Maytree blog

Discussing income insecurity from a lived experience point of view

Published on 13/09/2018

In May 2018, the ABLE Financial Empowerment Conference, hosted by the ABLE Steering Committee and supported by Prosper Canada and Family Services of Greater Vancouver, brought together practitioners, researchers, and advocates to discuss financial empowerment in a variety of contexts.

One of the goals of the conference was to ensure the participation and engagement of people with lived experience of income insecurity. To this end, subsidies were provided to cover the travel and participation of several attendees with lived experience. The participants were on panels and engaged in workshops and learning sessions to tackle issues related to financial vulnerability in a variety of settings.

We spoke to Karen Lai and Marie-Eve Dubé, two of the participants, about their experience at ABLE 2018. Karen Lai is an accessibility and inclusion consultant, and Marie-Eve Dubé is a personal trainer and entrepreneur. From mustering their courage, to sharing their experiences with a large audience, to highlighting the need for financial literacy in schools, here’s what they said.

Why was it important to you to participate in this conference?

Marie-Eve: First it paid really well! It was important to me and much more valuable and real to be sharing this in front of people when I was paid. That is really what made me gather my courage. Second, it reinforced for me that I was really committed to the process of gaining financial literacy and to changing my situation.

Karen: I haven’t been to such a conference before and the topic of people with disabilities and finance is important. Speaking from lived experience was important as there are so many different aspects of a person’s life, and the financial piece is a crucial part of it. But it is often not talked about openly.

What were the key concerns you wanted to address in your session?

Marie-Eve: I wanted to address education about financing, including budgeting and being careful with credit cards and debt. Growing up, my mom was already not comfortable with her own financial situation so she never taught us anything about it. Neither did school.

Karen: There are so many concerns to be aware of when living with a disability — everything from getting the news of diagnosis, social acceptance of disability, self-acceptance of disability, adaptive equipment, exploring creative ways to do things, encountering barriers to achieving employment, or finding what works with education and ensuring accommodations are in place. So financial planning often gets put aside until everything else is in place.

What ideas, challenges, or initiatives resonated with you the most at ABLE 2018, and why?

Marie-Eve: I really like the idea of education earlier in life about finances, like classes on budgeting or accounting. We need education on how to save money, and more of a focus on how it is important to start saving money when we are young. I hope this will be mandatory in school in the near future.

Karen: Planning and preparing for the future is important, as is having access to resources such as the Registered Disability Savings Plan and Disability Tax Credit.

The challenge that resonated the most with me is employment barriers — people with disabilities have more of a challenge securing employment. We need to be more driven and motivated to find creative solutions.

As well, financial planning is important. As we age, we may need more assistance, and may not be able to work that long because of our disability needs.

What were your main takeaways from the conference?

Marie-Eve: I realized that there are people out there who have your best interests at heart and wish to help you and your family for real. A lot of the time, it can seem like people just want to help you get in debt so that you can depend on them.

Karen: To always plan ahead and to always have conversations about the next steps. In reality, people with disabilities may not work until retirement age because of the physical strains on their bodies. So conversations need to happen to prepare for their extra medical costs and early retirements. It is important to always find available funds to offset the cost of disability, and always be prepared for what lies ahead.

Learn more about the ABLE Financial Empowerment Conference and access resources at

Gayatri Kumar is a freelance communications specialist.


We spoke to Karen Lai and Marie-Eve Dubé, two individuals with lived experience of income insecurity, about participating in the 2018 ABLE Financial Empowerment Conference.