Olympian Sabre Fencer Daga Wozniak on Facing Fear and Managing Money
by Parker Piscitello-Fay
When I sat down to talk with Daga Wozniak last week about her journey to the Olympics (three times now), her thoughts about financial well-being, and how training for Tokyo was going, I wasn’t expecting her to use the word “fear.” To me, Daga is the embodiment of fearlessness. Watching Youtube videos of her fencing before our discussion, I was struck with how fast, intimidating, and tough Sabre seems.
But, naturally, Daga didn’t share my definition of afraid. Instead, she noted how taboo talking about money is and the importance of taking fear out of financial discussions. She stated, “taking fear out of the equation, or being afraid, but facing it, has been really beneficial for me in terms of saying financially I can in the future afford these stains. I can be on a track to buy a house, to save up money, to set up college funds for kids if I ever have them one day. I have the tools to be able to kind of do that as an athlete, in my position, who’s not working a nine to five job.”
To Daga, conquering fear doesn’t always mean taking the Olympic stage. Sometimes, it means thinking critically about her money. And, last week, I was excited to get to sit down, talk with her, and understand what that looks like for an Olympian.
Checking-In After A Really Rough Year
Daga spoke first about the impact this last year and a half has had on her training, the Olympics, and her finances. She noted that during the pandemic “a lot of people have kind of gone down a new rabbit hole that they haven’t been aware of before. And as aware as I was what kind of toll the pandemic was taking on me, the first thing is kind of understanding, why am I feeling this way? Oh, maybe because the whole world shut down.”
Yet, as rough as this past year has been, she was also quick to note the ways she has gotten through it. She faced the challenges of recovering from surgery, not competing in the Olympics last year and the world shutting down:
“mentally venting all that out it’s really beneficial and being able to just daily check-in with yourself and say like, Hey, okay, did we do enough today? If we didn’t, that’s okay, we still got tomorrow. Having these talks with myself and I’m like, okay, where are we at? Okay. We’re all good. And that [carries] well into that financial space too. Cause that’s essentially what you do as well as you check it. And you say, where are we at today? And then you take it from there. It’s just one day.”
Overcoming and Adapting
She also acknowledged the importance that keeping perspective had on her this past year. She thought critically, because she couldn’t train as hard and the Olympics were postponed, about what to do, whether she should quit or continue training. She noted, “there was a lot of choices that needed to be made, and I think that this has been the most forgiving year of the cards fell, how they fell, and going forward, we’re just going to do the best with what we can.”
Facing such a difficult year, especially as a pro athlete, Daga took the time to keep track of her emotions and mindset, change her perspective, and adapt.
Financial Well-being for Everyone (Even Olympians)
Yet, this year wasn’t just difficult for Daga physically and emotionally; she also noted the financial impact of the pandemic for her, namely on her spending and saving habits. For instance, not being able to train as much saved her gym expenses and trips into the city. But, she also had to start thinking about where to put the extra money she was no longer spending.
She notes that “my mindset was keeping [the extra money] as much as I could, like a little nest egg and then being able to utilize it for things that really were going to help me in order to prepare for the Olympics. I definitely believe it has had an impact.” And, when it came down to budgeting, she didn’t shy away from doing the work to meet her goals.
“You do the work, you sit down, you make the plan, you do your charts, And then you kind of put a game plan going forward”
Luckily, Daga wasn’t alone. She was quick to acknowledge how essential having a team of people on your side is, to get information and support from, to achieve financial well-being. For her, this looked like Nav.it and “being able to have access to all this amazing, you know, financial education and articles and constant emails. Like I love being on the newsletters and just kind of reading like, Hey, this is something that’s new and what’s current, what’s going on.”
Before Nav.it, Daga didn’t check in with herself financially in the same way that she did mentally and physically. Finances were left out the equation. But, Nav.it has reminded her to “step back. And [ask], where am I? A little self-reflection I think is really healthy. And that’s one of the things that developed as a habit in terms of being a navigator and… having all that like financial education,… how to take care of your money.” She noted that, “becoming part of the Nav.it family has really opened my eyes to that in, you know, just not be afraid.”
Approaching the Tokyo Games
After such a hard year, Daga is excited to compete in Tokyo next week. She’s also just excited that the events are happening. “This has been like a really hard year personally, globally. I think there are people that still don’t think it should happen. But at the same time, being able to go out there and have that opportunity to represent my country and be there with my teammates who I know have sacrificed so much, it’s a good feeling. I think being able to just compete is going to be the, you know, the, the icing on the cake, the cherry on top.”
What is success, really?
She’s also really proud of all she’s accomplished. She defines success as “getting through the struggle,” whether or not you win.
In our last moments together, she noted that “there’s so many times where someone in my position would have probably quit. And the fact that running is just not even an option for me. I’m like, for me, that’s the success. That’s the thing that I’m most proud of. And I think financially it’s the same thing”
There’s a resilience and fearlessness Daga embodies playing fencing, but also, as I learned, when she’s managing her finances. She endured a year like no other, and pivoting to competing in the Olympics in the weeks ahead. We are beyond grateful to have her as one of our Navigators, and I’m wishing her the best of luckin Tokyo.
For more on Daga, Nav.it, or financial well-being, check out the Nav.it blog, where we discuss all things money and financial well-being.