“You can be on top one day and out of work the next,” says Rich Winer, president of Winer Wealth Management in Woodland Hills, Calif., whose clients include affluent individuals in the entertainment industry. “You don’t know if a show will get canceled or a record company will drop you from their roster,” he explains.
While many high-net-worth individuals can count on a fairly steady income from an ongoing business or a successful professional practice, entertainers can have highly variable incomes. The same can be said about professional athletes, who might be cut from the team or see a promising career shortened by injury.
“Having a budget is key,” says Gary Williams, president of Williams Asset Management in Columbia, Md., who has advised professional athletes. Perhaps the most important part of a budget for HNW clients with variable incomes is a substantial cash reserve.
Williams notes that many professional athletes don’t have a skill set outside of sports. “They may need to go back to school,” he says. Even when they find a spot in another field, they may need time to work up to a decent income. “Having a year or two years of cash reserves would not be out of the question,” says Williams.
Winer generally advises clients to keep a rainy day fund to cover expenses for three to six months. But for entertainers with uncertain income, “We’ll err on the cautious side and keep a little more” in reserve.
Budgeting is important even for those athletes who remain in professional sports. “The NFL athlete gets paid during the season,” observes Williams. That means even working pros must budget carefully to get through the year.
Equally important, says Williams, is understanding the psychology of the situation. “Listening is really vital,” he says. “It’s really a hand-holding relationship at the beginning,” says Williams who notes that many young professional athletes have no investment experience and need to be educated about risk. It’s important, he says, to avoid the didactic approach of “you need to do this because I know more than you do.”
If you don’t count entertainers or athletes among your clients, the same approach is useful for someone who has “divorced well,” says Winer. “I guess you could lump someone like that in with an entertainer or an athlete, where they get a big lump sum and have to manage that for the rest of their lives,” he says.