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Financial Planning

My Story: Going for Gold, Staying Out of the Red

Olympic steeplechase hopeful Mason Cathey, of Indianapolis, Indiana, is in training for the 2012 London Games while keeping her finances on track.

What's your schedule?

I spend about three hours a day training, which includes running, icing and stretching, and a few times a week I go for another run. During track season, the team I belong to travels to a meet about every other weekend. I also work about 25 hours per week. After all that, I'm just tired.

What's your best time?

I've run a 10:03, and that was 14th in the U.S. last year. In my event, only the country's top three runners make it to the Olympics.

How do you manage your finances?

I don't have any student loans because I finished my undergrad and graduate degrees at the University of Florida on full scholarship. And I coached at two colleges for a few years after graduating, so I saved up while I had that salary. By working part-time at The Running Company, a retail running-supply store, I'm able to put about $3,000 a year into a Roth IRA. And every month I put $50 into a Vanguard mutual fund. My $25 monthly dues to the team cover entry fees and expenses for the races.

Do you make money when you compete?

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I don't depend much on prize money, especially during track season. But I run road races in the off-season, and those events sometimes offer around $500 for first place.

Do you get any financial support from the U.S. Olympic Committee?

The USOC helps the top three competitors in each event. I'm not at that level yet.

What do you do about health insurance?

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I was covered while I coached at the college level, but when I returned to competitive running I wasn't covered for about a year. My friends and family encouraged me to buy health insurance, so I bought a catastrophic policy. My deductible is high, and I have to pay every time I visit the doctor, so I don't go as often as I should. Unfortunately, it's very common for post-collegiate athletes who are starting out not to have any coverage.

Do you think all this will pay off?

It's hard to put a price tag on what I'm doing, but I know it's something I've got to do.