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Money Smart Athlete Blog

Dealing with the sudden wealth phenomenon

Dec 13, 2017 | Financial Psychology

Young athletes and the people who surround them make lots of personal sacrifices, for many years, in order for an athlete to gain professional status and be able to play sports for a living. Becoming a professional athlete can bring you fame and money, according to the sport you are competing in. But the effort athletes put to prepare themselves physically and mentally to perform at top level in their sport is almost never equal to the effort they put to prepare themselves for dealing with all the emotions associated with the changes they will face in their financial lives, when they finally turn professional.

Sudden money or sudden wealth is a phenomenon connected to individuals who suddenly come into large sums of money. The phenomenon is magnified when these amounts are six, seven, eight digits or more. Scientists have even created the term  “Sudden Wealth Syndrome” in order to describe the adjustment problems individuals who suddenly come into large sums of money face.

Sudden wealth can be a great opportunity for athletes to create a better life for them and their peers if they manage their money the right way. If the athletes are not ready or don’t take the right measures, they might end up even worse off than before signing their contract.

So how can the sudden wealth phenomenon affect an athlete? Many become overwhelmed and start to overspend. And athletes who tend to spend too much money on themselves will often spend money on others too. Pressure for money from family and people who helped them reach the top can weigh heavily on them.

Being overwhelmed is the simplest of the psychological effects that an athlete who suddenly comes into money might face. Here are some other symptoms of the sudden wealth syndrome:

  • Increased levels of anxiety or panic attacks that can lead to obsessive thinking and might affect the athlete’s daily life and on field performance.
  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia or early morning awakening and irritable mood.
  • Feeling guilty about having money or being overly self-confident, which leads to acting on impulse, over-purchase things, or do things that undermine sound money management.
  • Athletes may face getting stuck in feelings of confusion and uncertainty as to who they are and what is important to them which can lead to denial of real choices and being passive in managing their money.
  • Excessive concerns about being exploited or hurt by others.
  • Increase in feelings of depression. Feeling empty, gloomy, not enjoying ordinary pleasurable activities.

Sudden wealth is not a problem for professional athletes only. The challenge is the same for anyone, turning sudden wealth to lasting wealth. Money loss caused by sudden wealth can be prevented or minimized. All life changes, including sudden shifts in finances can be traumatic; therefore athletes should take things slowly and not rush into any big decisions. They should take time to adjust to the changes and think clearly so that they make the decisions that will serve them well in the long run.

To help with the decisions, they should surround themselves with trusted financial professionals who can teach them how money can create options and facilitate their dreams by creating a financial life plan and a budget based on their core values and lifestyle. This process helps them set their priorities and makes the adaptation to their newfound wealth easier. It’s a process of identity change, to a person who accepts having money as a resource that can make all the difference.

We are here to help you deal with all the emotions and difficulties of the sudden wealth phenomenon. You may contact us at athena@apc-sport.com .

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