Melaine Robinson has spent her career selflessly caring for dogs, cats and a swag of other animals at the Melbourne Lost Dogs’ Home, and now, as fate would have it, it is a guide dog that now cares for her.
Born with bilateral hearing loss, Melaine has worn two hearing aids since the age of five, and in her early 20’s was diagnosed with deteriorating vision.
Initially, she felt her diagnosis was an annoyance more than anything, its inconvenience overshadowing any genuine concerns regarding how her future finances and lifestyle may be compromised.
As a trained and qualified vet nurse working full time, technology and support allowed her to continue enjoying the lifestyle she was used to, however, the deterioration of her eyesight progressed noticeably in her early 30s.
“I had to face some really confronting realities – how would this disability affect my employment? How much longer can I work? What transferrable skills do I have? How will I cope with the trauma of my disability?”
With Invest Blue’s Brisbane financial planner Julian Prendergast married to a family member, she sought his advice and was committed from their initial meeting.
“Straight away I felt comfortable and confident having Julian taking charge of my finances – some people may have a problem with family knowing their financial status, but for me, this is not an issue at all.”
The Melbournian laughs that she feels quite financially illiterate, and for the past five years has trusted Julian implicitly to arrange her superannuation and insurances.
“I literally have my meeting, see that everything is taken care of, and I walk out that door and honestly don’t give my finances a second thought, that’s how confident I am in Julian’s honesty and ability – although it no doubt frustrates him to no end!”
Despite her strong work ethic, financial gains have never been her priority. Growing up on a (not family-owned) farm with both her parents’ working off-farm, she reflects that while they probably lived close to the poverty line, hers was a happy childhood filled with everything she needed.
“I never felt underprivileged or like I was missing out on anything, but in hindsight, I do think that my parents may have gone without so that we, I have two younger siblings, did not.”
As a result, Melaine has never been extravagant in her lifestyle. Her needs are few – to continue to the work she so enjoys, a few quirky hobbies including antique car restoration, annual trips to visit family on the Gold Coast and the occasional overseas holiday.
Being smart and savvy with money was engrained in her from a young age, and Melaine admits she’s never had trouble making ends meet, despite her tight budget. “As the saying goes, if you want to make money, don’t work with animals!” However twelve months ago, due to her failing eyesight, Melaine made the decision to cut back to four days a week.
It was a decision made with full financial confidence thanks to Julian’s strategy to reduce the generous amount of super she already pays, transferring it instead to her weekly budget. Melaine loves the flexibility of the plan, which can be modified if she finds her budget is too tight, and again if she needs to reduce her workdays in the future.
In recent years this caring animal lover has no longer been able to perform hands-on duties with the animals, instead of focusing on more administrative tasks, however, she has now received her very own four-legged friend in the form of a guide dog. Having resisted initially, Melaine admits she felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of owning a guide dog.
“There is so much time and money invested in these beautiful creatures, and every time you leave the house you represent the organization that provides them, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take on all that responsibility, in fact for a long time it was hard to accept I needed help at all.”
She’s now enjoyed 11 months with ‘Dessi’ by her side, and couldn’t be happier.
Life too has suddenly got a whole lot easier. A major goal to continue visiting family and friends on the Gold Coast annually was proving challenging with her deteriorating eyesight, however, having recently made the trip with Dessi, Melaine is confident she will enjoy many more trips as the years pass.
She smiles that Dessi was a perfect travel companion – sleeping soundly beside her during the whole flight and helping her navigate her way on long beach walks.
Having engaged the support of Invest Blue, and now Dessi, Melaine feels confident she’s future-proofed her lifestyle regardless of any potential changes to her employment, and that she will continue to enjoy her days just as much as always, despite her disability.
“I’m mindful that things can change at the drop of a hat, but thanks to Julian’s constant reassurance that nothing is out of reach, and the structures he has put in place, I now have a future I can look forward to, and enjoy.”
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