83. Managing Finance with a Disability with Xian Horn

April 18, 2023

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn't cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don't personally use or believe in.

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

54 Million people in the United States have a disability

In our research for this episode, we learned that the average cost for medical care over someone’s lifetime with a disability is anywhere from $300,000 to over $1,000,000. But we know that medical bills are only one part of the cost associated with navigating the U.S. with a disability. 

In this episode, we invited Xian Horn, a disability advocate, writer, and founder of the non-profit, Give Beauty Wings, to talk about the financial challenges facing people with disabilities. Challenges like lack of access to adequate transportation, unfair pay practices, and more.

What you’ll learn:

  • Why “welcoming” is just as important as inclusion, and what “inclusive” practices often get wrong

  • How people with disabilities are still legally being paid under minimum wage

  • The outdated ADA and SSDI policies and benefits that bar people with disabilities from financial stability

Additional reading/listening:

Bottom Dollar Documentary

“How would you like to work for two weeks, and come out with a $6 check?” That’s the reality for almost 250,000 Americans with disabilities who are paid below the minimum wage. This film exposes this exploitative system and offers solutions to end segregation and discrimination against workers with disabilities. A version with audio description is also available. 

SSDI Website: https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/

More explanation of Section 503 new rules (7% employment rule): https://adata.org/factsheet/section-503

Xian’s websites: xianhorn.com

Xian’s non-profit website: givebeautywings.org

Second Class Citizens? What Does The MTA Really Think Of People With Disabilities? https://www.forbes.com/sites/xianhorn/2020/01/27/second-class-citizens-what-does-the-mta-really-think-of-people-with-disabilities/?sh=4481233a7fe2

Meet Xian

Xian Horn is a joyful, half-Asian woman with Cerebral Palsy. Xian lends her expertise to ensure that corporations and cultural institutions operate with inclusivity and are at the forefront of innovation. Xian served as an ongoing partner and advisor on the AT&T Accessibility Advisory Panel on Access and Aging (AAPAA) from 2018 to 2022, Cooper Hewitt’s Accessibility Advisory Board, New York Women’s Foundation’s Emerging Women’s Network, and Open Style Lab at Parsons.

She has consulted and spoken at companies and cultural institutions such as NBC Universal, Target, Amazon, Zappos, Microsoft, the UN and the Whitney Museum among others.  Her nonprofit, Give Beauty Wings, is focused on the empowerment of all people with disabilities and fostering inclusive leadership. 


[00:00:00] Tori Dunlap: Hi Financial feminists. Welcome back to the show. Some housekeeping before we get into our incredible guests. If you’re enjoying the show, make sure you’re subscribed on your preferred podcasting platform wherever you’re listening right now. And if that’s Spotify, we’re using their new like audience interaction tools.

[00:00:15] So you can just like do a little swipe and you can see the prompt for this episode. We’d love to know your thoughts. Love to hear what you’re thinking. It’s also really great to hear from you. We do voicemails on this show, so if you have a question, comment, concern, if you are trying to navigate paying off debt or saving money, you can send us a voicemail and we would love to use it on the show.

[00:00:34] You can also follow Financial Feminist on Instagram at Financial Feminist podcast. We also, of course, are at her first hundred K on all of the socials. Additional for you financial information. Okay. Let’s talk about today’s guests. We are joined by Xian Horn, who, as I mentioned in the interview, actually interviewed me for a wonderful piece in Forbes that released earlier this year.

[00:00:54] Xian Horn is a joyful half Asian woman with cerebral palsy. Xian lends her expertise to ensure that corporations and cultural institutions operate with inclusivity and are at the forefront of innovation. Xian served as an ongoing partner and advisor on the at and t accessibility advisory panel on Access and Aging, A A P A A from 2018 to 2022.

[00:01:16] Cooper Hewitt’s Accessibility Advisory Board, New York Women’s Foundation, emerging Women’s Network and Open Style Lab at Parsons, she has consulted and spoken at companies and cultural institutions such as NBCUniversal. At Amazon Zappos, Microsoft, the UN, and the Whitney Museum, among others, her nonprofit Give Beauty Wings is focused on the empowerment of all people with disabilities and fostering inclusive leadership.

[00:01:39] We brought Xian on to talk about the realities of disability and its effect on people’s finances, and we wanted to dive in beyond the obvious and discuss what life looks like on a day-to-day basis for someone with a disability to understand what programs exist to support the disability community and where that support is.

[00:01:56] Fucking inadequate, Xian really is an absolute joy. We had a lot of fun. It was a little chaotic recording this episode in the best way Possible, and I know that everyone is going to get something from this episode. We’ve also linked to some additional resources provided by Xian and her team and our show notes.

[00:02:11] So let’s get into it.

[00:02:15] But first a word from our sponsors.

[00:02:36] Thanks for interviewing me for Forbes. That was so kind. You did a hell of a write up on us, so 

[00:02:41] Xian Horn: thank. I only speak the truth and you’re really easy to write about, honestly. 

[00:02:46] Tori Dunlap: Thank you. That makes, that makes my heart happy. I appreciate it. We’re so excited to have you here. We’re so excited to talk to you about the impact that disabilities have, not only of course, on our finances, but our lives and our.

[00:02:59] Society. So tell our audience a little bit about your backstory. How did you become an advocate in the disability 

[00:03:05] Xian Horn: community? Well, it’s so funny because my entire life, so I was born with cerebral palsy and I consider it the blessing of my life, but I. I was just telling someone earlier that, you know, I think when I was growing up, there was a lot of expectation that if you were different, you were the one that had to be scrappy and creative, and it was your job to make everybody feel comfortable.

