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From riches to rags

Remember your first job? I remember mine. I was working at a retail store. I hated my job but it was great at the time because it kept me off the streets. I wasn’t paid much but whatever money I got made a huge difference.

Now imagine you’re a young professional footballer. Your first pay cheque was a lump sum of money, and you were getting paid to play the sport you love. That can definitely quicken your heart rate. We all envy athletes at some point, but no one wishes to be them when they retire and things are not so springy any more. You might ask yourself, how can people who earn so much have so little after retirement?

The career window of a soccer player is very short. I like to call it a short-term-contract career. In a normal job the average retirement age is 60 to 65 but in football the average retirement age is 35. For some, their life in competitive sport is a stepping stone to a high profile second career, like our own soccer legend Lucas Radebe. He is the ambassador of a new global sports initiative, which seeks to unearth the world's most inspirational sports projects.

A few other players who come into mind are Pele, Roger Mila, Harry Redknapp, Diego Maradona and Jomo Sono. All these legends have successfully adapted to the transition from top player into star manager, humanitarian or sport agent. Others are not so lucky after retirement. It’s sad but true. There are a lot of them out there. I wouldn’t want to name them as I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news.

Statistics show that most athletes go broke in less than ten years after retirement. What shocked me the most was that 60 to 80 per cent of professional football players go broke within two years of their retirement. They normally squander money due to bad decisions, lavish spending and poor financial planning.

Frequently footballers are caught up in fame, fortune and glory but sometimes the fame and glory catches up with the fortune and the money disappears faster than their once illustrious careers. This happens because they fail to anticipate what happens after soccer.

Now before your eyes pop out of your skull, this could happen to you too if you should win the lottery tomorrow and you don’t mix yourself with the right financial team. A large percentage of big lottery winners also go bankrupt within a few years because no financial discipline is instilled from the word go. So part of it is just human nature.

Malcom X once said, “Without education you are not going anywhere in this world.” It’s not necessarily education from school but financial education can make a world of difference. I think the problem for footballers is their lack of understanding how to achieve goals. They tend to set goals that are unreasonable and unachievable.

The best time to start planning for life after soccer is during your playing career. This enables you to have a comfy retirement. Following the more consecutive path, like allocating small percentages in real estate, private equity or just merely going to school in your free time, will assure you of a cushy retirement.

One particular soccer player I look up to is Kaizer Chiefs captain Jimmy Tau. He is on the verge of completing or has completed his Honours degree in Marketing, despite having a busy schedule playing in the Premier Soccer League. Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has started preparing for life after soccer by investing in upmarket restaurants. Phillipe Senderos, Fulham defender, does loads of work for charities, especially for children, and knows six languages. These are the few I can think of but there are others who are capable of anticipating “life after football”.

Can you think of more soccer players whom you think are making good use of their money while building a greater future for themselves?

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