Life after the game: Athletes share their retirement planning tips


Sports stars Victoria Pendleton and Maro Itoje share their insights on planning for the future.


Achieving sporting success requires significant planning and preparation, but this should not come at the expense of securing a comfortable life in retirement.

Sports stars Victoria Pendleton and Maro Itoje share their insights on planning for the future in a panel discussion with former England cricketer David Gower, in which they highlight the need for a strong, trusted support network to help prepare for retirement and take advantage of development opportunities for the next stage of their careers.

Getting on track for retirement

Pendleton, a cycling double Olympic gold medallist and nine-time track cycling world champion, continues to benefit from the financial advice she received early in her career. Leveraging this advice helped her to capitalise on opportunities that resulted from being in the first wave of female cyclists to come to prominence.

“I was lucky enough to meet an incredible agent and manager early on in my career and that relationship has stood the test of time. Getting the right people in place early was a big part of it,” she says. “I was in the peak of my career in 2008, after a very successful Olympics, and those four years being reigning Olympic champion going into a home games in 2012 was a unique environment that I made the most of.”

Pendleton adds that because athletes don’t earn money by representing Great Britain at the Olympics, much of their income comes from sponsorships. Like many athletes, it was important for Pendleton that external commitments and decisions about financial matters did not interfere with her training schedule.

“I have had a long-term relationship with financial advisers and they’ve helped me with investments. I had faith and confidence they would look after me and my earnings and that has allowed me to basically try and live out my bucket list,” she says.

“For some of us, you’re retired at 31 but you’ve still got a lot of life to live and money-making years ahead. It can be quite frightening and intimidating, so I was lucky to have good people around me,” she says.

Be on the ball when it comes to money

England rugby star Itoje, meanwhile, is at the start of his career, but he agrees he needs to find a balance between focusing on rugby and taking advantage of sponsorship offers.

“The sport always has to remain the first focus. But once you reach a certain level, you start to get options and the sponsors come in and you have to find that balance,” he says. “I’m fortunate I’ve got a good team around me and they work with the club to make sure it doesn’t affect training. For me, that makes it a lot easier.”

That said, Itoje says it is important to keep on top of your finances. “It is important for players and athletes to know what they’re earning, where it’s going and the details of the contracts they’re signing.”

Prepare for life after sport

While sportspeople can go with the flow during their careers, Gower says it’s essential to make sure you have enough set aside for retirement. “Whatever lifestyle you’re used to, when that stops, you want to keep the same lifestyle going. You need someone to help you get a handle on that,” he says.

Pendleton says she lives a simple lifestyle, although admits she has taken up an expensive hobby — horse racing. But she adds when planning the financial side of her post-cycling career, it was about forecasting what the future might bring.

“As a sportsperson your career is so short, I hadn’t really thought about the future. It was all about the 2012 Olympics and the last day I was going to race and nothing else. As soon as that day was done, it was ‘right, what am I doing next?'” she says.

“With my plan, I feel reassured I can live within my means and know what I’m capable and not capable of, even if I wasn’t able to earn a decent salary ever again.”

For Itoje, his priority is to secure a sustainable lifestyle for when his rugby career finishes.

“I want to be comfortable for the rest of my life. So I don’t spend ludicrous amounts of money now that can’t be sustained when I get to 35, 45 or beyond. My dad always taught me the value of money,” he says.

Work on a Plan B

Reward is a big part of what professional sportspeople do. After countless hours of training and personal sacrifice, it stands to reason athletes should reward themselves with their earnings.

However, given the risk of injuries across all sports, it is equally important athletes take advantage of career development and learning opportunities that can stand them in good stead for the future.

“It goes back to wealth management and also making sure you have an avenue to go into post-rugby. I’m very fortunate to play for a club that has an active approach to player development. We are encouraged to pursue other interests, mainly education,” Itoje says. “I just finished my university degree and it is important to put measures in place so whenever your career ends you have something to fall back on.”

For Gower, having enough savings for an enjoyable life in retirement is paramount.

“My 15 years playing for England was reasonably profitable. Now I’m at the stage where, after 24 years of broadcasting, that is contracting a bit,” he says. “You start looking for other things to augment the income while not losing a sense of fun. That allows you to make the most of it, rather than saying I can’t afford to spend that today.”

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