Financial lessons from the Olympic Games

For many, the Olympics is a fun and welcome distraction from the ongoing economic uncertainty. With the saturation media coverage, it’s difficult not to be moved and inspired by epic stories of success and near miss.

In ancient Olympics, businessmen paid charioteers to wear their colours when racing (not unlike Formula One today). Greek City states would sponsor the best athletes for the honour it would bring to their community. So, despite the amateur ideals of the Olympics, finance and sport have always been intertwined.

No gain without pain

Successful Olympians aren’t just magically discovered out of thin air every four years. Behind each success are years of dedicated hard work and a burning desire to succeed. As Olympian Jesse Owens put it: “A lifetime of training for just 10 seconds”.

Likewise, investing success doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t hope to hit it rich by finding a hidden single investment leading you to untold wealth. Recognise that only hard work and dedicated planning will accomplish great things for your family’s wealth. Having a great support team such as a trusted advisor can help as well.

Master the basics

There are few fields of human endeavour where performance is analysed so closely as it is in finance and the Olympics. To improve performance in both, keeping score is crucial.

Coaches in London honed competitors’ performance by breaking every sport down into its basic, component parts. To improve, swimmers analyse their splits and cycle count; runners analyse their splits and anaerobic capacity.

To be a successful investor, first master and then apply the basics of P/E ratios, dividend yields and other fundamental measures.

The earlier you start the better…

In Montreal in 1976, 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci scored gymnastics’ first perfect 10. By the time she retired in 1981, aged 19, she’d won five Olympic gold medals. If your aim is to retire in your 40s or 50s, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. However, to make it happen, start planning today.

…but age is just a number

Japan’s Hiroshi Hoketsu has qualified for the London 2012 dressage event at age 71. At 72, Swede Oscar Swahn won silver in the 1920 double-shot running deer team.

Don’t let age be a barrier to investing success. If you’re late to the game, master the rules to maximise your super contributions to play catch up. Also focus on debt reduction so at retirement your largest debts are behind you. There is always something you can do, no matter how late you start.

Technology can be amazing and confusing

As the first social media games, London 2012 will be the most ‘tweeted’, ‘liked’ and ‘tagged’ sports event in history. Some of the commentary will be newsworthy; much will be inane.

This same technology ensures you can access the same data and commentary as fund managers. It also enables every pet shop galah to hold themselves out as supposed investment gurus. Crucial to investing success is your ability to sift through information and opinions, identify the investing idea ‘gems’ and to filter out the distracting, superfluous dross.

Participate and be confident

Frenchman Baron de Coulbertin, father of the modern Olympics, held that: “The important thing in life is not victory but combat; it is not to have vanquished but to have fought well.”

Don’t try to pick ‘winners’, devise your plan and commence the task confidently. Use Sydney 2000’s motto “Share the Spirit” to fully involve your family in your planning, for their financial future is at stake too.

Olympic athletes start young and are supported by their parents. Use London 2012’s motto “Inspire a generation” to teach and inspire your kids to manage their own finances.

Learn from your mistakes

It took 30 years to repay the massive debt from the 1976 Montreal Games. Despite this, the Olympic movement soldiered on. Don’t beat yourself up when you make investing mistakes. Pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and do things differently or hire a trusted professional.

5 other Olympic ‘mistakes’

  1. Pistol duelling (1906): Anyone keen on the silver medal?
  2. Motorboat racing (1908): Why not include F1 and Moto GP and be done with it?
  3. Live pigeon shooting (1900): 300 dead pigeons, 21 shot by the winner.
  4. Underwater swimming (1900): It’s not just for kids in backyard pools.
  5. Solo synchronised swimming (1984-1992): Dancing alone in a pool to music was a sport.



Tim Mackay BEc (Hons) MBA CA CFP SSA
I am an independent financial planner, SMSF expert and company director. I thrive on providing independent, expert financial advice to my wonderful clients. With international investment banking experience at Deutsche Bank and UBS in London and New York, I was recognised as SMSF Advisor of the Year by Independent Financial Advisor Magazine.

To contact me, speak to my team on 02 8084 0453. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or on Twitter. You can also visit the my colleague’s (and sisters) website.

Quantum Financial

About Quantum Financial

Quantum Financial is Australia's most awarded financial planning practice. We advise a select group of successful professionals, business owners and jet setting retirees. Our website is here

Leave a Reply