[00:03:28] I think now with social media and more awareness, there’s more of a sense of, you know, if I’m here, It’s your job to welcome me. But you know, growing up, I remember for example, in elementary school, um, kids would say to me, oh, but Xian, you’re normal. Right? They weren’t trying to make some grant statement about what is normal.

[00:03:48] They were just asking if it was okay to talk to me. And of course, my answer was always yes, because I knew they were just asking for permission to connect with me. And so I would love having. First five minutes of conversation so that we could get to the point of like playing my Little Pony and just being kids.

[00:04:06] Right? But I think for me, I, it was never my intention to become an advocate because I felt, you know, I traversed the world with two ski poles and I felt very visible as it was. And so I think that early on it was more about making sure that people knew. Just like them in a lot of ways. And I am, but I’m not like, I think advocacy journey that I’ve had, it’s more about celebrating how we’re different and owning that.

[00:04:32] And I was like a fearless kid, but I think a lot of my survival mechanisms were in just, you know, trying to connect with people and making sure that any barriers to connection were out of the picture if possible. And so I think, you know, for a long time I resisted the idea of becoming a disability advocate because I thought that was the obvious thing to.

[00:04:52] And what everybody expected of me and the part of me that’s a rebel, I think, uh, really kind of didn’t like the idea of advocating just because people told me to. And it wasn’t until my second job ever for a grant where as a grant writer for theater in New York, 45 members total 15 with disabilities, where it seemed to reflect the real world to me.

[00:05:14] You know, it was so. Racially. Um, you know, in terms of sexuality, it seemed to represent the real world, and I was never really comfortable in disability only spaces at that time. Um, now I, I really relish that. I relish all the spaces I get to inhabit, but I think, you know, for me it was more important I understood what this theater was trying to do, which was give.

[00:05:36] To all marginalized communities. And that’s essentially what I try to do in the work that I’m doing now. But, um, so I was a grant writer for this theater and, um, I noticed that a lot of, I mean, these were actors, studio actors, Kennedy Center Award-winning playwrights, writing about suicide attempts and how much they hated their body.

[00:05:55] And I thought, these are my hero. Like if these are the people I look up to and this is how they’re doing, how’s everybody else doing? So I knew I wanted to have positive dialogue about how I saw them, but also, uh, especially around disability. I think it really shocked me because I’m an only child. I was raised by artist parents who told me uniqueness was best, and I think they were more concerned if I was like everybody else than the other way.

[00:06:20] So I didn’t really have, and I know it sounds strange cuz this is not the typical disability experience, but the one area of my life that I had unshakable confidence was my disability. It’s the one area you couldn’t touch. You could say anything to me about my disability and I wou
ld still say Smile.

[00:06:37] Smile and thank you. And moving on next like, because that was the one area where I knew what it was for me. I knew. The lines at Disney World, I knew that, you know, walking around with two ski poles, people didn’t forget me. And so I, I was always focused on all the things that it brought into my life, but I think I really thanked my parents for giving me that.

[00:06:58] And that was also part of why I didn’t necessarily wanna become an advocate at first. Because I thought the stereotype of being sort of an angry activist didn’t, I mean, there’s plenty of things that get me going. I’m not saying that, you know, especially now, I’m much more aware. I think of the things that we.

[00:07:18] Still ha. I mean, the barriers that we still face. But I think I was very much oblivious to that when I was younger and more focused on the people I got to meet every day. You know, I had a cab driver say to me once, you know, I had you 10 years ago, it’s great to see you again. And I thought about the hundreds of thousands of people he must have met in 10 years, and he still remembered me.

[00:07:39] So those are the things that I hold onto, and it took me a long time to. You know that people’s lives depended on this work. And so for me, it wasn’t until I realized that I was really not, this is not about, our stories are not about. Us, you know, Tori and I, I think that’s what I love about your story too, is that you’re really candid and it allows other women and people listening to you to really put themselves and, and their stories and what they need and ask the right questions.

[00:08:09] But basically what happened is I ended up pitching the Dove campaign asking them to include people with disabilities in their advertising. Because one of the things when I was working for this theater that I, I really was thinking about, I would love to talk to kids and parents because I realize how early our traumas can begin in terms of, you know, identity things.

[00:08:30] And, and I think that our parents, you know, our, their hopes and dreams, but also their anxieties and fears can be projected onto their children. And so I wanted to get to parents and kids as soon as possible because I realized that, you know, I didn. The way I grew up was revolutionary until I started to pay attention to what other people were experiencing.

[00:08:53] I wanted to be a ballerina. My parents just got me a ballerina costume for Halloween. They never said, Xian, we need to talk about other career options, or, that’s never gonna happen. You know, they only just wanted me to be the happiest version of myself that I could possibly be. And I, I would say, You know where I got into trouble was more around high school when, you know, that bubble that they created for me kind of burst.

[00:09:15] That was also my own doing cuz I was such a, I love people so much and I was a bit of a people pleaser. And so I think this is something that, you know, a lot of women can relate to when you’re raised as like a good girl. It’s funny cuz my mom is such a like, fearless, like outspoken Asian woman. And then at the same time, like if.

[00:09:35] In a situation where I have to negotiate a contract or stand up for myself, even today, my mom will go, Xian, that’s not very nice. And I’m like, wait a minute. They were trying to screw me over. Mom, what do you want me to do? I actually thought you’d be proud of me because I’m channeling you. We’ll get into that later, I’m sure, but I just, I’m really grateful for at least the springboard that my parents gave me, and I wanna be that love and support for.

[00:10:00] The, you don’t have control over whether you have, uh, great school systems or the right parents. So I wanna be that support system for others who event not have had that.

