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MELINDA GAINSFORD-TAYLOR IS SPRINTING TO SUCCESS

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IN-DEPTH FEATURE:

Imagine standing before a crowd that consisted of hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world, on not one or two occasions, but three, whilst wearing the colours of your nation and representing your country.

If you can visualise this as well as harness the euphoria and sheer adrenalin that such a moment produces, then you would know how Melinda Gainsford-Taylor, Australian Olympic and Commonwealth Games sprinter and Wide World of Sports TV presenter, felt as she competed in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Summer Olympic Games.

“My first Olympic experience was surreal,” Gainsford-Taylor says.

“I cannot forget the 100m and 200m qualification rounds. I was so excited to be there, but it didn’t really hit me until I went to the opening ceremony. I recall looking down at my uniform and thinking, ‘I’m here, and I made it.’ I had dreamt of this moment since I first started Little Athletics when I was nine and it was my dream to be an Olympiad.”

“The Aussies in that crowd were amazing, and I discovered how much I loved performing in front of a crowd and how much I enjoyed the competition. It was so much fun at Barcelona and Sydney, which was my third Olympics.”

“I have told my children stories about competing at the Olympics and have shared with them what it feels like to represent your country in a sport that you are so passionate about,” says Gainsford-Taylor, who is mum to Nicholas, 7 and Gabriella, 4.

“To finally achieve what I worked so hard to accomplish. That’s what made it surreal.”

“One of my financial goals now is to take my children to the Olympics, so that they can get a sense of the magnitude of such an event and how it resonates inside of you.”

Denoted for her smile and wonderful disposition, Gainsford-Taylor, who was born on the 1st of October 1971 in Narromine, a small country town inNew South Wales, can be simply described as one of the most jovial and light-hearted spirits to ever grace the Australian sporting arena. And, even though she confesses to be a humble farmer’s daughter, she has gained an impressive track record that dates back to when she first donned a pair of track shoes.

On a national level, Gainsford-Taylor has taken home bronze, silver, and gold for sprinting events, including the 1994 Commonwealth Games held in Victoria, Canada, and she has won more than 10 individual titles.

Tough Times

However, most Australians will remember her for her courageous effort at the 1998 Commonwealth Games where, in the final metre of the 200m race, her knee gave way to injury and she finished a disappointing fourth after leading the race. But, for Gainsford-Taylor, this made her more resolute than ever to succeed.

“After competing in 1998 and injuring my knee, it was tough. I had a really tough time because the Olympics were coming up in 2000 and I refused to give up. I wanted to compete in these games in front of a home crowd.”

Gainsford-Taylor, who retired from her sporting career in 2001 because she felt that her body had simply had enough and she longed to start a family with her husband, Mark, believes that her sporting career, amongst other things, has given her the discipline and skills needed to reach the top in a professional and investment sense.

“As a professional sprinter, I had a wonderful lifestyle because I was doing what I loved. I worked hard and succeeded, and I got to travel around the world and compete at the Olympics, which was a childhood dream. I had good times and bad times, and this is character building,” Gainsford-Taylor says.

“It’s the discipline and desire to achieve that drives you, and, after you retire from being an Olympic competitor, you reflect on what you have learned and this then builds you up for adult life. This is why I love kids being involved in sports because it teaches them so much.”

Gainsford-Taylor pauses and then adds, “It’s about teamwork. My upbringing taught me this. Parenting teaches you so much. We are a sporting family. My parents have taught me a great deal, and, from this, I believe that, when kids are young, you need to invest time, as good habits established early on give the greatest reward in the end. This can also be said of investment.”

When asked to elaborate on investment, Gainsford-Taylor laughs, stating that she could now be possibly giving herself away.

“I am a conservative investor. I think security, future, and family. I am not ‘a life is too short, so let’s do it’ kind of person. This is why I feel that super is so important, as I have seen people who have not invested in their future and they don’t deal very well with stress as they age.”

“Sporting careers are short-lived so I have always thought it wise to invest my money. We personally invest in property. We have rental properties and save for a rainy day. My husband and I bought a unit when we were engaged and its value has tripled since then. This unit was expensive and people thought we were crazy, but we weighed up the pros and cons and we wrote these down. The pros outweighed the cons so we went ahead and bought it and have never looked back. It was a really good investment back then and still is today.

Big on Savings

“I am big on saving for the future of my children as well, as it is tough for kids to break into the housing market these days.”

“Investment is like sprinting,” says Gainsford-Taylor. “When you run well or make a good investment, it makes you feel good and the reward pays off. Run bad or make a bad investment, and then you just have to work harder next time to be successful, and you must learn from your errors.”

