies to millennials in the world we live in now. Then with neurodivergence, you add this extra layer of growing up and still living in a world that wasn’t designed for you and that doesn’t accommodate you. So, there’s an extra layer of shoulds, because you’re always trying to match your behavior and your habits to neurotypical people.

Letting go of that is important. I am of the belief that there's no one right way to manage your money, and there's also no right path or formula for success. Everyone's going to be different. And so I think letting go of that expectation that we should be doing a certain thing is just like really important for then letting ourselves discover what does work for us and what we want to do.


H: How much of healing your relationship with money is self-forgiveness versus strategy?

E: Self-forgiveness is definitely a piece of it, but it’s not as simple as saying, my relationship with money right now isn’t great, but I forgive myself. There needs to be a component of self-reflection and understanding. A lot of people don’t want to do the work to understand where their money story comes from, which is a huge part of my book, as well.

Honestly, many of your negative beliefs are coming from things that were not your fault. A lot of them come from generational or societal trauma and the systems that worked against you. You start to recognize that this isn’t just your shame to carry. Understanding that story piece is so key to letting go of the shoulds and releasing the shame and moving forward in a more positive way.

H: In a committed relationship, what are some ways someone can meet their partner where they are?

E: The biggest thing is communication, which is kind of boring and probably what everyone says, but it’s so important. The couples who really thrive are the ones that can have open and honest conversations about everything and not just money but all the things that play into it.

They need to see themselves as a team and as equals in how they approach it, rather than saying, “I’m so much better at managing my money than my partner.” That already starts you off on a note of, “we’re not doing this together” or “I’m better than you, and I guess I have to help you.” So asking, how can we tackle this together? What things are we each struggling with that we can support each other with?

In terms of where neurodivergence comes in is really understanding how your partner experiences neurodivergence, how that shows up for them, and what areas they struggle with. That could either be from explicitly asking them, but if they don’t have the understanding, then observe and ask questions when you see things come up. Ask how they feel about it or why they struggled with it. Also, do your own research. I don’t think that it should be on your partner to educate you entirely.

I mostly work with neurodivergent people, and so many people have never thought about the techniques or approaches I’m suggesting, because the majority of financial education out there is made for neurotypical people. It doesn’t work for their brain, and there’s nowhere for them to easily access these tools. So, there’s a good chance your partner has never had the resources to manage their money, and it’s not their fault there aren’t resources out there.

One thing I often suggest is looking at other areas of your life and finding any small system or technique that has worked in that area and seeing how you can apply it to your money. Maybe they need to have vitamins out on the counter, or they will forget to take them. So, maybe having numbers displayed visually is helpful for them, too. It’s going to take trial and error.

You can learn more about Ellyce here. Thank you, friend!

Have any must-read books and authors we should speak with for a future issue of The Joint Account? Let us know: [email protected].


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The content shared in The Joint Account does not constitute financial, legal, or any other professional advice. Readers should consult with their respective professionals for specific advice tailored to their situation.