Advising the stars

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They may know what they’re doing on the field, but when it comes to their finances professional athletes need just as much help – if not more – than the average Joe.

Sam Kitchen from William Buck advises players from the Rabbitohs and says that aside from the protein shakes instead of coffee, the biggest difference when dealing with a sportsman is the concentrated earnings period.

“Most players have a professional career of less than 5 years. The focus for us is ensuring the client can accumulate an asset (like a home, investment portfolio or business) to transition to when they finish with football,” he says.

Athletes’ attitudes towards financial security have vastly improved over the past decade says Kitchen, who couldn’t imagine someone back 10 years ago having a conversation with a 19 year old on a post-football investment portfolio. However, there is still a big challenge in helping the players to understand the difference between financial promotion and financial advice.

“When a player becomes successful on the field many opportunities will suddenly open up. Shedding light on the risks and keeping the player’s focus on the field is at the core of what I do.”

North Melbourne football club captain Andrew Swallow is another example of how important financial security is becoming for the young athletes. He has joined the advice team at Wealth Enhancers, and along with CEO Finn Kelly, they are trying to educate “those who are vulnerable and often taken advantage of”.

Kelly and Swallow say there can be risks when advising AFL stars, including the possibility of being affiliated with an athlete who breaks the rules. There is also a challenge to correct entrenched behaviours, says Kelly, as senior players may be accustomed to a certain lifestyle and managers also tend to block access to athletes.

“You often have to get their family involved as the players are so young,” says Swallow. “You also get to learn what young people will do if you give them large amounts of money without any education!”

It requires a “relationship of almost blind trust”, Kelly says. “In many respects, [you] need to respect that dynamic more than with more savvy clients.”

All advisers agree that the athletes are very goal-driven. This can be an inspiration, according to Kitchen, but Kelly says that it can also mean they will scrutinise the adviser’s activities in a different way – they will not be purely returns focused.