PRO ATHLETES HAVE UNIQUE FINANCES. HOW SHOULD YOU HANLDE THEM?

Navigating the financial landscape as a professional athlete can be a daunting task, but by understanding the unique challenges and seeking the right guidance, you can take control of your finances and secure your financial future.

Congratulations on achieving your dream of becoming a professional athlete! The hard work, dedication, and ability to achieve results in both academics and athletics that you have demonstrated are truly remarkable. Your achievements on and off the field speak to your drive and determination, and you have earned this opportunity through your relentless pursuit of excellence. Remember to stay true to the values that got you here and always strive to improve, not only in your athletic performance but also in your personal development. You’ve made it! But have you? Is this the end of your journey?

Of course not. But as you embark, it’s important to keep in mind that being a professional athlete also comes with unique financial situations. It’s crucial for you to understand these situations and take steps to manage your finances effectively. Some of the key things you need to think about are saving and investing wisely to ensure financial stability after your playing days are over, protecting your income with insurance in case of injuries or other health concerns, navigating complex endorsement and sponsorship deals, handling unique tax considerations, and managing your wealth and assets effectively.

By being mindful of these considerations, you can make the most of your earning potential and secure a financially stable future for yourself and your loved ones.

Professional Athletes Have Short Careers

You’ve got your pro contract, and that’s amazing! But it’s vital to remember that those contracts don’t last forever. This is not uncommon in the industry and many athletes have gone on to successful careers after their playing days are over. In light of this, it’s important to plan and make the most of the time you have by saving and investing wisely and developing other income streams, so you can be financially stable in the future.

Saving and investing a significant portion of their income is a key financial strategy for professional athletes to ensure financial stability after your playing days are over. Here’s a few ways you can do just that:

  • Save for short-term needs (emergency fund): Pro athletes should save for short-term financial needs such as unexpected expenses or emergencies. This money should be easily accessible (liquid). Some of the easiest places to keep it liquid, as well as earn at least a modest rate of return are high-yield savings accounts, money market funds, or short-term bond funds.

 

  • Invest for long-term growth: We’re talking about long-term security, so it’s natural that athletes should also invest a significant portion of their income to grow their wealth over the long term. You should always hold a diversified mix of assets, such as stocks, bonds, investment companies, and real estate. Some athletes have also found success with alternative investments like art, fine wines, or classic cars.

 

  • Retirement accounts: Depending on what league and team you’ve signed with, there may be a variety of retirement account options available to you. Some of the most prevalent options include 401(k) accounts, which are a type of employer-sponsored retirement plan that allow athletes to contribute a portion of their income to a tax-deferred account. These plans often offer a variety of investment options and professional athletes can benefit from the tax advantages that 401(k) plans provide. Additionally, in some cases, employers may offer matching contributions, which can be a good way to boost the athlete’s retirement savings.

    Another common retirement account that may be offered by teams and leagues are Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs. There are two types of federally-recognized IRAs, traditional and Roth. A traditional IRA allows contributions to be tax-deductible, while a Roth IRA is after-tax but allows the money to grow tax-free. Professional athletes should consult with their financial advisor to determine which type of IRA is best for them, based on their current income and tax situation.

    Another option for professional athletes, who may be concerned about longevity risk and the potential for outliving their savings, is to invest in an annuity. These vehicles provide a guaranteed income stream in retirement, which can help professional athletes feel more secure about their finances.

Injuries Leave You Vulnerable

Pro athletes like you make it their business to maintain their bodies at peak performance, as well as continuing to push their physical limits to achieve things they haven’t yet accomplished. Combined with the fierce competitive nature of pro sports, you leave yourself open to injury, many times not even as a consequence of your own action. One misplaced step, one odd landing, one contested ball is all it takes to derail your hard work.

Injuries can be detrimental to your career and earning potential. Missing games or even entire seasons can result in lost income and can affect your ability to negotiate contracts in the future. Additionally, injuries that cause long-term damage or require prolonged recovery time can limit an athlete’s ability to perform at the same level and may eventually lead to the end of your career.

Injuries can also have long-term health consequences that can affect an athlete’s quality of life. Some injuries, such as concussions or knee injuries, can lead to chronic pain, mobility issues, and even cognitive impairments. These long-term health consequences can affect your ability to enjoy the rewards of your hard work and may limit your ability to stay active and engage in other activities you enjoy.

While not often talked about, injuries also represent a unique opportunity cost for professional athletes, as they can prevent you from achieving the goals you set for yourself. You spend a lot of time training and preparing for your season, and injuries can disrupt your plans, causing you to miss games or training and preventing you from reaching your full potential. This can be emotionally and financially devastating, as an athlete may miss out on important opportunities to advance their career or earn more money.

Most importantly, injuries can also disrupt your financial planning, as they may lead to unexpected expenses or lost income. You should be prepared for unexpected setbacks by having emergency funds or other strategies in place to help manage the financial impact of an injury.