[00:10:16] Tori Dunlap: Do 

[00:10:16] Xian Horn: you feel 

[00:10:17] like 

[00:10:17] Tori Dunlap: if as a somebody with a physical disability, you felt a certain pressure to be like an advocate or an activist? Because I think I’ve talked to a lot of like people of color in my life who are like just inherently like there’s. This expectation of I am here to like, represent and to advocate for like black or brown people.

[00:10:37] And I have, I actually had an ex-boyfriend who still had cerebral palsy, and we talked a little bit about this and like, like what did you, do you feel that pressure of like, oh, I have a physical disability. I, I have to be someone who’s 

[00:10:49] Xian Horn: outspoken about it. Well, I always felt kind of annoyed that people wanted to make me a poster child.

[00:10:55] I’m like, right, right. I’m living my life. I felt the best way I could advocate was by being the happiest version of myself. Right, right. But what I realized when I saw that my contemporaries were suffering was that that wasn’t enough. Uh, and that we needed to have really comprehensive dialogue around self-esteem for everybody, but especially uplifting all marginalized communities.

[00:11:15] And so I definitely resisted that. I remember. In high school, my PT was like, oh, Xian, you should join Disability Teen USA, we’re gonna climb stairs and go to baseball games. And I was like, I do that stuff already. Like, I don’t understand. I, I really, I was very resistant to it cuz I just thought it was the obvious thing to do.

[00:11:35] And then, but once I had a mission and a reason, once I realized, People’s lives depended on some of this work that really is, I was the most stage frightened person you could possibly imagine, Tori. And as someone I know who has theater background, I I, eventbe you didn’t have stage fright, but I certainly did.

[00:11:52] And the thing that got me over it was realizing that it wasn’t about 

[00:11:55] Tori Dunlap: me. I always joke, I hate being the center of attention. It’s awful. So like, uh, wasn’t a lot of stage fright, but also I think, yeah, there was, I had. Parents who were like, okay, we wanna go to the theater route. Cool. And I, I forget sometimes that your background was in theater as well, so it makes me really happy.

[00:12:11] Oh, 

[00:12:11] Xian Horn: well I, no, I mean, I actually, I performed once for three weeks. That’s my extent of my dream. Oh, but you were working at a theater, right? Which is interesting. I was a grant writer. Yeah. My first dream was to be a writer. So I totally understood. You know, that goal you had as a child made me. So happy because, um, it’s still something I’m working on all this time.

[00:12:29] I’ve been a writer and I still haven’t published a book yet, so that’s on the docket for this spring to 

[00:12:35] Tori Dunlap: work on. I mean, I’m sure I told you in the interview like it’s, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally, like worth it. But like, oh gosh, it was so much work, so 

Xian Horn: thrilled for you. Thank you.

[00:12:44] Tori Dunlap: I appreciate that. We know from, of course, research, from discussions, from community members, from a lot of our team that disability comes with, of course, additional expenses such as medical care. But what are some surprising costs of disability that our listeners might not know about? 

[00:13:01] Xian Horn: Yeah. Well, when it comes to employment, transportation is a huge one.

[00:13:06] I mean, if you can’t guarantee to your boss, you know, with Paratransit, the way traditional PA paratransit works, you have to call one to two days in advance before 5:00 PM to get someone on the line who will then give you a, a pickup time, which could be two hours earlier than you need to be there. But you, you’ve got to take it because, um, It, it’s the same price as the subway, but I mean the cost in terms of your time and stress.

[00:13:32] You know, they might show up an hour early, an hour late, and whenever they show up, you have a five minute window to get there and how can you possibly take, or at least I didn’t find it, uh, really. To, to take a nine to five job where you have to be in an office every day. When you have those kinds of, uh, you know, you have to have the most flexible boss in the world.

[00:13:54] Basically. There are disabled trusts and able accounts that give you tax incentives, but a lot of times that money goes right back to the government or it’s controlled by somebody else. So there’s a real lack of autonomy in a lot of the traditional options available for people with disabilities. So I think that’s also something that a lot of people don’t realize is that money looks very different for the disabled community and it usually is in somebody else’s hands or under somebody else’s jurisdiction.

[00:14:25] So, you know, just to be able to talk about. In terms of a form of independence and respect is, is really incredibly important. I think the biggest cost is, is sort of what I was talking to you about in terms of, I, I wanna do a workshop called Negotiating Your Worth. Because I find that I grew up, and I think part of it too was the schools I went to, you know, I, I, I went to Wesleyan where, you know, if you, if you made money, Uh, doing something you love.

[00:14:56] It was no longer pure and corporations were the man. And I think, you know, obviously that’s changed I think in the last five to 10 years. I think there’s more corporate responsibility than there’s ever been. And I have actually had wonderful experiences with corporations so far, but I think that in a lot of ways I had guilt around.

[00:15:16] I had, and I mean, I know you talk about money shame and, and trauma and all that so much. Um, no, but it’s, 

[00:15:23] Tori Dunlap: it’s extremely common, right? Like this feeling of guilt at participating in a system that like is inherently inequitable. Like that’s probably the biggest thing we hear, just other than like the personal shame and judgment.

[00:15:36] It’s like, how do I, of course, navigate the system to the best of my ability while also being. It’s fucked up. 

[00:15:43] Xian Horn: Like, how do I do that? Yeah, yeah. But the other thing is when you’ve worked so hard to get into that room, there’s this sense, you know, like if you can’t even get there, like talking about transportation or you don’t even know, or you’re not invited, People when you are there are like, well, you should just be happier in the room.

