Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Personal Finance for the Elite (Canadian) Athlete

PF for the Elite (Canadian) Athlete – Part 1: PF Overlook

This is the start of a potential blog thread between myself and my cousin, Krystal, a very popular personal finance blogger at www.givemebackmyfivebucks.com and www.moneyville.ca
I got this idea because after reading several of her blog entries. I’ve realized that so many people can relate to her situation. Unfortunately, for me, being a “professional athlete” as a career, hardly puts me in the same financial categories as her. So, I thought I would lay it out for the world to see and then get Krystal’s advice posted in response. Once she gives me some advice, I plan on continuing to write about how those tips help me and impact my situation.

Pay or Passion?
I can’t think of very many people that would turn down the opportunity to represent their country in a sport at the highest levels. You’re looking at a chance to head to the Olympics and participate in highly respected events such as the Commonwealth Games, the Pan American Games, World Cups and World Championships! Who wouldn’t want that? As ideal of a life as it seems, it has its (financial) draw backs. In a sport like field hockey, it is hard to really consider this as a career since we don’t get paid much, have little to know sponsorship and three quarters of the country still calls our sport “grass hockey.” (It’s played on turf now people!!) Anyway, Sport Canada offers AAP carding money to all nominated athletes. You will either get Senior carding at $1500/mo or, in my case, you get Development carding at $900/mo and than all depends on how long you are carded for – set by the coach. Since we are sport with little money, our NSO (Field Hockey Canada) actually “taxes” us levies so that carding money is never as good as it seems. The one great thing about AAP carding and AthletesCan funding is that you can put money away for Post-secondary Education and you can get your cell phone plan paid for. Those are two high-cost expenses that do pay off in the end. Regardless, you have little time for part-time work and you have to rent a place in Vancouver ($$), close to UBC ($$$$$). So, it’s pay to play and although we are passionate about representing Canada sometimes, you have to step back and really look at the pros and cons.

As an elite athlete (in the sport of field hockey) your biggest expenses are rent, food and transportation. Sounds pretty standard, doesn’t it? I am currently in a two-bedroom basement suite that houses myself and two team mates. Now, my roommates share a room and altogether we were paying $1595. That’s over $500 each and about how much I can handle. I get $900 a month, some of which is going to Field Hockey Canada ($300 Bi-monthly) as part of our levy agreements (mandatory). As much as I would love to play the First-Year University card and eat KD for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that is just not acceptable. Our bodies are our careers. Our nutritional requirements up the cost of our grocery bills for things like: FibreOne Cereal, Liberte Greek yogurt, Soya Milk, organic produce etc. Eating healthy is not cheap. There are ways around it but you’re looking at definitely breaking even. Don’t forget to tack on other expenses, in my case, gas for my car, parking at the field or equipment.

I am very proud of myself because I have done a lot of work in this category of my PF. First of all, bursaries and scholarships that were supposed to go towards University were able to go straight into savings thanks to our AAP money covering the majority of my Bachelor of Science degree. In addition, I spent just over $200 to put together 109 sponsorship packages that highlighted myself, my team and my goals as a national team athlete. These packages were sent nation-wide requesting one of three levels of sponsorship per year for three years leading up the 2012 London Olympics. Thanks to Olympian Anna-Marie De Zwager (ex-field hockey player and Olympic rower), I was able to get these packages out last year in a few short weeks and get a response soon after. Penn West Exploration, of Calgary, signed on to sponsor me $1000/mo for three years in support of my campaign to 2012. So, my revenue is basically my Penn West Sponsorship money, my AAP carding money, savings from University scholarships, and any contract money I get from graphic, web or media work or coaching/umpiring.

Personal Life Financial Decisions
My savings post-University are not allowed to be touched and have been in savings for a while now. Recently, I decided to invest it in real estate. Call me a first time home (condo) owner now at age 24! Maybe not quite yet. I’ve only put a quarter of the down payment down but I’ve signed some official documents and had a mental break down about money so, I think that about qualifies me. Without that back up savings, I’m going to be tight for extra cash for living since I have to afford my living expenses while playing with the national team (sans job) and also worry about affording my next 3 installments of my down payment. In addition, I’ll have to apply for a mortgage before 2014 and somehow need to show that I am financially stable enough to handle that. It’s frightening now but I am very confident for the future and what it has in store for me. So, I'm doing alright but of course, no where near where I'd be had I been working and saving the past 5 years like a normal person. I don't regret playing for Canada but looking forward now, I'm starting to contemplate my next life decisions based on my financial future. Keep in mind, I've done a lot of hard work to generate sponsorship money and get flexible contract work. Several athletes on the team either have help from parents, work part-time, live at home, etc.

That’s the ground work for my initial look at it. I would like to write more about day-to-day expenses/revenue not just for myself but more about my team. First, I want to hear some advice from Krystal!

Krystal's Personal Finance Blog

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