What retiring from rugby at 26 taught me about life after sport.

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Early retirement from professional rugby left me nearly broke. Now, as a financial adviser, I want to help other athletes prepare for life after sport.

It was a shock when I found out that the new contract I had been waiting for wasn’t going to come.

Looking back, I understand why Edinburgh Rugby needed to let me go, but I didn’t for one second think that this would be the end of my professional career.

I’m only 26, I told myself. I feel like I’ve still got plenty of years left in my body.

I could have dropped down a level to play rugby in France, but my wife was pregnant at the time. And although she had romantic ideas of living and working on the continent, I didn’t want to have to uproot my family and move every couple of years.

So, I decided to quit.

In one way, it was liberating to retire on my own terms, without any serious injuries. But with a few months left on my contract and a baby on the way, we realised that we only had enough in the bank to support ourselves for three or four months.

Fortunately, I was quickly turned onto the St. James’s Place Academy and found a home with Tweed Wealth Management soon afterwards.

Now, a few years on, I often reflect on the uncertainty I was faced with and I know that other retiring athletes face this uncertainty as well.

The dark side of pro sport

Making a living from sports is complicated.

For most, it’s a dream job. You get to travel. You can get paid very handsomely. And although it can be very stressful at times, you don’t have to deal with most of the daily stresses that come with a nine-to-five.

But professional sport can also be incredibly unstable. If you’re not performing week-in, week-out, you can very quickly find yourself on the sidelines. Worse, you risk career-ending injury every time you step out on the pitch.

And the size of the pay packet needs to be offset against the length of the career, which is usually very short.

I often hear friends say that pro players must be ‘set for life’. But to truly be set for life, you either need a great eye for investments or the kind of legendary status that guarantees a cushy pundit job.

I had neither. Most of the guys I played with had neither and I would guess that the majority of sports pros up and down the country have neither too.

A financial adviser can’t offer legendary status, but they can help players make better financial decisions.

Small changes, big returns

The concept of marginal gains revolutionised professional cycling and it is starting to revolutionise other sports as well.

When I work with sports professionals, either on a one-to-one basis or in a group at clubs, I like to use this idea to show how small financial decisions now can make a huge difference when they retire.

I would never tell my clients how to spend their money.

I can’t tell them not to buy a new BMW, because I bought the BMW when I was their age. And I wouldn’t tell them not to upgrade to the latest iPhone, because I understand the pressures of the dressing room.

Instead, I recommend simple changes like starting a pension as early as possible and putting spare money into an investment pot at the end of the month.

I also like to encourage players to think about what they want to do when they retire from sports. Maybe some of them will think about becoming financial advisers too.

Follow Micheal on Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-allen-240775a7/

If you are a sports professional or work with sport professionals and want to learn more about our services, feel free to get in touch.

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