[00:16:01] And so there’s this sense of, I, I think I used to have this fear of losing an opportunity. And now actually the most freeing thing is being able to say, no, I get to choose what, you know. I think this expectation for people with disabilities in particular is that, They’re just gonna work for free because they should just be happy.

[00:16:20] We ask them to the table, which ridiculous. And I wrote a couple things down too. I mean, I don’t know if you know about sheltered workshops. Tori sheltered workshops were created back in World War II at the end of World War ii when there were all these. Veterans who couldn’t get jobs and people who were newly disabled that no one wanted to hire.

[00:16:40] And it was a really good thing back then because it was, you know, addressing this issue. But it basically allowed companies to underpay people with disabilities so they would get less than minimum wage. To this day, it’s still happening. Um, it’s actually legal. Uh, in certain cases to pay people with disabilities like four or $5 an hour.

[00:17:02] I mean, crazy, uh, that it’s still happening today. So what was a, I think a good mitzvah, you know, in, in the forties, uh, doesn’t hold up today, you know, and when I, I mean, and when that’s the messaging that we’re getting, that our work has less value, you can imagine that that’s even bigger than money. Cuz that becomes, About your self-worth also.

[00:17:24] And so for me it was a big deal to get to a point where I was able to say like, oh, you know, I wanna be able to choose what I do for free. And I definitely, you know, wanna still volunteer at times, but the work I do has value and. And our stories have value and, and our expertise has value. And that should be obvious, I would hope.

[00:17:47] You know, sadly, I’ve had to advocate far more than a lot of my counterparts, whether it was on behalf of someone else or myself. And that really does get to me like the fact that we’re still here at this point. And that’s why I’m so passionate about doing this work is that, you know, the Judy Humans of the World, Judy Human, is the reason that.

[00:18:07] 5 0 4, which led to the ada, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and she was a dear friend of mine. And if she had not put her body in front of, uh, in front of Madison Avenue City buses, and if she had not crawled up capital steps, I wouldn’t have been able to say that my disability was a blessing and that I could cut the lines at Disney World and all the things.

[00:18:28] That I, you know, part of the reason I was able to do that is because of all the sacrifices she made. But I think there is a misconception that we’re done, we’re just getting started. And when it comes to money, if you think of, and I mean also why I was so excited to be on your podcast, to be honest, from the intersectional standpoint, you know, as an Asian woman, With a disability.

[00:18:51] You can imagine like the Asian culture. We could do a whole podcast just on that. I had a mom that when I was embarrassed to do it would be like, my daughter needs to come through and she would cut the line for me and I’d be so embarrassed and I’d be like, oh mom, you know, cuz she was making a scene. But I’m so grateful that I have a mom who never apologized for the space she took up, you know?

[00:19:12] And, and what a gift that is. And also my parents didn’t plan on being. The parents to a person with a disability. They didn’t plan it. They, they didn’t get training on it. In fact, I don’t know if this was a good thing, but my dad refused grief counseling. He said, we’re just gonna raise her the best we can and we’re, you know what I m

[00:19:34] And for him, I think it was just about making sure that I felt comfortable and happy wherever I was. I have the privilege of having had gone to the best public schools here, the best doctors in New York. Um, you know, even being in New York is a privilege just for some of the access to care that I was able to get.

[00:19:57] And, um, I’m just grateful that I had parents that used their voice. Before I knew how to use mine because that allowed me to really fly and to be as successful as I could be at an early age. But I think even with that, there’s so much internalized like, oh, I, you know, feeling like, oh, do I deserve. This Right, especially career wise.

[00:20:18] I think I was so afraid to ask for what I was worth, and then basically I had a few corporate gigs during the pandemic. So this is really recent. Like I feel like I’m only really getting paid what I should have gotten paid the last three years. And had to realize that I was basically underpaid for like seven.

[00:20:35] You know? So this is why I think it’s important to talk about this cuz if this is what I’m going through and, you know, I’m kind of considered, I guess a success story, uh, um, then I, you know, I wanna also do this on behalf of. Those coming behind me who are starting out and want to know that they’re going to, for me, it’s not about money, it’s about respect, but that people are going to feel respected when they are asked to do things, that it’s not an expectation that they just should be so grateful.

[00:21:13] Tori Dunlap: That was incredibly insightful and yeah, I. Uh, there’s so much work that like, it, it’s, it’s similar to how I feel, of course, about women’s rights, where like so much progress has been made. And also we are so far from done, like we are so far from done. Can you tell me what financial advice you’ve received that just doesn’t make sense for someone with a disability?

[00:21:36] Xian Horn: Oh, that’s a really good question. Well, I will tell you the advice that I received, that it was true for my mom. It ended up being true for me, but I definitely don’t think applies to everyone. My mom always said, do what you love and the money will follow. I, and I think that when you come from multiple marginalized identities or even just one, it’s not that simple.

[00:22:01] You could love what you do, but if you don’t have the right leadership or someone that’s gonna advocate for you, I mean, for exa, I think I told you this when, when we spoke about your Forbes article. It wasn’t until I worked with a corporation that one of my good friends actually did research to find out what the last guy got paid.

[00:22:22] Um, and I realized that he, he was getting paid 20,000 more than what I planned to pitch them. And so I had to up my number and I’m so grateful that, and I think that’s where allyship and even just people who believe in you are so critical. You know, even this theater experience I had was because my boss believed I could.

[00:22:43] I don’t, I didn’t believe it at the time, you know what I mean? Or, or like even these classes that I, I, I didn’t even mention this. I, uh, really started out running a six week workshop through NYU’s Initiative for Women with Disabilities and. The way that happened was I was assisting, uh, the theater I was a part of did something called True Story Project.

