Athletes Need Financial Literacy!

By Athena Constantinou, Managing Director, APC Sports Consulting, Nicosia, Cyprus

Some recent shocking financial sporting statistics:

  • 60% of NBA players go broke; and
  • 78% of NFL players face severe financial problems or bankruptcy within two years of retiring.

Other sports are not immune from similar statistics, for example, association football, especially post-retirement financial problems.

With sport nowadays being such big business and elite athletes, at the top of their game, earning mega bucks, one cannot imagine this sort of thing happening to them.

But, sadly it does, both during their playing careers and also, as mentioned, in their retirement.

However, these dire financial situations can be avoided, with individually designed financial literacy educational programmes.

The need for them has never been greater and athletes need to be made aware of them. Sports bodies and agents, amongst others, have a role to play in raising such awareness.

Financial planning, especially for retirement, should be put in place by athletes from the very beginning of their careers and not wait until it is perhaps too late.

For example, putting aside, say, 10% of earnings each year, and investing these sums wisely can be very beneficial in the future. Instead of a spend, spend hedonistic way of life – fast cars and fast living – a lifestyle that is more sustainable for the future is the name of the game.

In the same vein, the English Professional Footballers Association, for example, has counselled that “players must save for their future for when they retire” and also “for players to realise that it is never too early to start thinking about life after football.” Similar advice comes from the International Football Players Union, FIFPro.

After all, top athletes’ careers are relatively short – on average, they are over by the age of 33. In the case of physically demanding sports, such as American Football, playing careers rarely extend beyond the age of 28.

Apart from that, the risk of injury in many sports is great and can lead to the premature termination of athletes’ playing careers and loss of income. A factor that also needs to be taken into account in financial planning for the future. Perhaps a personal injury insurance may soften the blow, but this is not necessarily a financial panacea and, in any case, the premiums may be prohibitive.

Education is key to the financial success of athletes during and after their careers and we, at APC Sports Consulting, offer a number of tailor-made financial literacy programmes for elite athletes at various stages of their careers. Especially for mature athletes, those aged 30 or over, making suitable provisions and arrangements for their retirement.

Some top athletes, like Mike Tyson, even declare bankruptcy well before their retirement.

And Boris Becker, three-times Wimbledon tennis champion is currently, through a London Auction House, selling off a collection of 82 items of his tennis memorabilia to cover an estimated £50 million that he owes his creditors.

All rather sad, but with foresight and planning such situations can be avoided!

Athena Constantinou may be contacted by e-mail at ‘athena@apc-sport.com’