Advertisement
Money

Why It's So Easy For Pro Athletes To Blow Their Millions

Bianca Andreescu is now a multimillionaire. Here’s expert advice for the teenage tennis star and anyone else who suddenly becomes ultra-wealthy overnight.

by Anne Gaviola
Sep 17 2019, 7:19pm

Photos via CP Images

With her U.S. Open victory over Serena Williams, Canadian tennis phenom Bianca Andreescu has propelled her career into another stratosphere. The 19-year-old became a household name overnight and Toronto even declared September 16 #SheTheNorth Day in her honour. The prime minister even showed up.

Oh, and she’s $3.85 million USD richer. This puts her in the ultra-elite club of Canada’s 0.01 percent wealthiest.

In addition to the prize money, she stands to make a lot more from endorsements. Earlier this year, she signed a $50,000 deal with Canadian plant-based eatery Copper Branch. She also has deals with BMW Canada and Nike and experts say that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the young star. But dealing with large sums of money as a teenager is complicated.

The track record for pro athletes who are at the top of their game physically, isn’t great when you look at how they handle their earnings. Sports Illustrated reported that nearly 80 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or in major and financial distress within two years of ending their playing careers and 60 percent of NBA players are broke within 5 years of retiring from the game. Despite earning many millions, Mike Tyson, Sheryl Swoopes, and Lenny Dykstra all declared bankruptcy. And it’s not like every athlete who loses their money is an out-of-control trainwreck. One NHLer lost nearly all of the money he made in his career simply because he trusted his parents to look after it.

So what is Andreescu’s best financial course of action?

As Managing Director of ONE Sports & Entertainment Group, a firm that specializes in managing money for professional athletes and entertainers, Chris Moynes has some advice for Andreescu, and anyone like her, who suddenly finds themselves millions of dollars richer overnight.

Pick the right money manager

According to Moynes, choosing someone who deals with high net worth clients is key. In Andreescu’s case, a “typical Bay Street or Wall Street broker” won’t cut it. Professional athletes are, in his view, a niche client with specific needs that are related to their sport, and their budgeting needs. The right firm will understand that an NHL hockey player, for example, with guaranteed contracts and has all their travel expenses covered is very different from a pro tennis player who is responsible for all their costs, including coaching and travel.

Currently, Andreescu’s finances are being handled by her agency, Octagon. Although Moynes says Octagon is “pretty renowned,” he suggests athletes and entertainers choose a separate firm to handle their money.

“I believe you need a financial adviser who is on your side of the table versus an agent whose role is to get the contracts but then all of a sudden, when the money is in their hands, they have the ability to charge more, have a third party doing it, all of those sorts of things,” he said. “There’s always been this sense of conflict of interest when agencies look at creating financial services within their agency as another way of pulling revenue.”

Age-appropriate plan

As a multi-millionaire at age 19, Andreescu is in an enviable position, but her young age can make money management more complicated. Unlike most people, who typically start their careers making very little and eventually seeing their earnings peak during their last decades of work, Andreescu’s earning potential is a big question mark.

For example, Serena Williams has won $89 million in prize money over the span of her career. That doesn’t include money from endorsements, and she has earned more than twice as much as any other female tennis player. But the average career prize earnings for tennis players is around $300,000 USD and 80 percent of pros earn close to nothing.

According to Moynes, athletes and entertainers often have a small window of big earnings. “At 19 years old, this money has to last a long time,” he explained. “They have to think of this as a lottery win and you can’t throw caution to the wind when you’re managing that money. That one-time bump has to last a lot longer than it would for you or me.”

Moynes suggests creating a budget, outlining expenses and revenue, but with a difference for high net worth individuals—they should be saving a lot more than the average person. Especially if you’re in your teens or early 20s.

He recommends an athlete sets aside 35 percent of what they make. Although he can’t speak to Andreescu’s revenue situation specifically, he gives an example of a typical budget for an NHL player.

“A rough ballpark is that on a million-dollar-deal within the NHL, escrow being 12.5 percent, taxes being 50 percent, agency being 3 percent, you should be saving bout 35 percent of your income. So $350,000 on a million-dollar deal is what we’re looking at,” he said.

Avoid lifestyle inflation

You may wonder how professional athletes who are making millions can veer down a financial path towards bankruptcy. Often, lifestyle inflation is a factor. The natural tendency is to upgrade everything, your home, your ride, your wardrobe, when you come into a lot of money.

Moynes counts hundreds of NHL players on his roster, including 18-year-olds who are making the league minimum of $700,000 a year—which is a lot, but not so much when compared with star teammates who can pull in $10 million or more annually.

“You get a star on a team like Jonathan Tavares or Austen Matthews or Mitch Marner and you also get the young guys on entry-level deals making the league minimum. The young guys want to keep up with everyone else, but it’s not possible or advisable,” he said.

He cites the example of a young NHL player, in the first year of his starting 3-year contract, who was hell-bent on buying a Mercedes G-Wagon (the base model retails for $134,000 USD). Moynes convinced him that was too much to spend at the start of his career.

“We ended up getting a slightly used Range Rover Sport which was still one of the popular cars on the team but it cost him half the money,” said Moynes. “When he did sign his eventual extension, which was a $50-million-dollar deal, the first thing he said to me is ‘it’s time for the G-Wagon.’ But his mom thanked me for teaching him about the value of a dollar and that you have to work up to that stuff.”

If it’s more than $10K, it’s worth a call

Moynes has a rule that if a client is spending more than $10,000 on a single purchase, they need to phone him to make sure it’s within budget. He says he has fired clients who haven’t followed this rule, including someone who purchased a $1.5 million house without telling anyone at his firm.

Although he shows clients how much a major purchase today impacts their finances over their lifetime, Moynes’ advice isn’t always followed.

“I had a guy who loves to go to the Caribbean and snorkel and spearfish. He would rent a boat for two weeks while he was there. Well, he decided that he was going to buy a $2.5 million yacht, and we had a conversation about how much it was going to cost to run it, fill it with gas, dock it. The number is 25 percent of the sticker price of the boat, and that number is only going up as it gets older and things break down. He still has the boat, even though it’s been for sale for 6 years. He agrees, he should have just rented it,” he said.

Big spender

It goes without saying that when you’re a multi-millionaire, your friends will expect you to pick up the tab, every time. Moynes cites this as an example of spending that can quickly spiral if it happens too often, especially if you’re a high-roller.

1568746177663-chris-moynes-stanley-cup
Moynes with the Stanley Cup (photo via Chris Moynes)

It goes hand-in-hand with lifestyle inflation, but he’s seen many cases of it going too far among his NHL clients. “Stanley Cup parties with a $150,000 bar tab—it’s a crazy number. They tell me, ‘we got that in bonuses because we won the cup.’ So you’re telling me you’re just throwing away $150,000? All of these guys can afford to do that stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s about preservation of capital because it could be over tomorrow.”

For a young player like Andreescu, with her whole career ahead of her, Moynes suggests she treat her money like she won’t be making much more of it.

“Have cash on hand, not to say that it should be cash underneath the mattress, but you need to have money in case this never happens again,” he said. “We all hope that it does continue to roll, but at the end of it, this whole journey in professional sports could be over with the twist of an ankle.”

Follow Anne Gaviola on Twitter.