Allyson Felix knows a thing or two about leaving a legacy.
The track-and-field star is one of the most decorated athletes in her sport, having won nine Olympic medals — six gold and three silver — over a career that has spanned 16 years. Last year, she also joined a group of female track athletes who spoke up about losing corporate sponsorship pay after becoming pregnant, helping effect change around stronger maternity protections within sponsorship contracts.
Now, the 34-year-old sprinter is focused on training for her last Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer, as well as preparing for life off the track with the help of financial planning. We talked to Felix about her dreams, her goals and how becoming a mom has changed her perspective.
You didn't start running track until freshman year of high school. Did you ever dream you'd go from there to the Olympics? How have you managed to stay on top of your game for so long?
When I first started, I didn’t really have Olympic aspirations. I went out for the track team because I was new at the school and I was just trying to meet new people. But I fell in love with the sport and that’s when the dream was born. Taking care of myself and my body is what has allowed me to do this for such a long time. I pay close attention to what my body needs and take my health very seriously, including when I need recovery.
You advocated for maternity protections for female athletes even though you never considered yourself an ‘activist’ in the past. Why did you think it was important to share your story?
Before, I was so focused on my performance as an athlete. I felt that you were just supposed to stay in your lane and put all your attention toward that part of your life. But after having my daughter, Camryn, I started thinking about what I had been through and the world she would grow up in. That really motivated me to speak out about what I was experiencing.
How else has your perspective changed after becoming a mom?
Especially in my career, I was just really driven and focused on results and winning before having my daughter. Now, I’m thinking about the future — and about her future, specifically. I think about her education, but I also loved traveling with her back when it was safe to, and I want to keep giving her more of those types of experiences as she grows up. She’s integrated into everything that I think about, both now and in the future.
How has financial planning changed the way you think about money?
Having a financial plan for yourself is really empowering. I know that process can feel scary at times or it may feel like you’re putting restrictions on yourself. I used to think that, too. After having a conversation with a Northwestern Mutual financial advisor, I really shifted my mentality from thinking that planning is about depriving yourself to thinking that it’s about what’s important to you. We focused on me and my goals, then created a plan that lets me balance my dreams today while still making smart choices for my family’s future. The approach of “living in the now” opened my eyes to why financial planning shouldn’t be viewed as a burden — it’s freeing.
Thinking about it that way has been a huge help to me. It’s also shifted the conversations my husband and I have around money, whether we’re talking about the big picture or the steps we need to take to reach our goals and dreams. Especially now, the reality of COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of planning for those emergency moments in life. Life is not always in our control, but we can do our best to be prepared for what it brings.
Where do you see yourself in, say, 10 to 20 years?
I see myself really involved with organizations that are close to my heart and my passions. I would like to work with children in some capacity. I’m on the board of Right To Play, a nonprofit that empowers kids around the world to use the power of play to rise above adversity. I also enjoy my role with the Special Olympics and am doing more with them. I want to keep working on the things that I feel have a significant impact on the world.
I also think a lot about being able to protect and provide for my family. I want to continue my life in Los Angeles, but I possibly see myself owning a small home in Michigan, where my husband’s family lives, so that we can spend time with his family and experience a slower paced lifestyle. I want to be able to help my parents in their older age and support them in any way they need.
I’ve also considered the possibility of having another child and want to be able to afford opportunities for them — not just higher education but things like sports, art and travel.
What do you hope your daughter learns about money as she grows up?
There’s nothing more empowering, especially as a mom and a woman, to decide to take control of your finances. I think there’s this taboo that it’s not for everyone, that it’s not something to be openly discussed. But I want my daughter to feel confident and in control of her money.
You’ve got your fifth Olympic Games next year. Are you approaching this one differently than you have in the past?
The postponement and new restrictions have definitely shifted how training looks. I have had to get creative with where to train, and training on my own. Although it’s been difficult, Tokyo 2021 is the goal — and my coach, family and team have been extremely supportive in my efforts to get there.
Apart from that, I’m just trying to embrace every experience more, knowing that it will be my last opportunity. I’m training smarter, trying to enjoy the good moments, and trying to learn from the not-so-great moments. I’m focused much more on the journey now, rather than the destination.
Allyson Felix is a paid spokesperson for Northwestern Mutual.
The testimonials presented may not be representative of the experience of other clients and are not a guarantee of future performance or success.