Money phobia is the fear of money. It is one of the most significant barriers faced by many people with disabilities. It is a barrier that blocks people with disabilities from seeking employment and advancements. Money phobia breeds poverty and poverty breeds more poverty.
There are several reasons why people with disabilities have money phobia. Perhaps the biggest reason is that people with disabilities often rely on government benefits to get services they need to survive. These services are only available to people who are poor. People with disabilities are taught that if they earn more than a minimal amount of money or if they save and build assets they will not receive services they desperately need. These services are too often viewed as charitable tasks allowing people to survive rather than important jobs that enable people to truly live and thrive. There are many great programs available that will allow people with disabilities to work and still receive the services they need. However, these programs often are complex and very difficult to understand.
Using myself as an example, when I first went to work full-time in the 1970s, it took more than 5 years to earn what I was receiving from disability benefits. Although I've always stayed well connected with the disability advocacy community, I was 62 years old before realizing I could receive personal assistant services paid for through the California Regional Centers because I have a developmental disability- Cerebral Palsy. I'm saving well over $50,000 annually.
Another cause of money phobia is that people with disabilities too often just interact with government and non-profit agencies that are required to run on a zero-sum business model. Income must equal expenses. An increase in ost in one area requires a decrease in ost in another area. Every expenditure is viewed as an expense. Few, if any, are regarded as investments. Too many people with disabilities view profit-making motives skeptically believing profits diverts funds that should be used to provide more and better services we need. However, when done correctly, profit motives can give the incentive agencies need to offer excellent services.
I want to urge my Disability Community to fight against money phobia as hard as we struggle against architectural barriers and attitudinal barriers. There are always ways to get the services we need. There are many programs and methods to get these services while earning good wages and building assets. These programs and methods are often hard to find and can be terribly convoluted and confusing, but they do exist. As an example, I, who think of myself as being well connected with the Disability Community, was 62 years old before I realized that the California Regional Center pays for personal assistant services for people with developmental disabilities regardless of income or assets. Tom Foley has a great book called EQUITY: Asset-Building Strategies for People with Disabilities: A Guide to Financial Empowerment. The National Disability Institute (NDI) focuses on the financial well-being of people with disabilities. There are websites such as WID's DB101 and NDI Resources that can guide people to financial security.
The Disability Movement has shown that to change society's attitudes, we must first change our own attitudes of ourselves. Just as we don't want society to look at us as invalids incapable of living productive, independent lives, so too must we change the perception that we are poor. This requires us to see ourselves as financially solvent regardless of our actual financial status. This is especially true in this current political environment where the power to change the government's processes and procedures lies with people and groups that have or are perceived to have wealth.