Morgan Stanley
  • Wealth Management
  • Sep 14, 2020

Planning for the Unexpected: Financial Tips for Unpredictable Careers

Athletes’ and entertainers’ careers often have their ups and downs—all the more reason to plan ahead for a financially stable future. Here’s how.

Two classmates who played high school baseball together both got drafted and played in the minor leagues. One of them played for a couple of years, but a serious injury sidelined him permanently. The other was eventually called up to the major league and became a star player who later signed a seven-figure multiyear contract with a powerhouse team. 

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Both need careful wealth planning. 

So does a respected Broadway actress whose career suddenly paused when the Theater District shut down because of COVID-19. She hasn’t been able to find steady work since, but she still has bills to pay and a retirement to fund.

It’s a widely held misperception that professional athletes and entertainers enjoy access to endless streams of cash. Sure, some superstars strike it rich with nine-figure contracts, but unpredictable careers and more modest earnings are common. Especially now, amid pandemic-related delayed seasons and paused productions, incomes and career plans seem unreliable.

How can athletes and entertainers help protect their financial futures? We asked Morgan Stanley Sports and Entertainment Directors for advice. Here are six tips they shared:

1. Take a Long-Term View

A pro athlete can make at least a six-figure salary, but the average career span lasts about 10 years.1 That can leave quite a long retirement to fund, particularly compared to the 40 or 50 years that a typical professional has to build their nest egg. In a similar vein, Broadway performers can make it big, but long-running shows are rare and showbiz success can be fleeting. So, while a 10%-15% annual savings rate may work for a doctor or a lawyer, a professional athlete or entertainer should consider putting away even more for the long term.

If you are young or inexperienced with money, you may be tempted to live the celebrity lifestyle, which can set you up for financial peril, especially if your playing or acting career takes a sudden turn. You may need to save as much as 50% of your current income to build a big enough cushion. The higher savings rate will help you stash enough away for an emergency or work stoppages while also helping to set you up for financial security in a longer retirement.

2. Learn to Say No

Family and friends may come to you with their hands out. Whether it’s helping parents buy a new car or covering a friend’s vacation expenses, excessive spending on loved ones can become financially unsustainable—and a hard habit to break. Generosity is a great trait, but be thoughtful and selective about it. Doing so will help you set expectations about your largesse, sidestep awkward conversations and avoid potential financial troubles down the road. Also, keep in mind that hard cash isn’t your only capital. Celebrities often get free tickets, clothing and other valuable items that can be gifted to others.

3. Defend Against Fraud and Cybercrime

Wealth can make you more of a target to fraudsters, from sketchy investments and real-estate schemes to various forms of cybercrime and theft. One way to protect your personal accounts is to set up a separate operating account from which you pay bills and other expenses, without providing direct access to your primary account. This can also simplify your accounting.

It’s also essential to follow good cybersecurity practices. Taking easy, simple precautions can sharply lower your odds of becoming a victim. For example, when traveling for an away game or an overseas performance, avoid using public Wi-Fi connections, which hackers can access to intercept your digital activity. Instead, rely on a mobile hot spot or virtual private network (VPN) for encrypted internet access. Keep your Financial Advisor informed of when and where you’re traveling, so that they can keep an eye out for unusual account activity and block fraudulent charges. 

4. Find the Help You May Need

Not all athletes generate a steady income from their sport. Olympic hopefuls, for example, often hold part-time jobs or stitch together income from prize money, sponsorships and speaking fees to support their athletic careers. In such cases, nonprofit sports foundations can be a source of funding. They can front the cash you need for competition while you preserve your podium earnings for the future.

5. Prepare for Career Curveballs

It can be devastating to end your career because of injury, especially if you are still young, but it doesn't have to mean the end of your working life.

Many athletes and performers move on to successful second careers, either going into business for themselves or returning to school to pursue a professional degree. Keep an open mind about the possibilities and develop a network so that you are prepared to take the next step in your career, if and when the time comes.

6. Work With a Professional

You may have a coach, a trainer and an agent, but you should also have a Financial Advisor who can work with you and those in your trusted inner circle on a wealth plan tailored to your needs. In addition to managing your investments, a Financial Advisor can help you prioritize your everyday spending needs and longer-term investment goals.

While your expertise is on the field, track or stage, it’s important to avoid feeling invincible when it comes to money. Get in touch with a Morgan Stanley Sports and Entertainment Director or Financial Advisor who can help you develop a sensible long-term plan for your wealth. Then you can enjoy your success knowing that you are more prepared for whatever the future holds.

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