FI Personal Finance

Reaching FI with a Disability: My Interview with Minnie St. Claire

support priscilla du preez unsplash

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Reaching FI with a disability—Minnie’s story

I met Minnie several years ago in the ChooseFI Canada Facebook group. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by her story. For one thing, she’s very open about her career as a cam model. But more importantly, I was inspired by her tenacity in the face of lifelong adversity. 

As a woman of colour with a history of trauma and invisible disabilities, Minnie hasn’t had it easy. And yet, even with so many odds stacked against her, she’s continued to work hard towards financial independence. 

My respect and admiration of Minnie has only grown as I’ve gotten to know her and learn more about her. I can’t help but be impressed by how hard she’s worked towards FI—while also navigating the complex Canadian benefits system. 

Why I wanted to do this interview 

I’ve wanted to interview Minnie and share her story for a while. For one thing, the FI community is more diverse than it appears at first glance. I want others to see themselves in the many faces of the FI community—including those of BIPOC women such as Minnie and me.

Also, as a disabled person facing complicated issues, Minnie’s FI journey is about as unique as they come. Her story is yet more proof that there are many paths to FI. Finally, I want to shed light on the fraught decisions that disabled people must make. 

It’s maddening how the system forces disabled individuals to make impossible decisions. On one hand, disability benefits are too meagre to provide a livable income. But working and earning more results in benefit clawbacks. 

There are no easy solutions, but Minnie does her best to juggle it all. Below is my interview with her, which we conducted over several months via email and Google Docs. (Any delay was totally on my end—Minnie was great at getting back to me quickly!)

What you’ll learn in Minnie’s interview 

Minnie graciously spent a LOT of time filling out this interview and provided many helpful and interesting details. I decided to break up her interview into two parts:

Part 1: Getting to know Minnie 

In Part 1, Minnie shares her story from childhood to present. In many ways, she experienced a fairly typical Canadian upbringing; complete with plenty of toys and extracurricular activities. But sadly, trauma and an unsupportive home environment forced Minnie to grow up quickly.

Content warning: Minnie briefly mentions trauma and abuse in her interview.

Part 2: Canadian disability benefits—setting the record straight

In Part 2, Minnie lays out the flaws, myths, loopholes, and little-known facts of the Canadian benefits system. She also shares the many, many unseen challenges disabled Canadians face every day. 

Part 1: Getting to know Minnie


Can you please introduce yourself?

I’m single with no children entering my 40s. I don’t know how I got here. I live in Ontario, Canada—about 4 hours away from the city of Ottawa .

I was born and raised in Ontario. My family emigrated from Jamaica to Canada when they were teenagers. My mother and father met when they were attending separate high schools. They had me first, and then my sister. When I was about five years old, they got divorced. It was a traumatic experience for me, and probably for my sister too.

Culturally, I grew up in Canada and both sides of my family are Jamaican. My mother grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As an Adventist Protestant Christian denomination, she attempted to raise me and my sister in that faith.

Their parenting style was dramatic and traumatic, but they managed to fill my childhood with lots of toys and extracurricular activities. I went to ballet, played roller and field hockey, learned the alto saxophone, piano, and did cross-country and downhill skiing. 

I enjoyed watching cartoons and had an interest in art where I learned to draw my own comics. I also played video games, taught myself HTML, was a Girl Guide, and went to every camp my mother could find. 

My sister was a Girl Guide as well and excelled in her academics, got heavily involved in sports (running cross country, gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, track and field). She had the opportunity to train for women’s bobsled in one of the Winter Olympics and is now a doctor in chiropractic medicine.

Somewhere in my childhood, I experienced a lot of sexual trauma and my father was physically abusive. My mother doesn’t like me talking about it but it’s what happened. I’ve spent years of my life processing what happened and figuring out how I’m going to live my life while having my parents be proud and disappointed in me—sometimes at the same time.

My childhood experiences led me to leave home at 18 years old. To sum it up, my family structure was unstable with lots of distractions through activities and toys. It has shaped and defined my adulthood to create a 20-year work-from-home career. 

As I’ve healed from my trauma, I’ve become interested in some political issues, female reproductive rights, disability rights, income inequality, and sex workers’ rights that fight for decriminalization.

Can you tell us more about your disabilities?

My doctors, psychotherapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist have diagnosed me with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex PTSD, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder type 2, multiple sclerosis, scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine) and ADHD/Autism. It basically means I live with emotional and physical pain on a frequent basis.

How long have you lived with your disabilities?

I have lived with disabilities my entire life. I got diagnosed and sought treatment after I left home at 18 years old. Growing up living at home, my health concerns were ignored and dismissed.

How do your disabilities affect you and your ability to work?

