In the first of a regular series breaking down the complex world of athlete finances, we begin by looking at the importance of getting independent advice when trying to balance your books

As an athlete, you face a number of unique financial challenges that many other people won’t understand. You often have many different expenses to cover, from coaching and travelling to food and general living costs, but you may also have a very unpredictable income due to changes in prize money, funding or sponsorship. In addition, sporting careers are much shorter than regular jobs so you often need to spread your income further, while your career could even come to a sudden end at any moment due to injury.

While this lack of financial stability can cause headaches and stress, there are steps you can take to understand your financial position better and help you manage your finances more efficiently. By taking control of your situation, you can then reduce your worries and focus your efforts on your training and competing instead.

Ask the experts
Seeking professional advice is often the first step to getting your finances under control. Much like choosing a coach who can help you improve your sporting performance, selecting a professional financial advisor is an important decision.

You may want to ask you fellow athletes, your coach, or even your local or national sporting federation to help you find a suitable accountant or financial advisor. Ideally, this will be someone who has previous experience of working with athletes so that they understand your unique circumstances and the specific financial issues you will face.

Just as you would with any member of your entourage, be sure to look for someone who is well qualified in their field, who you will be comfortable discussing private financial details with.

Make sure they listen to your needs and concerns, and don’t forget to ask about their fee structure; some advisors may charge an hourly rate, a flat fee or even a commission. While you may be apprehensive to add to your costs, a professional advisor will hopefully save you money in the long run as they will know exactly how best to manage your finances.

How they can help
Financial advisors can offer guidance in a variety of different areas, from saving and investing to budgeting and planning for retirement.

Think about what your long-term financial goals are, such as owning a home or starting a business, and then discuss how you can meet those goals. You will also be able to get advice on things like pension plans, loans, insurance, investing in shares or property and what you are able to claim as tax deductions as an athlete.

If you’re really struggling with your finances, then a professional advisor will also be able to suggest strategies for getting out – and staying out – of debt.

The key is to find the best independent financial advice possible, so that you can find a financial solution tailored to your individual circumstances.