[00:23:05] So I was assisting in the class, um, to help the girls tell their stories. And then the main teacher couldn’t do it anymore. And, and she said, well, the kids miss you. Is there anything you wanna talk to the girls about? And they were writing a lot of. Similar things in their journals that the people twice their age, you know, at this theater company were writing, you know, I felt like I was in a room full of light bulbs and all they were doing was talking about how dark everything is.

[00:23:29] And I said, well, I want them to know how beautiful they are. And so she said, great. Can you make a six week curriculum out of that? And I was like, I don’t know. Never done it before. But again, it took, it took someone else, like mentors and all. To really make that happen. They were able to see something for me I wasn’t able to see for myself.

[00:23:49] And I think that, um, was such a gift. So, you know, I’m grateful and not an accident that these were women that I very much admire. But, you know, I think that’s what real allyship is. Is when you’re using your privilege to make space for others. And I think that’s something, Tori, you really do all the time.

[00:24:09] You’re very aware of your privilege and you always make space for others because of it. To me, that is really allyship in the most active, beautiful form. So thank you for 

[00:24:21] Tori Dunlap: that. I feel like it’s, with privilege comes the responsibility to do that, so thank you. One of the things that we. In our research and that we’ve heard from community members is that this financial advice around like, you know, just making more money and you know, working harder.

[00:24:36] If you’re on Social security disability, working too much, this is so fucked. Working too much or working too effectively can make you lose your insurance. So substantial earnings are considered anything over about 14, $1,500. It’s more if you are blind or cannot see, and if you work for over 36 months in any capacity, you might lose a large portion of your benefits.

[00:25:00] Yes. Can we talk about. That. 

[00:25:02] Xian Horn: Like what is that? I’m so glad you’re bringing this up, Tori. When I was 17, my dad turned 65 and so I ended up getting half of what he was getting and he was working full-time. And actually some of that money we were able to put into my college, um, which was good timing. But I think there is the larger question or the larger thing you’re bringing up here, which I think is also an additional burden for people with disabilities, is that you have something to.

[00:25:31] If you are gainfully employed and if you don’t even know that you can keep this job, it can be completely terrifying to even try it because again, you don’t just lose what you’re making per month. So the 14, 1500, I don’t even think it is 1500 by the way, I think it is less than that. But you also lose health insurance as a result.

[00:25:54] So, and, and I think there’s such a fear around. Losing that most people, and this is also connects to the sheltered wor workshop that I mentioned. I have friends of mine and in fact, um, I’m not gonna mention any names, but someone that I know, uh, was working for a lady and she would get $750 a month from her, but she was working so many hours, she did the.

[00:26:20] And she realized she was making five to $6 an hour, but the reason that she was making the seven 50 was that this woman was helping her out by not exceeding her income limits. She was so afraid to lose her, her social security, that that is the deal they made. And then so she ended up. Really working sheltered workshop hours, you know, and I think there is such fear around losing, rather than what you could gain from a job.

[00:26:48] When you have, you’re, you’re dependent on so
cial security and you’re not sure what you’re gonna make. And if you’re only making, let’s say, you know, like some teachers make 35,000, it’s almost not even. Losing your benefits for, I mean, there is a work trial period and it is like a five year process to get off of it that I’m still on myself.

[00:27:11] Yeah, I think there’s tremendous fear around losing money or losing what you have, especially healthcare wise, in order to find gainful employment and live a purpose. You know, gainfully employed life as well. 

[00:27:26] Tori Dunlap: Double standard. Right. Which is like, you know, do what you can to make more money, but also basically we’re gonna punish you if you do.

[00:27:33] Right. Which just feels 

[00:27:34] Xian Horn: so 

[00:27:35] Tori Dunlap: disgusting. Like just 

[00:27:38] Xian Horn: so gross. Well, I mean, I’m so grateful to Social Security because, When I, when I was doing 80 per, I mean, and I’ll say I started out my advocacy doing 80% free, 20% paid, and I was so thrilled. If someone wanted to give me 200 bucks to do, I mean, do the same kind of talking that I’m doing now, obviously, I, I make way more than that now because I realized, wait a minute, my story has value and especially, and this is why I’m so committed to.

[00:28:06] That negotiating your worth idea is not, it’s not just for people with disabilities. It’s not just for women. It’s not just for people of color. I think it’s really stripping away this idea that, that we should be either shamed for wanting more. I’m trying in this portion of my life to come from a place of abundance, which has nothing to do with money, but you know, giving love, receiving love.

[00:28:31] And the more resources I have, the more I can give to the next generation of advocates, you know? So I’ve been able to pour all the money that I was able to make in the last three years into my nonprofit, which is now going into programs. It means that I can hire amazing people. I’ve stripped away a lot of that shame that I.

[00:28:52] You know about like, there’s almost like romanticizing poverty, uh, when it comes to certain, like, liberal arts institutions in a way. It’s like, oh, I, I remember having a big crush on a guy who, like, his big thing was he was gonna go live in Brazil for three months. With one suitcase. And I remember thinking like, oh that’s so, you know, he’s so sexy cuz he is not materialistic and blah, blah blah.

[00:29:16] And, and I realized like it’s another form of snobbery. It’s just as arrogant to say like, I need nothing as it is to say like, I want everything. You know what I mean? 

[00:29:27] Tori Dunlap: There’s been a lot of criticism of like minimal. Movements, right, of like, 

[00:29:31] Xian Horn: yeah, and I look if that’s what you want want to do, but like, but I just think that there’s no shame in having more than enough and it’s part of self care too.

[00:29:40] There’s a lot to unpack there. But I think, you know, even I was, even in terms of privilege too, I was grateful that I got to go to public schools versus, cuz I live on the Upper East side and you know, There was a possibility that I could have gone to private school and been with kids who were, you know, going on ski trips for their 16th birthday to Aspen or whatever.