I have to be more mindful of my physical and mental limitations. My disability is mostly managed by pharmaceutical drugs that come with long-term side effects. These side effects are starting to show their effects physically. What I think I can do must be broken down into smaller achievements. 

I’ve accepted some societal milestones I won’t experience. Life is different for me because I live with lifelong conditions. The majority of my time is living through illness symptoms and seeking professional support. I’m constantly reminding myself I do not need the pressure of external approval or to impress anyone.

How much does it cost to treat and manage your disabilities?

I haven’t added up the full cost of managing my chronic conditions. I have a rough estimate that my bipolar disorder medication is approximately $100 a month that Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) health benefit covers. 

My multiple sclerosis disease modified drug treatment is approximately $1,900 a month. That is funded under The Exceptional Access Program (EAP) because it is not funded by the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) which is part of ODSP.

My family doctor regularly reviews my blood work and has recommended that I take vitamins and supplements which are not covered under any health benefit program or private health insurance. I’ve learned to go to the pharmacy on senior’s day to get my vitamins and supplements at a lower price or buy them with gifts cards and rewards points. 

Then I have the additional cost of anything that is partially or not funded by ODSP, such as additional eye exams, eye glasses, chiropractor, acupuncture, massage therapist, physiotherapy, psychotherapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, dietitian, personal trainer and more. 

Can you tell us about your career as a cam model?

How did you get into it?

In 2003, I got started as a webcam model by looking through the free local paper. At the back, there were job ads for adult entertainment work, massage parlours, strip clubs, and escort agencies. That’s where I found a tiny two-line ad for webcam modeling. 

It offered housing accommodations and the ability to earn an income from a webcam. At the time, I had no idea what a webcam was, let alone you could make money from it. It was my foot into the adult entertainment industry. I had aspirations of becoming an adult film star and also had an online profile on adult work recruitment sites where I would accept freelance cash gigs.

What are the pros and cons of working as a cam model?

Pros: I have the ability to work from home, set my own schedule, and work as slow or fast paced as I need to while accommodating my disability without judgement, discrimination or asking an employer for permission. 

I have the ability to make thousands of US dollars from the comfort of my Canadian home. The webcam companies offer regular sales contests with attractive prizes, cash bonuses, travel incentives that I can choose to work towards (or not) without the pressure of a traditional workplace.

Cons: As a non-USA cam model, the webcam companies legally classify me as an independent contractor. I’m responsible for understanding and filing taxes correctly, contributing to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP/CPP-D), paying for disability health benefits, and insurance premiums. 

I chose not to enroll in the self-employed employment insurance program because I found I can self-insure with a hefty savings account 3–24 months of liquid cash.

The biggest con is fear, misinformation, stigmatizations and judgement from people who have never worked in the webcam industry. If they’ve briefly worked in it and had a bad work experience, they use that experience to punish others and sabotage our options for work, financial stability, and freedom.

How long will you continue working as a cam model?

I’ve been actively working as a cam model for 20 years and I will work for as long as possible. I see the industry growing and see that there’s a need for professional business coaching of other cam models.

There’s also a huge need to bring financial literacy to the industry. Lack of financial literacy is everywhere when it should be accessible to everyone anywhere. I want my cam model colleagues to come out of the industry better than they’ve entered. 

Would you say the pay for cam modelling is good?

I always laugh at this question. The webcam industry is over 30 years old and the job as a cam model requires no education and no previous work experience. It’s an opportunity to earn an unlimited amount of money through digital marketing, sales, and affiliate commissions.

I can maximize the ability to work from home using the power of the internet to produce livestream entertainment to a mature adult audience. 

What unique financial hurdles do you face as a cam model?

As a cam model, my work is labelled as sex work (even though I don’t see it as such). I also identify as a BIPOC disabled woman from immigrant parents. I’m constantly fearful of when I might experience racism, judgement, shaming, gaslighting, bullying, coercion, threats of violence, stigmatization, discrimination, or lack of access to products and services.

*I do not see my cam modelling as sex work. Instead, I see it as building intimacy and a long-lasting connection.

My work is constantly being glamorized, stigmatized, moralized, demoralized and I’m exhausted with the false beliefs and narratives. I’m constantly being labelled into categories I did not ask for. But my work is simply a means to provide for myself so that I am clean, not hungry and housed. 

People will label, judge, stigmatize and financially castrate me for my choice to work as a cam model, while ignoring that government policy and laws are designed to keep options away from me.

In recent Canadian news, there was an article about adult content creators losing their Canadian bank accounts and it reminded me that my country of birth is not always safe. Then I read the article of the Halifax sex worker who won her lawsuit for suing a customer who refused to pay for her service. 

For a brief moment, I thought maybe someone out there understands sexual service work is work. But then I read an article about a teacher assistant who is being shamed for having her OnlyFans account as supplemental income. My emotions are always being twisted around by the moralizing and demoralizing actions of others.

