The financial welfare of athletes is an often-overlooked issue. Headlines will scream about outrageous salaries and conspicuous spending, but rarely clarify that the majority of athletes earn far more modest incomes. And what is also overlooked is that, no matter how much an athlete earns, they face having those earnings end abruptly at a vulnerable age when the majority of professionals can look forward to comfortable salaries for another 30+ years.
This can cause significant stress. Randy Kessler points out the link to family problems in his recent blog: “Why does it seem like professional athletes often have issue with family law.”1 And of course we all know sad stories about Paul Gascoigne2 and other Premiership footballers.3 In the U.S., the National Football League is now running Personal Finance Camps4 to teach about the financial industry and how to make their money last after they stop playing.
In this Feature, Adam Osper - a Chartered Financial Planner with extensive experience in advising sports clients - shares his Top 10 Tips for athletes on how they can effectively manage their finances to achieve financial security and independence during and after their sporting career ends:
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR INCOME AND EXPENDITURE EARLY
One of the first things athletes can do is to fully understand their income and expenditure, knowing exactly what is coming in and going out. It sounds simple but sportspeople lead busy lives with regular travel, moving around the country or even to different countries altogether, and outgoings can quickly build up to levels that will no longer be sustainable once their career has ended. If athletes can fully understand their outgoings, their finances will become much easier to control going forward.
2. GET INTO GOOD HABITS
The sooner athletes start saving the better. Getting into good habits early will leave them in great stead for the future, as there are so many uncontrollable variables that can impact upon them over their time in sport. (How much they will earn, how often they are injured… the list goes on.) The earlier an athlete can plan for their future, the sooner they can safeguard their retirement. Finishing sport at around 35 is a very young age to retire, and there will be a lot of time left in which they will have to provide for them and their family.
This is another case of sooner the better. Athletes should insure themselves at an early age when fit and injury free. An athlete’s body is central to their earnings for the present and future of your sporting career, so it’s important that it is protected straight away. There are a number of sport specific insurance policies, like career-ending insurance, that can pay out a lump sum if injury forces an untimely retirement. Other insurance policies can replace monthly income, but not to the levels of high earning sportspeople like footballers.
4. STEER CLEAR OF GET RICH QUICK SCHEMES
As athletes are in the public eye and are perceived to generally earn well they may well be the target of “get rich quick” schemes or aggressive tax schemes.5 Steer well clear of these - anything that sounds too good to be true will be! Always try to maintain a clear solid investment approach.
5. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH A TEAM OF PROFESSIONAL ADVISERS
Having a strong, trustworthy team working together around the athlete is key to them not having to worry about off-field events, leaving them to remain wholly focussed on their profession. Often families or agents like to keep professional advisers at arms length to remain in control, and this can do far more harm than good. In the author’s experience, having an agent, lawyer and tax adviser working alongside each other as part of a team will ensure a much smoother handling of your affairs and reduce the risk of things going wrong.
Published 19 May 2016 | Authored by: Adam Osper