Kelly Anne Smith, Forbes Advisor Staff
July 27, 2021
Allyson Felix is the most decorated track and field Olympian in history. She has won 25 global medals at the Olympics and World Championships. In 2019, just 10 months after giving birth to her daughter, Camryn, via emergency C-section, she beat Usain Bolt’s record for the most gold medals in world championships history.
In addition to being a champion, Felix, 34, is a risk taker. In May 2019, she spoke out against Nike threatening to cut her pay by 70 percent on her contract renewal after having a baby. Her op-ed in The New York Times led a handful of brands (including Nike) to change their contracts to protect pregnant women’s pay.
As Felix juggles her athletic and advocacy commitments, she’s adding another layer to her identity: Determined business woman. So far, she’s invested in a plant-based protein bar company, serves as an advisor to a fitness technology startup and has started developing a real estate portfolio.
Now, she’s started yet another partnership—as a spokeswoman for an “American Dream” campaign, which looks at how busy, everyday Americans are preparing and planning for their long-term financial goals.
No, the record-busting Felix isn’t exactly an average American. Yet as she moves from being solely an athlete to also taking on the roles of mother and businesswoman, she’s a prime example of the kind of person who is likely to benefit the most from professional financial help: Someone in transition with a lot to think about financially, and not enough time to do it all on her own.
Having Kids Makes Planning a Priority
Olympic athlete or not, being a new parent is not easy.
Those who starting a family might understandably feel overwhelmed with the financial commitment that entails. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects a middle class family will spend $284,570 raising a child born in 2015 —and that doesn’t include the cost of college.
But Felix, who is a champion for mothers—in addition to her push for maternity protections for athletes, she’s testified to Congress about racial disparities in maternal mortality—wants them to know that they can be in full control of their financial futures, just as she is starting to be.
“I want to encourage them to feel empowered by having a plan,” Felix says. “It can be overwhelming and stressful to constantly think about the numbers, but they should reshape that and think about what is important to their specific family and what they want to accomplish in the future.”
Financially preparing for a family means building savings, implementing a savings strategy for the child’s future education, budgeting for child care expenses, getting a handle on current debt and more. All the moving financial parts of raising children can be overwhelming. So it makes sense to start with manageable goals and build your way up.
Start by Learning More and Setting Realistic Goals
No one can go from zero to running a record-breaking 200-meter sprint overnight; it takes self-discipline and training. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to setting herself up for a successful financial future, Felix is also taking a disciplined approach.
Most financial experts will tell you that building a strong financial future starts with creating realistic goals and crushing them. Felix’s goals are centered around her family and the future of one-year-old Camryn; she’s focused on providing for her daughter’s education and she picked up her interest in real estate investing in part by watching her grandmother flip houses.
Felix is now at the stage where she wants to take charge of her finances. But she’s also got huge demands on her time. “When I was younger, I felt like I wasn’t educated or involved in my finances as well or as much as I am now,” Felix says. “I had other people working with me and taking the lead on those things. But feeling empowered to understand, and being educated on things I want to invest in, it’s made me more confident.”
She’s now been working with a financial advisor from the firm for about two months and plans to have monthly check-ins with her advisor to discuss if she’s on track. That contact, she believes, will give her a peace of mind about her finances so that she can focus on her training.
Enjoying the Now While Saving for the Future
Not only is Felix’s financial status in transition, but her mindset around money is changing, too. In the past, Felix was so worried about the future that she put herself on a strict budget that sometimes left too little room for enjoying herself in the present.
“I was feeling like I couldn't do things now because I was so worried about the future — saving for my daughter’s education, caring for my parents when they’re older,” Felix says. “But now I look at it more like lifelong goals; it helps me feel empowered.”
Now, instead of a strict monthly budget, she sets her spending and saving goals at the beginning of the year and then regularly checks in on her progress. With this more flexible approach, Felix says, she’s allowing herself to spend on experiences in the now—for example, taking Camryn with her while traveling for work and competing, as well as going on family vacations.
Indeed, some experts say following a strict budget can be counter-productive: it forces an idea of restriction on individuals and can end up not working in the long run, similar to how strict diets can lead to yo-yoing weight . Instead, they recommend creating “spending plans,” which are focused around your goals and values. Though in theory it’s similar to a budget, the approach gives individuals the feeling that they’re in control of their plan, rather than their plan being in control of them.
There’s Something to be Said for a Coach
Even if you know a fair amount about money and aren’t as time-pressed as Felix, there’s another way a financial advisor can be useful—-to help keep you on track. Just as a personal trainer or coach can help you establish and stick to a fitness or training regime, a financial advisor can help you execute on your goals.
No matter what happens in Tokyo this summer, one thing is certain: Felix might be a track and field veteran, but her journey as a mother and smart businesswoman is just beginning. Setting her eyes on smart goals (with a little help and fun along the way) is bound to make her a new kind of champion.
Kelly Anne Smith, Forbes Advisor Staff
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