To help break down prejudices and unfair judgements, what do you want others to know about cam models and other sex workers?

We are human beings surviving in a world that wants to control our thoughts and bodies. To work in adult entertainment or learn the education required to become a sex educator or sex therapist is not something that happens overnight. We are small business venture capitalists and the backbone of the entire global economy. We’ve nurtured the industrial revolution. 

Can you tell us more about your educational and career goals?

In September 2022, I was enrolled in full-time post secondary education in the accounting diploma program that I got early acceptance into. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw before finishing the first semester after I found out my family had no honest intention of paying for my education as they promised. 

Between my mother and father, they gave me a ‘whopping’ $600. A year before starting my diploma program, there was no confirmation from my parents on how much will be given to pay for my post-secondary education. 

Every conversation we had regarding funding my education ended with them claiming my school will be taken care of and I had nothing to worry about. That experience emotionally changed how I view my parents all over again. My plans for college have not changed. 

Which programs are you interested in?

I have big plans to take the 3-year finance diploma and take the 2-year or 3-year accounting diploma program. I’m also interested in the 2-year business diploma program or the 8-month post-graduate entrepreneurship certificate program and the 2-year computer systems technician diploma program. I know it’s a lot and that I will have to fund my education on my own and do my best to avoid student loans.

What attracted you to these programs?

What attracted me to these college programs is simple: I love money and the ability to earn an income as a business. So far, my entire working life has been based on using information technology to create and design my own professional career.

I also have a personal interest and passion about all of these programs. It is fueled by the pressure of being working poor-low-income and eligible for ODSP. ODSP has a section in their policy directive that says as long as the member of the benefit unit is enrolled in full-time post secondary education their income and assets are exempt and it won’t affect their eligibility for ODSP—starting from 16 weeks before their class start date and while they are attending full-time post secondary education. So you can see why I’ve planned to take multiple college diploma programs.

Mentally and physically, I know I can not take all of them. I’m very mindful of the limitations designed in the ODSP policy and OSAP: Ontario Student Assistance Program aka student loans policy for students with a disability. 

If I had known my parents were only going to give me $600, I could have delayed starting my college application and used that time to save more money to fully fund my college education.

Where could your educational path lead you in your career as a cam model?

There’s a huge need to bring financial literacy to the webcam industry. Lack of financial literacy is everywhere but it should be accessible to everyone anywhere. I want my cam model colleagues to become better than they’ve entered. 

At the moment, I’m working, saving, investing, and paying down credit cards. I would like to return to college soon but it all depends on how quickly I can replenish my college savings. 

Can you share your FI goals and plans? 

For example, what type of FI are you aiming for?

I’m not following the FI community terminology. I have determined the first financial milestone is $40,000 of assets outside of the RDSP so that ODSP can classify me as someone with excess assets. 

Saving $8,000 a year for 5 years will put me on track for that, but I have to make sure my monthly income is stable enough to handle that life event. It would make sense to at least graduate from one college diploma program first before I go to aggressively saving $40,000 of assets outside of my RDSP investment account.

Once I’ve achieved that, then I can work towards the “normal” FI milestones and hope that I’m eligible for health benefits or my income and assets are enough to cash flow it.

Right now, I’m waiting on my caseworker to acknowledge my Segregated Funds are an exempt asset up to $100,000 according to their policy. ODSP caseworkers are not financial advisors but they have the power to make serious life-changing financial decisions about me.

To review and determine my eligibility status for disability income support, ODSP will refer to their policy directive section 11.1 — Recovery of overpayments and section 11.2 — Overpayments due to excess assets, 4.1 — Definition and treatment of assets and 5.1 — Definition and treatment of income. 

As part of this, they will consider how much I receive as gifts and voluntary payments for any purpose up to $10,000 in any 12-month period covered in their policy section 5.8 — Gifts and voluntary payments. This also includes inheritance and lottery winnings.

Will you pursue incremental forms of FI (e.g. Coast FI or Barista FI)?

The FI community doesn’t have a label for Disability FI. It has been something I’ve had to create. As I pursue FI, I need to always be aware of what type of health insurance is available to me.

I have multiple pre-existing health conditions and my options are limited and expensive. I suspect an employer would not be too happy to hire me knowing I might not stay long or that I’m only there until I find out that my health insurance package is inadequate. Knowing me, I’m probably quitting the same day and that wouldn’t be good if I want to explore a second career after college.

I have found I would get some health insurance coverage when I’m attending full-time post-secondary education. But constantly attending full-time college to access better health insurance would be exhausting.

I think Disability FI would be similar to Barista FI except my income and assets would have to be low enough to access the available health benefits provided by ODSP and Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB). Then if I have too much income and assets to be eligible for ODSP, they would hopefully transfer me to the ODSP extended health benefits or transitional health benefits. 