[00:30:03] I’m very grateful for that Also, that I, I feel like at public school, you know, it was just more. Balanced in terms of there were people who had money, people who didn’t have money, and just more racial diversity. More diversity period. And I think, yeah, again, going back to the privilege of being in New York where you kind of see everything and see everyone, I think was super helpful growing up.

[00:30:28] It’s been 30 

[00:30:29] Tori Dunlap: years since ADA was updated. What are some of the ways the laws need to be updated? 

[00:30:36] Xian Horn: I don’t, you know, it’s not so much the laws. I actually, okay, tell me more. Think. I mean, yes, of course there’s plenty if you wanted to unpack, that’s a whole nother podcast. Um, but I think it’s, it’s more the cultural barriers.

[00:30:53] I think because a lot, and actually in fact we were just talking today, uh, there’s a government mandate. You need to have 7% of your employees, uh, have a disability. And this has been the case for quite some time, but there was zero enforcement of it. So most companies and most government contractors were far below this number.

[00:31:15] I think the average was eventbe three to 4%. It ended up being okay because the government hadn’t enforced it, and I, I just found out that as of April 1st, they are looking at ways to enforce this, but I think the biggest issue that I have seen is more, more cultural. And this is why I am very passionate about assistive tech and, and media.

[00:31:42] And fashion and beauty because I, I think once we can actually change the cultural things about it, it will impact everything else because I think people will be more comfortable hiring, will be more comfortable seeing people with disabilities on tv, on their screens, on stage, things like that. I think the perfect example of this, if we could go back a little bit, is when, in the sixties, when the desegregation.

[00:32:10] Had all been passed and legislated places were still not desegregating. And in Las Vegas, um, they had not desegregated at all until Frank Sinatra said, Hey, if my band, which was primarily or all black cannot walk in the same door as I do, I’m not playing your venue. And that was the way that desegregation happened in Las Vegas.

[00:32:36] So I think similarly you can say, okay, you have a 7% requirement for employment. And yet, okay, if that person is hired but doesn’t feel welcome, it doesn’t matter even if you do meet your quotas, right? Because you actually want people who are qualified for their jobs, who feel prepared, who feel accommodated for, and so just making some benchmark number or writing something on a piece of paper that all people with disabilities should be included, doesn’t mean they feel welcomed, doesn’t mean they actually feel deeply integrated into that culture.

[00:33:15] And that is. I have so many friends who are on the legislative end, and I love what they do. But for me, I think the most important thing, my priority is to make sure that in terms of tech, in terms of beauty, in terms of, you know, I’m on the Real Abilities Film Selection Committee because I’m also able to choose and help shape the narratives around disability a little bit by really making sure that we’re not only putting narratives out there, but empowered.

[00:33:44] So for me, I think the laws are just one piece of that pie and it’s, in a way, it’s the most performative of the pieces of the pie. Um, just because you can put anything in writing, if no one’s actually practicing it, it doesn’t really matter. So that’s not to put anyone down who is doing that work. And I have so many no, but it’
s a great.

[00:34:06] Tori Dunlap: And you, you bring up the example of desegregation, like that was, there was a difference between, you know, like everybody thinks, you know, the Emancipation Proclamation is the thing and it’s like, no. Like it continued on for many, many years after that. So it’s a good reminder. Like I focus a lot on, you know, policy change and the importance of that.

[00:34:23] Um, and I think in some regards it is incredibly important. Paid family leave, all of these things, right? But like policy is an incredible 

[00:34:29] Xian Horn: start. But what continues it is the actual implementation and how it’s. Yep. 

[00:34:36] Tori Dunlap: You’re so right.

[00:34:45] What is one of the biggest misconceptions about disabilities that you would want to clear up? 

[00:34:50] Xian Horn: Oh my God. How much time do we have? I mean, first of all, I think the biggest thing that I always try to say, whether it’s for P people or design, is like, Make it sexy. And so the first thing I would say is, first of all, I think the biggest misconception is that people with disabilities, all we do is suffer.

[00:35:11] And I think that, I mean, just me personally, I think that everybody has something beautiful about them. And so disability, to me, again, it’s just a, another part of. Incredible diversity as human beings, and I, I just wish there was more sexy factor in the way that people saw us, because I see it all the time.

[00:35:33] All my friends are sexy and I, I just. I per, that’s number one. Um, number two, I think there’s this idea that, again, I think this might be more old school, but I think there is this idea that if you’re a disabled person, you are the one that needs to figure it out instead of having the culture or, or the community that’s welcoming you, you know, figure it out with you.

[00:35:57] It’s collaborative. Any change is collaborative and so I’m not one. People that feels, cuz I see this with feminism too. I think there are those who, you know, want feminism to belong to only women. I don’t think that that’s how we move the needle. It has to involve everyone. Same with disability. I think that, you know, for me, allyship is not about never making mistakes.

[00:36:21] It’s how do you respond when you have made that mistake. And are you going to make, you know, put your money where your mouth is and are you going to actually make the changes? And listen, cuz I think real allyship is about listening. Um, and so for me, I think the biggest misconceptions that I see is, again, the sexy factor, but also that.

[00:36:44] I think that a lot of non-disabled people feel that it’s kind of disabled people’s problem to figure things out or, or men think it’s women’s pro. No, it involves everyone, right? And people of color. You know, again, with that Frank Sinatra example, you know, Frank could have said, I’m a white guy. What do I have to do with this?

