Becoming a professional is an athlete’s dream come true. Once under contract, there will be an onrush of new aspects of the game to master, both on and off the field. One critical but often overlooked area is personal finance management. It is essential for athletes to have the necessary information, wisdom and judgment to be as knowledgeable as possible for making informed decisions about how best to handle his or her new windfall of income. In the long history of pro sports, there has never been a single player who was physically invincible or whose salary and endorsement pipelines lasted forever.
- Treat your career like a business, because that’s what it is: Your athletic gift is your personal business and needs to be run like one. Every decision needs to be strategically thought out and well calculated. Developing a “business plan” often is an additional consideration.
- Invest in a trusted life coach: So much fortune and fame can create confusion and a lack of clarity. A seasoned life coach, working in a player’s best interest, can assist with helping to create life goals and keep you grounded throughout the process.
- Focus on your future: Where do you want to be once your playing days end? These conversations and thoughts need to be considered now and a plan can begin to form.
- Be mindful of family and friends: The limelight of launching into a professional career can bring old friends and family out of the woodwork, often with mixed and unfortunate results. Vetting and limiting requests by an objective advisor need to be conducted on your behalf.
- Develop Plan B: What happens if your career doesn’t last as long as you would like? What will be your new vocation? If you haven’t finished your college degree, you may want to do so as soon as possible.
- Develop your professional team, each with a specialty: Your valued professional team should consist of an attorney, accountant and financial planner. These specialists often will consult on your behalf to provide objective information so that you can make informed decisions in a given scenario. Each professional brings to the table an area of focus. Doing without any of them isn’t a good option.
- Develop a budget: Your financial planner will be able to assist with helping you develop a budget and create a spending strategy. Not watching cashflow could lead to potential pitfalls, and many former pro athletes have gone bankrupt by not paying heed.
- Consider creating a family office for the only purpose of centralizing how your wealth is managed. The administrative support of a family office can provide you with bill paying, budgeting, investment management, financial planning, insurance and tax strategies..
- Proactive tax planning. Make sure you have a plan to keep what is rightfully yours when you are paying taxes in the highest tax bracket.
- Asset Protection: This is one of your most important considerations. Protecting your wealth from the incessant attacks of lawsuits, liabilities, potential ex-spouses and others is crucial. Allowing an experienced asset protection planner to assist you with structuring and reviewing the necessary insurance coverage and financial structures can help you pursue your goals with clarity and purpose.
Diane Gardner, CFP®, CDFA® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with Cottrill Arbutina Wealth Management Group (www.cottrillarbutinawealth.com).
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Cottrill Arbutina Wealth Management Group and LPL Financial do not provide legal or tax advice. Please consult your legal or tax advisor regarding your specific situation.