Balancing Financial Goals with Kids' Athletics (09/20/2016)

Watching the Rio Games in full swing this past summer brought a little Olympic fever (and lack of sleep!) to many of us. Over 44 million kids playing organized sports may have been thinking about their own gold medal hopes. Sports parents are often the unsung heroes behind top athletes, and their dedication to their children is admirable. A recent survey by TD Ameritrade reveals that sports parents are invested in helping kids achieve athletic aspirations, yet often sideline their own financial goals.

Most parents spend $100 to $500 a month for each of their children’s sports activities, according to the survey. One in five spent over $1,000 a month per child. The results highlight the natural desire to put their children’s needs before their own. Aside from monetary costs, many sacrifices are made in the form of lost vacations, delayed retirement and depleted college funds. Two-thirds of the parents surveyed expect that their kids will get an athletic scholarship for college, but the reality is that only 24% actually earn one. About one-third of the parents surveyed think their child will go to the Olympics or go pro, but only about 2% actually do.

Despite the costs, many parents are trying to keep a balance between athletic spending and investing wisely for savings and retirement goals. You do not have to go broke to help your child further their athletic dreams. Following are some tips for saving:

Buy used gear. Equipment can be the bulk of your sports spending and a great deal of barely used gear is available. Search for local consignment shops to buy and sell gear. Look online and search local Facebook swap groups or EBay to find used equipment. Check with family and friends. Kids grow so fast that some equipment is nearly brand new when they outgrow it.

Volunteer to coach or help the team in some other capacity. This could reduce or eliminate the cost of participation. You will also be directly involved with your child, spending valuable time together. You might get a discount on equipment.

Buy non-sports supplies in bulk. Healthy snacks, bottled water, or Gatorade costs can add up, and buying in bulk or pooling with other parents could both reduce costs and keep up with demand. Carpooling is also helpful in saving on gas and time.

The benefits of competitive sports can be priceless, teaching values, increasing confidence and encouraging regular exercise. Being careful about your expenses on the field could help to ensure you still have some dollars to stash away for your own financial future. Try to keep a balance between juggling debt, saving, and spending on sports. 

Lisa A. Dugan

September 20, 2016