Then I hope to be eligible for the Ontario Trillium Drug Program (TDP) and hope my income is high enough to pay out of pocket for private health insurance and I could claim medical expenses on my income taxes.

What age would you like to reach FI by?

I’m currently 38 years old and live with a permanent disability that my doctors monitor regularly to determine its progression and signs of long-term pharmaceutical side effects that could cause another health condition. 

I haven’t thought about what age I would like to reach FI because I’m constantly on high alert with the Ontario Disability Support Program as they constantly monitor my citizenship status, expenses, income, assets, etc. (Yes, the ODSP will review my status in Ontario, Canada even though I’m born in Canada.)

I also have to stay alert with the status of my Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) because the federal government could change their definition of someone who is disabled. 

I have thought that I could exit ODSP in 3 to 5 years, but I would need to have a solid-enough monthly earned income to cover my living expenses, saving goals, and medical expenses without leaving me vulnerable to re-applying for the ODSP rapid reinstatement program.

Reaching FI for me is different because my disability expenses take first priority after my basic living expenses.

Why do you want to reach FI?

It’s simple—I want to reach FI to get out of being working-poor-low-income and fighting legislative poverty. I’m done with this government’s legal policy nightmare. I need to wake up and become one of those middle-class people who are really millionaires and act like it’s no big deal.

What will you do with your time once you reach FI?

When I reach FI, I will probably spend more time travelling and enjoy a life of leisure. It would be lovely to spend 2 days a week enjoying beauty and spa treatments. 

I’ve carried around a lot of trauma and stress. I’ve worked really hard to fit into this classist, sexist, racist, ableist, capitalist society. I feel like my financial portfolio is my compensation for pain and suffering. I will use it to heal myself and others.

Closing thoughts

I’d like to leave you with a clip from Modern Love. I have not watched the series but this scene always gets me emotional:

If people wonder why someone they know doesn’t tell them they have a disability it is because we are programmed as a society to work hard and tough it out all while falling apart on the inside.

When someone shares their disability, it is because we are tired of carrying the burden all by ourselves. We need support that supports us to be seen, heard, validated, and respected—without fear of judgement. If we do not feel safe, we internalize and it causes more emotional and sometimes physical harm.

That’s my reaction to this clip. It always brings up a million emotions that the world still treats people with a disability as if we are supposed to vanish into a black hole.

Thank you, Minnie

It took a lot of time, effort, and courage for Minnie to share her story with us. I’m so grateful for her time and generous sharing of her life story, future plans, and FI goals. 

I appreciate Minnie’s candid honesty and have learned so much from our interview. I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know more about her and hope that you’ll be as inspired by her story as I’ve been.

If you enjoyed this interview, I have good news—this is just Part One of two! In Part Two, Minnie will share challenges, dilemmas, and her best tips for accessing government benefits as a disabled Canadian.

How to get in touch with Minnie 

If you’d like to get in touch with Minnie or learn more about her, you can contact her via email at, or through her social media:

Support this blog

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) 

You can also support this blog by visiting my recommendations page and purchasing through the links. Note that not every link is an affiliate link—some are just favourite products and services that I want to share. 🙂

As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    September 27, 2023 at 6:12 pm

    I learned a lot from this interview Minnie. You are a bad ass for learning how to survive, thrive and pass on this knowledge to other colleagues.

    • Reply
      September 27, 2023 at 8:31 pm

      Hi JL—I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said about Minnie. She’s amazing! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

  • Reply
    October 2, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    Thank you Minnie for being so candid and sharing so much with us! Thank you Chrissy for taking so much time to interview Minnie because reading about her and all her challenges. Minnie is to be admired because rather than play the pity card, she is being so self sufficient and creative in the way she manages to earn a good living, enjoy independence and not be an angry self pitying person. I am so happy that in my 70s, I have learned so much & best of all, to stop being judgemental of others which is very prevalent in my vintage. I wish Minnie all the best moving forward.

    • Reply
      October 5, 2023 at 7:52 pm

      Hi Mom—I agree that Minnie is to be admired for all that she’s done to become self sufficient, even with all the difficulties she’s faced her whole life.

      She certainly has a good head on her shoulders and a healthy mindset. That’s no small feat for someone who faces challenges at every turn.

      Thanks for reading Minnie’s interview and taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment!

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    October 13, 2023 at 5:39 am

    Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your story Minnie. I look forward to part 2 and diving deeper “behind the scenes”.

    • Reply
      October 22, 2023 at 9:11 pm

      Hi Maria—sorry I didn’t reply to this earlier. For some reason, WordPress didn’t send me a notification. 🤨

      Thanks for reading and commenting on Minnie’s interview. I hope you’ll check out Part 2, which was published not too long ago. Minnie gets VERY detailed with her disability benefits knowledge!

Leave a Reply