[00:37:06] But no, he understood his privilege and he used it. Make the door as wide as he possibly could for the people who were with him. And it, it didn’t just affect them, it affected the entire state of Nevada. And I also, I think one of the biggest things is, is like, you know, my entire life people are like, oh, you’re really smart.

[00:37:27] You know, it’s like, oh well so are you. You know? Um, and I think the biggest thing that I do, cuz I, you know, I get talked to a lot, is when people compliment me. I, I like to say, oh, you too. The number one way that you know that they’re not putting you on equal foot footing with them is if you say, you too, and they look offended.

[00:37:47] Wow. 

[00:37:47] Tori Dunlap: Yeah. Nope. I know exactly what you mean. Yeah. Yeah, and I think I, I, I believe the feminism in the same definition, right, of like early on in the show we were starting to have men on the podcast. We were starting to, you know, include more of their stories and we got some pushback, which is like, why are you including men?

[00:38:06] The show is called Financial Feminist. Like, and I’m like, I don’t think we have true feminism without male allies. And I think it’s very important for the people who already do have power and privilege to be able to leverage that and have the responsibility to use that. I always joke, I’m like Financial, Feminist can be of any gender identity and as long as you’re chill and believe in the equality of all genders, like you can stay.

[00:38:27] Like we welcome you very much. Yeah, I couldn’t agree 

[00:38:30] Xian Horn: more. Yes. I mean, my boss at that theater did not have physical disabilities. She just had neighbors. She really loved and started this theater company with her neighbors and wanted to include everybody. And that was just something very important to her.

[00:38:44] And, um, and I, I think also, yeah, I, I think people feel that if it doesn’t touch their lives, it’s not relevant to them sometimes. And, um, I, I definitely think we need to bust that myth because anyone. Is hurt. We all hurt. Anyone that is left out or not hurt, or not seen or not acknowledged, I mean, that affects everyone.

[00:39:08] And the wonderful thing about I, we just re-watched last night, um, if anyone wants to know more about Judy Human and how she, you know, basically is the mother of our movement, um, there’s a fantastic film called Crypt Camp. That journey to making 5 0 4 a reality. And then the a d a, and what I love about that is, you know, the biggest moment in that movement was a 26 day takeover of the Capitol in San Francisco where they had the Black Panthers feeding them.

[00:39:41] And it was, you know, and it was a lesbian group that was giving them showers and. I really believe that all of our, all of our wagons are hitched together when we’re from any marginalized community. And I thought that was such a beautiful example of where, you know, anyone could say, oh, well that’s not my problem.

[00:40:02] But I, I think the people I really admire realize that any problem is everybody’s problem. Yeah, 

[00:40:08] Tori Dunlap: I couldn’t agree more. When you see conversations about disability inclusion, accessibility online, What do you think is missing from these conversations? 

[00:40:18] Xian Horn: Oh, that’s a really big question. Um, do you mean disability conversations between disability advocates or just in general?

[00:40:27] Is it what, nondisabled in 

[00:40:29] Tori Dunlap: general? Yeah. Or eventbe like, let’s talk, I mean, I would love to know personally, like, you know, for non-disabled people, like what, what are we missing? Like what, what ways can we leverage our privilege? Whether that’s in conversations online, like in the work that we do. What is, what is missing from that 

[00:40:46] Xian Horn: all

[00:40:47] I think eventbe it, it’s, uh, it’s nobody’s fault. It’s a lot of times what we don’t know. So for example, if you don’t know that it took someone two hours to get to you, you, you might be really. Pissed off that they’re 15 minutes late. But if you understood like what it took for that person to get up, eventbe they didn’t have a personal care attendant to help them that day.

[00:41:10] eventbe the Access-a-Ride didn’t show up or Paired transit didn’t show up on time. I don’t blame anyone for what they don’t know, but just to make room for the fact that there might be pieces missing in what you do know. Giving people grace and, and patience, I think. Um, and also I think in terms of neurodiversity, I think, you know, you could hire someone who’s brilliant and autistic and eventbe say, oh, this person’s not a cultural fit because.

[00:41:38] They don’t, you know, they don’t look me in the eye or they don’t say hi the way that Tori does, or, you know, and I think that there’s a lot of, of things like that where they’re not factoring in how a person’s condition could, you know, eventbe they really want to look you in the eye. eventbe they really want.

[00:41:55] To be a team player in the way that you’re used to. But you know, I think just being aware, uh, that there’s more to the story. That’s a specific example, but I think it’s also true for most people, right? One of my favorite quotes is, you know, be kind because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.

[00:42:16] We don’t. That is, and you don’t have to have a disability to understand that. I think I, I think this is something that I want just from other human beings, period. For all of us. Right? Even, you know, I think, you know, like when I think about being a white man, I. I, I think there’s also, I have compassion for that too.

[00:42:36] It’s like they often don’t know how they’re part of the conversation and because they’re not eventbe used to being excluded. This whole, you know, diversity push is very awkward. That’s one of the reasons why I talk about privilege so much and allyship, is that, you know, we’re all a part of this, you know, and it’s not about excluding anyone.

[00:42:56] You know, I don’t wanna exclude white men from the conversation. Or white women, you know what I mean? I, I, I want, I want to make sure it’s just about welcoming more people in who are, who are supposed to be there, have a right to be there. And we’re more complete when we have everyone. You know, diversity makes us more complete.

[00:43:16] And um, so that’s the biggest thing, you know, cuz I always try. Disability, not just about disability. There, there’s certain universal things about being human. We all want to be loved. We all want to know that we have a voice. 

[00:43:31] Tori Dunlap: Seen. Heard, yes. Yeah, 

[00:43:33] Xian Horn: yeah. Safe. Yeah. Yes, exactly. Um, that we matter, that we have gifts that, that to contribute in the world.

