Understanding the financial wellbeing of autistic adults

Published January 2024


Money matters in people’s lives. It helps to meet our basic needs, like food, clothing and shelter. It also allows us to live the lives we want.

We know that financial wellbeing impacts quality of life, but very little is known about the financial wellbeing of autistic adults. In a world first study, 191 autistic adults were surveyed and found almost half (46 per cent) felt it was hard to make ends meet. In contrast, only 32 per cent of the general Australian population felt this way.

When we looked at their financial situations more closely, we found a similar proportion of autistic adults (just under half) revealed their annual income was less than $25,000, with many being below the poverty line. Autistic people’s sense of financial wellbeing was related to their income levels and how they use that income. They often did not have stable income to cover day-to-day expenses.

Despite ‘wanting to be able to work’, they repeatedly reported ‘struggling to hold down a job.’The reasons included non-supportive environments, casual employment and being in the wrong kind of industries. Mental health factors were continuously brought up by our autistic interviewees. Participants described anxiety and ‘meltdowns’ at work until people either ‘got fired’ or ‘had to walk away.’

Consequently, subjects had to make choices to protect their mental health, including passing up promotions or working freelance, which reduced earning capacity. Despite these challenges, autistic people still worked hard to budget and save when they could.

Our findings suggest the most effective way to improve the financial wellbeing of autistic people would be to raise their income. Two potential ways of doing this is to increase government allowances and benefits for unemployed autistic people and to improve autistic people’s participation in the workforce.


Ying Cai, R., Hall, G., & Pellicano, E. (2024, January 19). Understanding the financial wellbeing of autistic adults. bluenotes. https://bluenotes.anz.com/posts/2024/january/anz-autism-wellbeing-study…

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