Retiring early from the race – funding a life after career

Chequered golf flag

News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

18th December 2015 at 11:19am

It was recently reported that Lewis Hamilton, at only 30, was already making plans for his retirement, even though he is only halfway through his soaring Formula 1 career. His aim is to retire from competitive motorsport by the time he hits 37.

As a top sportsman and one of the wealthiest in the world, money should never be an issue for Hamilton, even if he were to retire tomorrow. Yet not all athletes will have this luxury of course.

For many sports men and women, retirement is a concept that they may not wish to think about in great detail. However, whether they have achieved or failed to reach the pinnacle in their sport, all athletes’ careers will eventually come to a close, whether this is through age, injury or exhaustion.

New horizons

Yet early retirement will not mean an end to a budding career for all, as other options may be open to them.

Sometimes stars of the track and field and even the entertainment business can even reinvent themselves and launch a fresh new thriving career.

Here are a few examples of some unlikely successful transformations:

Vinnie Jones – from the bad boy of the football field, Jones transformed himself into the quintessential British villain, he’s featured in almost 60 films, some of which are already cult classics like Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

Gary Linekar – from man of the match to man on the match of the day. He’s also launched a very successful advertising career as the face of Walkers crisps.

Darcey Bussell – Darcey retired from the world of ballet in 2007 and now has gone on to have a burgeoning television career having replaced Alesha Dixon on the Strictly judging panel in 2012.

And of course who can forget the Beckhams…

David Beckham – with Becks where do we start? Fashion icon, model, star of documentaries, brand ambassador and the latest news is he’s now venturing into acting with a speaking role in a Guy Ritchie production of King Arthur.

Victoria Beckham – she’s managed to go from Posh to classy as she’s now won over the fashion world becoming a respected designer and business woman.

But these are the crème de la crème and will represent a very small group of gallant sporting heroes, dancers or popular icons. For the many, early retirement will be a much less glamorous prospect.

Fresh challenges

The average professional athlete’s career is over by age 33, and for this section of society, deciding what comes next can be difficult.

The sporting industry itself seems well aware of the short lifespan of many of its ranks and does try and compensate. For example, to help players make the daunting transition into new work, the Professional Football Association (PFA) run a series of education and qualification courses.

In a message on the PFA website, Pat Lally, PFA Director of Education, explains: “We have former players who are now qualified surgeons, forensic scientists, teachers, lawyers, accountants, dog groomers, wine tasters, plumbers and electricians. Remember: football is a short career and you will probably have to earn your living in another industry, so it makes sense to prepare now.”

Funding a future

They also do benefit from pension schemes setup for people in special industries (for example: sports professionals) where there is a protected retirement age, in these schemes you are permitted to retire before age 55.

But, while the idea of being able to retire at such a young age might seem attractive, the reality is a far more sobering prospect. With the earliest retirement age for those of us in more run-of-the-mill careers being 55, we could face funding a retirement of around 30 years, yet for these individuals that could mean financing 50.

If you are reading this and of an equivalent age – can you imagine how that prospect must feel?

Get saving

Not all will be quite as fortunate as Lewis to be making decisions about retirement at such a tender age, safe in the knowledge they are already ensured money and fame, for some professionals it will be a forced decision down to their career choice. However the message here is the same for us all, should we be a motor racer or a motor mechanic – save as much as you can, when you can and for as long as you can – you are going to need it.

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The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice and is based on our understanding in December 2015.