Be Cautious With Endorsements

A traditional, but exceptionally valuable, external income stream for pro athletes has been the endorsement or sponsorship deal. You always see and hear about the mega-deals some athletes get. But generally, these deals are carefully crafted, and there are tons of factors that need to be considered before jumping into deals with companies whose intentions may not be readily apparent.

It’s important to make sure that the brand you’re endorsing or sponsoring aligns with your personal values and reputation. This means considering whether the company’s mission, values and business practices align with your own, and also whether your association with the brand would reflect positively on your image. If a brand or company is known for engaging in unethical or controversial practices, it’s important to know about it, and it’s obviously not a good idea for you to be associated with it.

You should also carefully evaluate the financial compensation they will receive for the endorsement or sponsorship deal, and ensure that it’s fair and commensurate with your level of fame and experience. Consider, also, whether the deal offers long-term financial stability, and whether the compensation is guaranteed or subject to performance-based conditions.

You should also consider the time commitment required by the endorsement or sponsorship deal and how it aligns with your current schedule, as well as your training schedule. You should be sure to fully understand what is expected of you, such as how many events you will be required to attend, how much time you will need to devote to creating content, or what types of promotional activities are expected of you.

Another tripping point is failing to review the terms of the agreement to understand how the agreement may be terminated or non-renewed. This is important, as in the unfortunate case the relationship does not work out as expected, you should be aware of what the steps are, and how it will affect the compensation or other terms of the agreement. Additionally, the terms of renewal and how the agreement will be extended or if it will be renewed at all, should be considered.

A lot of times, once you see dollar signs, it’s easy to lose track of any legal or tax implications of the endorsement or sponsorship deal. This may include restrictions on their ability to earn additional income, such as competing with the company’s products or services. You should also be aware of any potential tax implications of the compensation you will receive, and whether it will be subject to taxes or not.

Lastly, remember that you don’t have to negotiate these deals alone. Endorsements and sponsorship deals can be complex, so you may want to seek out the advice of a manager or agent to help you navigate the process and negotiate the best deal possible. They can help you to identify potential opportunities, evaluate the terms of the deals and negotiate the best possible terms and compensation.

Taxes Are Complicated As A Pro Athlete

When you go from being a student or working a regular job to earning as a professional athlete, your life can become pretty complicated. One of the facets that make it so is the way you’ll have to file taxes.

Taxes for athletes can be pretty complicated, and you’ll likely run into tax situations you’ve never heard of before. Some of the unfamiliar, but commonplace pro-athlete tax scenarios are:

  • Income earned while playing in games in different states: If you play games or matches in multiple states, you may be subject to state income taxes in each of those states. This can lead to a situation known as “jock taxes,” where athletes are required to pay taxes on the portion of their income that is attributed to the games played in a particular state.
    Foreign income: Athletes who earn income from playing in other countries may be subject to foreign income taxes, as well as taxes in the country where they are a resident. They may also be required to file tax returns in multiple countries.

 

  • Endorsement income: Athletes who earn income from endorsements may be subject to taxes on that income. Depending on the specific circumstances, the taxes on endorsement income may be different from the taxes on income earned from playing sports.

 

  • Investment income: You may face taxes on any investment income you earn, such as interest, dividends, or capital gains.
    Agent fees: You may also be subject to taxes on any fees you pay to agents or other representatives.

 

  • Benefits: Athletes may be subject to taxes on the benefits they receive, such as the use of a car or a home.
    Income splitting: Some athletes may engage in income splitting with family members or business partners to reduce their overall tax liability. This can be complex, so it is important for them to consult with a tax professional who can advise them on the most tax-efficient way to structure their affairs.

 

Regardless of your personal circumstances, it’s always important to work with a qualified tax professional who understands and has experience with the complexities of tax situations faced by athletes.

Keeping A Future-Focused Mindset

There’s a lot of things that are unique to your situation, and only you and those trusted advisors and mentors you’ve brought into your corner know the intricacies of what your goals are and how best to reach them. That’s why one of the most important pieces of advice anyone can give you is to keep a future-focused mindset.

One of the most significant impacts a future-focused mindset can have is that it can help you plan for and achieve your long-term goals. By thinking about the future, you can set specific, measurable objectives and develop a plan to achieve them. This can help you stay motivated and on track, even when faced with challenges or setbacks.

A future-focused mindset can also help you make more informed decisions. When you consider the long-term implications of a decision, rather than just the short-term benefits, you are more likely to make choices that are in line with your overall goals and values. For example, if you’re focused on building a secure financial future, you may choose to save a significant portion of your income and avoid taking on unnecessary debt, rather than spending money on things that will only bring short-term pleasure.

Furthermore, a future-focused mindset helps in developing emotional intelligence, this means that you’re able to control your emotions and react calmly to adverse situations, and keep yourself from making impulsive decisions in the present, that could be detrimental in the future. It also helps in understanding other people’s emotions, needs and how to interact with them. This mindset helps in personal and professional growth.