Unfortunately, it is more likely than not that someone you care about suffers from depression. Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.
Because there are two important people in my life who suffer from bouts of debilitating depression, I set out to learn how I could support them during difficult times. I have a natural tendency to gravitate toward what I already know, so I asked them about money management. They told me that successful money management during their deeply depressive periods was nearly impossible.
I learned that symptoms of depression include a lack of interest in normal daily activities, difficulty making decisions, and trouble concentrating—all which are necessary to successful money management. Everyday financial tasks can add unbearable stress on an already difficult situation. “There are some days when I cannot even bear to open the mail. During these times, I just give up and ignore the topic of money entirely,” explained one friend suffering from depression.
Adding insult to injury are the many consequences of ignoring the topic of money. Late fees, over-the-limit fees, increased interest rates, and closed accounts are all likely results. Ignoring finances for too long can lead to collection efforts that most people—depressed or not—can find troubling.
While there are multitudes of ways you can and should try to help someone suffering with depression, I would like to offer some suggestions for helping someone you care about make their financial lives a little bit easier.
-Simplify. While having a good credit mix can benefit a credit score, the priority should be to keep things simple. The fewer accounts a person has, the easier they are to manage.
-Make it automatic. To ensure that all payments are made on-time, ask creditors to set up automatic payments. Many employers will also automatically deposit paychecks. Banks can automatically move money into a savings account.
-Set up safeguards. Prevent the worry of bouncing checks with overdraft protection. This protection automatically transfers funds from a savings account to a checking account when a checking account balance is insufficient.
-Employ reminders. Take away the burden of remembering to do tasks by setting up reminders. For example, many banks and credit unions will send email alerts when a checking account balance becomes low. Important dates can be added to a computer calendar or just jotted down in a simple note pad.
-Be an advocate. Having someone handle simple tasks, like filing or going to the post office, can be a big relief. Also, appoint someone to help with the major issues, such as reviewing medical invoices or purchasing a new car.
Finally, don’t hesitate to seek financial help. If debt is an issue, talk to creditors about special programs they might offer to help consumers recover from a temporary setback or consider working with a reputable credit counseling agency. Dealing with debt is imperative because debt issues can exasperate feelings of helplessness. In fact, it is documented that financial problems can cause people to become depressed. All too often, struggling consumers write to the Advice Team expressing feelings of despair as a result of their financial situation.
Of course, helping someone with money management is only the tip of the iceberg. For ideas on how to support a friend or loved one with depression, visit MayoClinic.com. If you suffer from depression, or care for someone who does, please share your money management experience and advice. This article was featured in the 25th edition of the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights hosted by Fiscal Fizzle.