The best time to protect yourself from bipolar disorder-driven financial decisions is when you are feeling stable! When your judgment is balanced, your mood is fairly level and your energy is appropriate, you’re in the best position to plan ahead–in some cases, with your family or someone you trust, to reduce the risk of bad financial decisions.
How can this be done?
1. Find a trusted helper.
A helper is someone you really trust who will act to safeguard your financial interests if you aren’t able to make safe decisions. This person could be a parent, sibling, partner, or perhaps a peer support worker. This person may be given power of attorney so that they are able to take control of your savings, credit card and chequing account if you clearly are in a manic or depressive episode such that you cannot trust yourself to make safe money decisions.
2. Limit your risk.
Make arrangements with your bank to protect yourself from dangerous spending while you’re in a manic or depressive episode. This might involve setting limits on your credit card transactions and withdrawals from accounts, or setting up a 2-signature system in which your designated helper must co-sign to allow major cash withdrawals. You can make an appointment to discuss this with a financial advisor or other staff member at your bank.
3. Improve your money management skills.
We can all get better at managing money, but having a keen eye to developing effective money management skills is extra important for people living with bipolar disorder. In a recent research study of individuals in psychiatric rehabilitation programs, improving money management skills was identified as one of the most important goals.
4. Develop an overall money plan.
This might involve activities like tracking your spending using an app, deciding how much of your income will be managed by a family member or setting priorities for your spending. Sometimes healthcare providers are available to help with this decision-making process.
5. Make an emergency plan.
Work out a plan for times of risk with the people you trust. This might include recognition of warning signs that show others that you’re moving into a manic or depressive episode or the recognition of your personal triggers for impulsive or unwise spending. These financial protections will need to be discussed in advance with bank representatives and appropriate authorizations will need to be signed so that someone you trust can protect your finances.
6. Alert healthcare providers.
Sometimes manic or depressive episodes can be made less severe when they are just beginning (or emerging) by increasing or adding medications. Your healthcare provider may be able to quickly step in and prevent bipolar disorder financial crises.
But these actions may not be enough to prevent significant financial difficulty for individuals with bipolar disorder. If your condition is such that you cannot hold down a job, then you will need to seek other forms of financial support. Many countries offer some kind of disability support for those who are unable to work because of serious health conditions like bipolar disorder. This may be through a public plan (sometimes called a disability pension) or through a private insurance carrier. Note that the process of applying for a public disability pension can be very demanding, so you may need to find support in completing the application process. Your healthcare provider should be able to refer you to an agency where you can find this kind of assistance.
For more on money management, visit us at the Bipolar Wellness Centre.
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