‘Bok to the Future: Helping professional athletes manage their financial future as their career transitions
Francois Louw, Director and Wealth Advisor at RMS Advisory UK, knows first-hand the importance of a professional athlete career transition and planning personal finances to make that move as successful and rewarding as possible.
Retiring as a World-Cup winning professional rugby player in 2020, Francois has embarked on a career in Financial Services here in the UK.
There is a high level of risk and reward in professional rugby. How can a player successfully manage this?
Any form of professional sport is characterised with usually lucrative but relatively short-term (2-3 year) contracts. Rugby players and other athletes alike understand that professional sport is a volatile profession.
With injury always being a constant concern which can result in long periods of being out of the game and worries that you won’t get signed again especially with competition for places being intense, it is important for players to be mindful that they have to manage themselves off the field as well, this includes dealing with their finances and living within their longer-term means.
With the pandemic providing a wake-up call for so many, not just professional athletes, the importance of ‘rainy-day’ funds has become very apparent. There is a strong temptation to live a lifestyle beyond an athlete’s means.
This lifestyle can match the short-term contracts rather than the longer-term strategy, ensuring where possible, funds are available for post-career circumstances such as family, children or starting a business.
In the capacity of a Financial Planner, what do you want to give back to the sport you love?
I want to assist professional athletes with creating a plan to achieve maximum output during a relatively short career. I want the individuals to be in a relaxed and satisfied mode in order they can focus on their sport in the knowledge that they have planned for all eventualities.
When I was 22, I didn’t know what I wanted, but I was lucky enough to have financially literate people around me who pointed me in the right direction. All rugby players should be able to retire in a relatively comfortable position so what I want to do is create something very specific to help athletes formulate life goals and then put in place a financial plan to achieve that.
What is different about your approach with regards to dealing with financial affairs for professional athletes?
It is important that personal finance is embraced at the outset; having financial discipline in the same way as having training or nutritional discipline can be achieved with the right guidance.
Professional athletes’ earnings are rarely consistent and payments can be made in big lump sums which at times will require guidance in order that the full potential of the earnings can be enjoyed.
Having experienced the life of a rugby player, I am in a qualified position to assist players with their planning, make them aware and guide them through personal and family finance planning arrangements in order they are in as strong as position possible.
Would this approach help them with their career transition?
Yes. Having strategized and planned, players can work towards executing that plan whilst considering various qualifications and industries that would interest them for a career outside of professional sport. It is important to emphasize that personal financial planning and career transition should not always be considered in isolation. They complement one another, and I see my role as a way of highlighting that.
How can Financial Planners and Advisors be more effective in their client communications in your opinion?
You often hear people say ‘only invest in things you understand’. Unless awareness is raised and time is taken to explain investment and planning decisions, we will continue to find ourselves disappointed with the perception of our industry. It is our responsibility to be patient, concise and transparent in our communications. The level of technical knowledge required to work in finance is significant.
Continual professional development and regulatory requirements are quite rightly onerous. Knowledge does need to be shared with clients, and needs to be used in the right context and at the right time. This approach will reassure clients that you have their best interests at heart.
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