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Financial Advising for the Athletic Elite: Managing an Athlete’s Money

Athletes live lives of luxury — there’s no doubt about that. It’s more surprising for us to hear about a professional sports star who lives in a conservative family home and drives the same car he or she always has than to hear about the latest multi-million dollar house or high-end car purchased by an NFL star.

We live vicariously through these athletes and use them to fulfill our daydreams of athletic prowess and luxurious lives few of us will ever attain. However, our knee-jerk reaction is to judge them whenever the latest news of an athlete filing bankruptcy comes out, touting reactions of, “Well, I would have managed that money better.”


For some, that’s precisely what they set out to do. Whether it’s a young high school grad looking for a career path or a middle-aged business man who needs a switch, the world of high-end financial planning and advising is starting to get a second look.

With the opportunity to rub elbows with athletic superstars, earn their trust, and manage money (theoretically something you’re already doing with your bank account), what’s not to love? Could this be your next career move?

Examine Your Motives

Start by examining why you want to get into this particular game. Are you looking for a lucrative career that will get you close to your favorite athletes? Are you genuinely interested in helping a wealthy, but financially illiterate, segment of the population get a better grasp on their money?

If it’s the former, stop reading now and consider a different career. Being a financial advisor to the athletic elite is a highly competitive, high-stakes market that is challenging at best. If you’re getting into it for anything other than pure motives, you shouldn’t be getting into it.

If you’re motives are pure, let’s do a little more exploring to make sure this is the step for you.

In a typical day, a financial advisor’s tasks will run the gamut from administrative paperwork to client interactions. Each day will be divided as needed between current client maintenance, prospecting new clients, paperwork (ugh), actual financial planning (gasp!), continuing education, and networking. As with any job, there are other miscellaneous tasks that pop up as well.

If schmoozing clients and managing money sounds like it might be right up your alley, then you’re ready to consider the various means to that end.

Becoming a Financial Advisor

Being a financial advisor can mean a lot of things. There’s no specific trade definition or certification required to be an advisor, as an advisor just provides advice and guidance on financial matters. How serious you want to be in this role and what your precise goals are will dictate more of what you need to be successful.

Being a financial advisor doesn’t necessarily require a bachelor’s degree, though it may be helpful. Studying business, economics, or accounting can help create a basis of knowledge for further certifications. It also provides an initial level of credibility for when you’re trying to break into the market.

Some financial advisors choose to pursue higher education degrees. MBAs and law degrees are not uncommon among financial advisors. Others choose to become a certified public accountant — who can complain about a fallback career that may only require four months of work annually?. Courses in communication or psychology are also encouraged as a large part of the job is persuading clients to various courses of action.

Because athletes are high-profile clients who came into large sums of money fairly young, their agents tend to be protective of them. In order to get to athletic clientele, many agents will vet financial advisors before even setting up a meeting. In the case of the NFL, there’s even an expensive player’s association program you must be part of to work with the players. To make it past these gatekeepers, you’ll need to be a certified financial planner.

Joining a firm provides an excellent foot in the door to the world of financial planning, especially if you choose (and get accepted by) one that caters to more elite clientele. Firms also provides added benefits like, well, benefits, as well as regular projects to work on, already set clients, and resources you may not have on your own. Each firm has different requirements for hire, so make sure you double check what certifications you need to get in with your dream firm.

Making It to the Big Leagues

With the potential return from high-profile clients like athletes, coupled with the finicky nature of working with them, you definitely won’t get to work with LeBron James on your first go-round. But all hope is not lost.

As you start out as a financial advisor, make strategic career decisions to move you towards your goal — don’t expect to be eligible to help the greats until after you’ve served some time.

Your best tool in the world of financial planning, other than your ability to do your job, is your ability to network. Financial advisors, especially among the rich, will be recommended primarily based on word of mouth. Create strong rapport with any clients you have. You never know who someone knows, and it would be a mistake to write someone off because they’re not your ideal.

Keep your clientele in mind as you develop your style. Athletes are goal-oriented individuals who have a high cash flow for a short period of their life. They need to be given tangible goals that can continuously be checked on, and those goals need to be planning for their eventual retirement from athletics.

Finally, educate yourself. Learn whatever might be relevant to your athletic clients so that when you eventually land one, you can nail it and garner a good recommendation. This might mean learning about how athletes promote themselves, what their pay structure looks like in the off-season, or what type of paperwork is required for international travel. Athletes are used to everything being done for them — the more you can fulfill that role, the more successful you will be in your new career.

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