The financial advice I give AFL footballers (and why most of them hate it)

Given it’s the business end of the footy season, today I’m going to walk you through the financial advice I give to AFL players.

It’s a little different from what they normally get. After all, experience has taught me that there’s no point in kissing their Sherrins — god knows they have enough people doing that already.

So the first thing I do is switch the play on them. The financial rewards for being an AFL footballer are ‘okay’. Last year the average player earned just over $5,000 a week, or $265,179 a year (and by ‘average’ I mean the mathematical measure rather than, say, the Demons line-up).

I explain to the boys that it’s a tidy sum for sure, but think of it this way: in order to get a guernsey, the average player needs to devote for at least ten years to intense playing and training, before they become one of the lucky few who get signed.

That comes at a cost. It’s a mega-commitment of time and money from the player and his entire family. And in some cases the family expects to be paid back — it happens more than you think, especially to players that come from poorer families.

And once they get signed they risk serious physical injury each and every week (or risk being bagged out by the bloke at the fish ‘n chip shop). Plus if they innocently take a wizz in a laneway one night when they’re on the turps, it’ll probably make the headlines the next day.

And for all that sacrifice their ‘career’ (on average) will be done and dusted in three years.

Bottom line: they’ve got to make it pay.

Most think they do. But many I meet are as deluded as Sam Newman.

Remember your first job? It doesn’t matter whether you were tossing newspapers or pulling beers — chances are you never felt wealthier than when you got your first pay cheque.

For footy players that situation is on steroids (pardon the pun, Hirdy).

Here’s the thing: I meet lawyers, doctors and dentists who feel they’re wealthy because they are earning good dough — but many don’t have anything to show for it.

And while there’s a lot of gawking at the big salaries that Buddy and the boys earn, no one pays much attention to how they go financially after they hang up the boots.

However, the research has been done on pro footy players overseas. Okay, so it’s a little different: in Europe and America, the average player earns in a month what an AFL player earns in a year. Yet when you boil it down they’re just chasing a slightly different pigskin. So let’s take a look.

The average English Premier League soccer player pulls in roughly 31,000 quid ($55,000) a week.

Yet here’s the shocking thing: five years after they’ve hung up their boots, around 60 per cent of them will be either bankrupt or broke — according to research by XPro, a charity that provides support for 30,000 retired players. That’s one hell of a swan dive.

And what about pro footballers in America?

Those elephant-sized blokes in lycra and stackhats earn on average $US36,000 a week (around $1.9 million a year) and according to a 2009 article in Sports Illustrated, 78 per cent of them go bankrupt or broke within five years of retirement.

Could you imagine your bank account being “zero” for your entire life, and then “one million dollars” landing in it, basically overnight? In that regard these NFL players are the sports equivalent of lotto winners. And research shows that within a few years many of these lotto ‘losers’ end up right back where they started — or worse.

Okay, let’s call half-time on this column. It’s time for a Ron-Barassi-inspired gee-up.

You Are a Player Too

It’s easy to beat up on meathead footballers (as one of my limp-wristed-soy-latte-sipping hipster mates calls them) who blow their dough. I mean, if someone handed you $55,000 a week, you’d be richer than Eddie McGuire, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. If you’re a university graduate your lifetime earnings will amount to around $3 million (that’s at the low end). Yet when the ‘average’ worker plays their last game they retire with an inadequate amount of superannuation and go straight on to the pension.

And that’s after a forty-year career. And after playing for the best economic team on the planet — Team Australia — the unbeaten premiers for the past 23 years in a row.

So what’s your excuse for floundering in the back pocket?

The good news is that you don’t need to be a Brownlow medalist like Matt Priddis to win the money game.

Rather than laughing at pro footy players, we can all learn from them. After all, they’ve spent most of their lives showing immense amounts of personal sacrifice and discipline. They seek out and learn from experienced coaches who guide them in perfecting their game. And they’re conditioned to work with their teammates to achieve long-term goals.

The truth is, if you devote even half the amount of intensity to your career that AFL players do to theirs, you’d earn be earning big bucks too. Of course it won’t happen as quickly, but you’ve got a lot more games in you.

That’s what I call AFL: A Financial Legacy.

Tread Your Own Path!