Gainsford-Taylor, who is very family-orientated, believes that happiness, her family, and good health as well as security and being fit and active are the most important things in life in terms of lifestyle, and she also thinks that it is vital to turn off the computer and walk away from technology every now and then.

“I am so passionate about being a parent, though it can be quite frightening at first. As a farmer’s daughter with a conservative father who is smart with money, I learned to also be smart with money. I also want to pass this knowledge on to my kids so that they are smart with money as well. Plus, I want them to be active and fit so that they feel good about themselves and happy. From my athletic and family background, I want my kids to understand that sometimes life is not easy and that they can overcome their problems.” GainsfordTaylor adds, “Once you have kids, your whole financial focus changes. We immediately took out life insurance, income protection, and disability cover so that we covered all bases – do you know that it only costs a cup of coffee per week to cover your future – and this is important if you have a family and a mortgage, so that you cover your debts and provide for those you may leave behind in the event of an accident. You honestly just don’t know what life is going to dish out.”

But, if you thought that life after the Olympics, for Gainsford-Taylor, was all about her family, then think again. Gainsford-Taylor is the Australian national Olympic selector for track and field; she is on the board of Directors for the Manly Sea Eagles; and she coaches kid’s explosive speed sprinting three times a week for N.S.W Little Athletics. In addition, Gainsford-Taylor is also a public speaker, a public relations ambassador for Asset Superannuation, and a TV presenter for Wide World of Sports and Fox Sports.

When asked how she became involved with Asset Superannuation and the Wide World of Sport, Gainsford-Taylor tells two very compelling tales.

“I was working at a firm and I wanted to know more about superannuation, so I asked the accountant for financial advice, and he suggested Asset. I continued to ask around, and I also looked into it myself, and they seemed to be a really good option, so I opened an account. That was more than 14 years ago, and I have been with them ever since,” Gainsfrod-Taylor states. Then, laughing she adds, “Actually, it was funny, because they approached me to do PR for them after I had been a member for many years. Evidentially, someone noticed my name in the member listings and they thought I would be perfect for the role of public relations for their firm. It was an easy decision to endorse their product because I had been using their services for years and really believed in them, and I still do.”

“A lot of people think I have only just begun with the Wide World of Sport, but, once again, I’ve had a long association with them. I progressed to the Wide World of Sports from the age of 16 years. I did a talk for the program when I had stress fractures and was recovering. Then, I ended up doing work experience with them. So, twelve months ago, when I was asked to come on the show, I naturally jumped at the opportunity.” Giggling, Gainsford-Taylor says, “I have learned so much about sport, all different sports, which I find fascinating because I was so focused on my own sport. And, do you know that I discovered that I missed the adrenalin rush from being a sprinter and that live television replaces this for me? It is such a buzz.”

Time Management

So, how does Gainsford-Taylor manage to do all of this, be the full-time mother of two fit and active children, and juggle finances?

“The key is time management. As an athlete, I had to work hard on this. But, when I compare my life back then to now, that was a cruise.  Now, I write ‘must do lists,’ set myself a weekly schedule, and use the Internet as a resource. Honestly, it is vital that you constantly reassess and dedicate time to manage your finances. I usually make this a regular task throughout the week so that is does not become overwhelming and I can keep on top of it.”

And, when it comes to investment advice, Gainsford-Taylor believes that before you consider putting your money into anything, you need to ask questions and find someone you can trust, and then write down the pros and cons of the investment you are choosing to invest in before you start using your money.

“Money is hard to come by, so it is important to invest wisely so you don’t lose it, and you need to get good support and advice. Therefore, I firmly believe that you should start with low-risk investments, and then progress as you become familiar with the territory. Investment can be daunting, but, if you work out your risk level, as in what is suitable for you and your finances and what type of investment you would like to invest in, then it can be less inhibiting. I am really big on investing for the future.”

Gainsford-Taylor, who confesses that she is not one for expensive clothes and shoes or cars, sees her future being stress-free and all about security, comfort, and financial viability.

“I am investing in my life and that of my children. I want to be fit and healthy and be comfortable and reasonably secure. I don’t want to be rich in a monetary sense but rich in a lifestyle sense. I want to have savings and put this into high-investment accounts.”

For more information about Asset Superannuation, please visit http://www.assetsuper.com.au/.

Please Note: This article was originally written by Tricia L. Snell and published in Lifestyle Investor Magazine Vol. 1.5 | Issue March/April 2010. This article has been re-printed with the permission of the Lifestyle Education Group.

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