Why should a player seek out and get financial advice?
There are numerous reasons. Footballers are very young, and they can often earn very good money in a short space of time. Planning for the future is key, because there are so many external factors that can affect a player’s income drastically, such as relegation or injury. Personal issues such as divorce can come into the fold, too. The sooner you get a player on the path to good advice, the better it is for their future.
How soon would you advise a footballer to get help when it comes to looking after their money?
As soon as possible. The earlier I can work with someone to help them understand their finances (including their tax, bills and expenditure) and show them how they can plan for the future, the easier it is. Players have a great opportunity to build a successful future for themselves and their families, but time is limited. They can have a great career and the chance to build some large, tangible assets. I try to explain they can live their lives while keeping one eye on the future.
Is it ever too late to get help with their finances?
Yes and no. It’s never too late to do something, as if a player is sensible with their earnings they can build up a decent retirement fund in a short space of time. However, some older players have a certain mind set and particular way of spending their money. It can be more difficult for them to adjust their outgoings to fully fund a retirement pot.
Where does a player begin to look for a financial planner?
If the player has a good agent, I would recommend that they ask them. Their agent may have a contact. If not, the player could ask a senior player in the squad for their recommendation.
What separates a good financial planner from a bad one?
A good financial planner is one who is well qualified and has worked in the industry for a decent amount of time for a reputable company. It’s a very specialist area and many financial planners get excited at the prospect of working with a footballer, but often the player outgrows them. Things can then go wrong. The most important thing for my clients is that they are comfortable and trust I am doing a good job – allowing them to focus solely on football.
A player also needs an adviser who thinks about the long term, who has a plan and isn’t looking to make money quick. You see this far too often as advisers try to sell ‘get rich quick’ schemes involving big commissions where the client is compromised.
What is the main, overall aim of a financial planner?
My aim with clients is simple: I want them to be able to have financial independence at retirement. On the face of it that sounds simple, as people always assume footballers earn millions of pounds. However, that’s only at the top level – there are championship players who don’t – so ensuring they can take the time to make financial decisions which lead to a comfortable retirement is very important.
How ‘hands on’ should a financial planner be?
It’s up to the client really. Some go so far as to pay bills. I like to work with clients to get them to take control of their finances. I have given clients sessions on investing but this is entirely up to the clients themselves. I am not a fan of paying bills, for example, as I think clients need to understand their own expenditures.
Is it purely the financial planner’s responsibility to look after a player’s money, or do clubs and authorities have a role to play?
The clubs have a role and should have a bigger role with the younger players as part of their education. The Professional Footballers’ Association offers help if needed. The clubs tend to separate themselves from this due to possible conflicts of interest. Good agents and their accountants can also be hands on and make sure they get advice.
Players are often approached about investment opportunities. How can they differentiate between good and bad ones?
Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is! I spend a lot of time talking to players who have lost huge sums of money in bad ‘get rich quick’ investment schemes. I always try to get clients to run anything by me first in order for me to review it. The things that come across my desk are incredible at times. Although for the most part, while people assume footballers love weird and whacky investments, they don’t!
Players are well paid, but it is not unusual to hear about them falling into bankruptcy. How common is it for things to get bad for them?
Unfortunately, it is common. A player’s career ends at a very young age and their income in many cases then falls off a cliff. Adjusting can be very hard, both personally and financially. The divorce rate among retired players is also very high which can have a big effect. Property is also a big stumbling block – footballers love property. The ‘Robbie Fowler’ effect has seen many buying the wrong properties in the wrong areas, with big mortgages. I try to make sure that a player buys a main house where they can settle. Then if they buy rental properties, they do so in solid locations where the rental market and property market is good. This is likely to be in major cities.
A player might choose to ignore the signs at first, but what are the indicators that things are beginning to spiral out of control and it may be time to seek help?
One sign is when they are asking for monies invested at the end of the month. I've seen players borrowing against assets to get and meet ‘pay day’ short-term loans on cars, watches and other items. This is a slippery slope.
Do you find footballers, generally, are aware of planning for the future and life beyond football?
I think so, but certainly not all. The younger ones are less likely, but with the appropriate education, they will understand that their career has a 15-year lifespan. Of that, they only have around five to eight years of top earnings (unless they are lucky to play at the highest level their entire career).
Have players become more aware of the importance of getting help with their finances during your time in the industry?
Yes, definitely. There is more awareness of ex-players being in financial trouble and I think they want an insight into their finances. Many years ago, everything was left to the agent to deal with but now players are definitely more interested.
When you speak to a player or one of your clients, what is the biggest and most important piece of advice you give them about looking after their money?
Make sure you save. Always think about the end game. You may have a great career, a great income and an opportunity to live a great life with holidays, cars and tangible assets in the near term, but if you are sensible, it’s certainly possible that you’ll never have to work again.
One last question. What is the most satisfying aspect of your job and, without names, can you give an example of when advice you have given a player has proved to be crucial?
The most satisfying part for me is having the trust of my clients. Knowing that they take my advice on board, listen and come to me with questions or ask me to look over things.
There was one time when a client was over-paying for his career ending insurance by £8,000 per year. This was set up in another country through an insurance broker, who was his wife’s friend. When we changed the policy, the broker said legally that they needed to pay all the premiums and that they were getting lawyers involved. I knew this wasn’t right but I had his wife arguing with me, the client arguing with his wife and the insurance broker friend threatening legal action. In the end it turned out I was correct and since then I have the full trust and backing of the client and his family.
This article was previously published on Tilney prior to the launch of Evelyn Partners.