By Athena Constantinou, Managing Director, APC Sports Consulting, Nicosia, Cyprus
We often see that the commitment and dedication athletes give to their sports is not the same when it comes to their personal finances.
The lack of basic financial knowledge has, so far, resulted in a substantial number of athletes making fatal financial mistakes. In addition, career athletes often do not have the same level of financial literacy as people who take a more conventional career path. The unique financial challenges that come from life as a professional athlete, combined with the lack of financial education, usually lead to poor financial decisions, which, unfortunately, can have an adverse lifelong impact.
We believe that, through financial literacy, athletes can acquire a basic knowledge about money, personal finances and financial options, which will give them the tools to make wise decisions concerning their finances. It is widely known that athletes are amongst the most financially vulnerable persons of our times and the statistics globally support this situation.
The fact that athletes earn substantial amounts of income, but within the limits of a short time span, usually 10 to 15 years, makes them extremely vulnerable. The average annual salary of an athlete can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more than the average household income – both in the US and Europe.
The end of the athlete’s field play usually marks the end of the substantial earnings both from field play and from other sources, such as image rights exploitation, endorsements, and the like.
In addition, athletes earn their money at a very young age. Athletes’ earnings peak between the ages of 25 to 30 and then take a huge plunge by the age of 35, as opposed to the rest of the normal work force, who generally, reach their peak earnings between the ages of 39 to 55.
Furthermore, athletes’ earnings are extremely volatile. Most of the time, athletes’ salaries are not fully guaranteed, and their earning capacity can be adversely affected by poor performance, injuries, on and off field, behavior, and so on.
The lifestyle of athletes, along with the expectations of both the public and their inner circle, is another major factor that makes them prone to financial failure as shown below:
- Lifestyle and Gambling – The high income and celebrity recognition that athletes enjoy usually at an early age, draws them to a lifestyle of the rich and famous, living for the moment, and revelling in their fame and fortune.
- Divorce & Child Support – Divorce has a disastrous effect on the financial well-being of professional athletes, as a large number of athletes do not sign prenuptial agreements. In addition, a number of athletes have children from multiple wives and they are obliged to make several monthly alimony and child support payments, which can be substantial.
- Bad Investments & Misplaced Trust – Advisor improprieties and misappropriations of funds also contribute to the financial problems of professional athletes. There are many shady financial predators out there and athletes, who through their lack of being financially savvy, make an easy target.
- Family & Friends – Athletes have many external pressures from family, friends, coaches, and others who have helped them succeed, and who usually seek financial rewards and returns from the athletes as recognition of their contribution to the athletes’ fame.
- Sudden Wealth – The receipt of sudden wealth is an intense emotional event, which precipitates new financial challenges and important decisions for athletes to take.
Many of the factors that make an athlete financially vulnerable cannot be altered but must be taken into account, when making financial decisions.
Athletes will always have a family, friends, and other relationships, and will always have to make financial decisions for themselves. The answer lies in educating athletes to enable them to make sound financial decisions, by cultivating financial literacy as a life skill for athletes of all ages and at all levels. Financially literate athletes will be able to make better financial decisions as well as adopt sound money management practices, which will enable them to plan their desired financial future.
Financial educational programmes for athletes at all levels, especially at the beginning of their careers, are the name of the game, and it is never too early to seek them out and start them!
Athena Constantinou may be contacted by e-mail at ‘email@example.com’