[00:43:41] And, and that’s part of why, you know, even when I do my self-esteem programs, I really try to offer them for everybody. We all want to feel seen, heard, accepted, and that’s whether we’re verbal or not, whether I’m not talking about actual ability, but it’s really about acknowledgement, you know? Anyway, so I always try to make it about something bigger than just disability because ultimately we all have the same.

[00:44:05] We might not have the exact same needs, but we all have the same wants. Right. Yeah. 

[00:44:11] Tori Dunlap: Your work has been so impactful in communities, and I would love for you to talk about your nonprofit, give Beauty Wings, talk about the work that you do and how listeners out there can support it. 

[00:44:24] Xian Horn: Oh, thank you so much, Tori.

[00:44:26] Um, well, gift Beauty Wings really came about when I was doing these workshops on self-esteem at nyu, and I found that ultimately what I was really doing other than just talking about how we feel about ourselves was really helping. These ladies to get as many clouds out of the way so they could shine as brightly as possible and do things that they were dying to do.

[00:44:53] Whether, whether that meant singing in the shower more or, or pursuing a career that they didn’t think was possible for them. But we all have, I, I mean, I, I think especially women, we have so many excuses and so many. Sometimes why not to do something, you know? And that’s why it was very liberating for me to perform in that show was like, I didn’t think that was possible, but it was because someone else believed in me, for me, that I was able to do that.

[00:45:21] And so with the work that we do, it’s really about. Making sure that whatever their goals were, I wanted to support them. But as I was doing this work, I realized it was about a sense of purpose. I also realized that, you know, I had a, a one particular activity where I just had everybody write about their day, and one of the girls said to me, wow, it was so great to write about my day.

[00:45:44] Nobody’s. Me how my day was before, and this goes back to the support systems of like, one of the biggest things that I realized and how I actually started the Forbes column as well, was that there was nobody really talking about disability and leadership. There was no one talking about, you know, I, because I was an only.

[00:46:08] To artists parents who were their own bosses. They, they treated me like a future leader, you know? And I realized that that was such a gift now, but I didn’t think it was revolutionary then. And so I really wanted to talk about. And around and foster that leadership and that mentorship that I got, uh, not just from my parents, but like I said, even at NYU at this theater, having people who believed in me enough.

[00:46:36] And so Give Beauty Wings is really about fostering that leadership and that mentorship for the next generation. And so one of the, you know, things that we’re going to be doing is, uh, we’re doing. Actually, hopefully it’ll be right around the corner when this airs. I am having an event about art as self-care, and we’re going to talk to writers, actors, you know, with disabilities who are using their art to create community.

[00:47:07] And then we have also that financial wellness workshop that I would love to have you part of Tori as an ally, it would be great to just, if you even wanna do a video for them, I would love that. But for me, I wanted to, again, create community because especially in the pandemic, so many of my former students were coming to me saying, Xian, I’m so bored, I’m so isolated, I have nothing to do.

[00:47:32] So ultimately, you know, give Beauty Wings is about putting our gifts to action and I want to empower as many people who feel like they don’t have that support system to have that support system, whether it be. You know, finding financial tools or even just someone to believe in them, right? So mentorship, financial wellness, art, all of it is a part of that feeling like a whole person and it’s a form of self-care, right?

[00:48:02] Yeah. So give beauty wings is really about that. And um, I wanted it to be something personal where people could really share how they think and feel and not feel judged. So, you know, first and foremost, creating that safe space, but then also supporting. What is the next action that you take when you have that safe space?

[00:48:19] Is it pursuing a job? Is it singing in the shower? Is it just having, you know, friends and community that means something to you? I, you know, for me it’s, it’s not about defining what that is for someone else, but creating space for it. So thank you for asking. 

[00:48:36] Tori Dunlap: Of course. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your work.

[00:48:39] I’m assuming we can, uh, Give beauty wings and we’ll have that linked in the show notes. But where else can people find you to connect more with you? 

[00:48:46] Xian Horn: Okay, you can find me@Xianhorn.com. X I A N H O R n.com. Or you can find me at X I A N F O R Beauty. On TikTok now at and give beauty wings.org. Thank you for being here.

[00:49:02] Tori Dunlap: Thank you for your work. We appreciate it. A huge thanks to Xian for joining us. If you are interested in learning more, not only about the show, but about actionable things you can do to better your money and better your life, we have a brand new start here link in our episode notes that takes you directly to our best resources, including not only the show notes for episodes and past podcasts, but free workshops, step-by-step guides person.

[00:49:27] Plans about everything and anything personal finance. We’ve also compiled all of the resources from Xian and her team over there, so make sure to check out the link and follow Xian and the work she’s doing with Give Beauty Wings. Thank you again for joining us. As always, Financial Feminist. We appreciate your support of the show.

[00:49:43] And we’ll catch you later. Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist a her first hundred K podcast. Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap, produced by Kristen Fields Marketing and Administration by Karina Patel, Cherise Wade, a Elena Heller, Paulina Isaac, Sophia Cohen, Valerie Esco, Jack Coing, Kail Duaz, Elizabeth mc.

[00:50:04] Beth Bowen and Amanda Lephew. Researched by Arielle Johnson, audio Engineering by Austin Fields. Promotional graphics by Mary Stratton, photography by Sarah Wolfe. And theme music by Jonah Cohen. Sound a huge thanks to the entire her first a hundred K team and community for supporting the show. For more information about Financial Feminist, her first a hundred k, our guests and episode show notes.

[00:50:26] Visit Financial Feminist podcast.com or follow us on Instagram at Financial 

[00:50:30] Xian Horn: Feminist podcast.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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