Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Financials of a Pro Triathlete Year 4
When you mention to people that you are a "professional athlete", the first thing that pops into their mind. (see image above) The question that frequently follows up with the initial thought, "Do you actually make money doing that?"(Yes, people I have never met will ask , quite a personal question right?)
If you missed Year 1, 2 or 3 of my triathlon Financials and want a little backstory on why I am putting this out there publicly, you can check that out HERE (YEAR 1), HERE (YEAR 2), & HERE (YEAR 3). In short, there are very few Pros that are transparent about the financial aspect of our sport. I feel that there are quite a few people that have ambitions of going from the Age Group ranks into the Pro Ranks or even moving over from another sport into triathlon, and figure this could be useful for them and give them an idea of what it takes and what the "progression" looks like, or "regression" in some years.
Credit is still due to Cody Beals as he was the first to write about this. You can read his most recent one here (2018), (https://www.codybeals.com/2018/02/my-fourth-year-pro-triathlon-budget/), which also back links to his previous years. Some of this will look familiar to what you may have seen in his blog, and some of it is my own take on the numbers.
Coming into 2018 we had a lot going on as a family. Hila was still on maternity leave at the beginning of the year, and we had quite a lot of travel early on in the year. Travel adds up to typically being the biggest expense for me, so I knew this year could be quite heavy on that side of things.
Goals / Reality-
Like the previous three years, the goal was still to see a revenue stream from triathlon, but not solely rely on triathlon as the main source of income. Last year I focused on growing the coaching business and stepped back from the other "part time work", for the most part. This year was similar, except I started working for Precision Hydration, one of my sponsors, on a small part-time basis. I currently manage the Sponsorship & Ambassador Program, along with a bit of the social media side of things.
The coaching business saw a lot of growth again, in terms of my personal side of things and the business as a whole. We have steadily added coaches to our coaching roster, and we have overall taken on more athletes. The one difficult thing about coaching is that you can see a swing in income from month to month, due to losing or gaining athletes. I have a goal number of athletes that I feel I can manage, but sometimes I am slightly under or slightly over that number, and on occasion you can lose an athlete at a moment’s notice for various reasons. So as nice as coaching is, and as many perks as it has, it also has some drawbacks from time to time. Luckily, the Precision Hydration work is constant and keeps a "guaranteed" source of income at the moment, but coaching is still the primary source of income.
I was going back and forth if I would even publish this for the 2018 season. Back in September I was hit by a car, and hadn't raced much up to that point. I had a pretty heavily packed end of year race schedule which I ended up not being able to accomplish due to the accident, with a fractured collar bone and radial head. Once the claim is over I may write about it, as it has been quite interesting for sure.
Coaching / Part-Time Work- $37,828
Like last year, I am including “Part-Time Work” in here as well, I think it is important to understand that a majority of us hold part-time jobs on top of training and racing.
As I mentioned above, the majority of the part-time work was coaching this year, $31,828, $2,250 from PH, and $750 for some writing I had done for Clever Training.
Sponsorship: Cash, Commission, and Bonuses- $8,000
Down from last year, but still a pretty solid chunk of the revenue comes from some very generous supporters. Of the sponsor money I have, only $1,000 of it is from "within" the sport, the rest is from local companies and people that share in the passion of triathlon and want to see me succeed in this sport.
Bonuses?!?!?! Well, what bonuses?? Hard to collect bonus money when you don't find yourself on a podium, as my bonus structure is all based on Top 3 finishes. So needless to say, I took a bit of a hit in this area this year. I had quite a few races planned that had bonus potential, but due to the accident it affected the opportunity to win bonuses.
Commission:($726) Like I had mentioned last year it is something I am trying to move away from. However, I have some strong existing commission deals set up and it is a nice avenue of additional cash. I am no longer taking commission-only deals, all deals have to have cash and/or bonus structure tied to them. Don’t worry, I will still ensure that there are some discount codes available for certain sponsor products that I have. (Same as last year)
Race Winnings- $0,000,000
My plan for 2018 was to race more towards the end of the year. This was compromised by the accident, and before the accident I raced 2 races that offered prize money. The two races offering prize money weren’t successful races for me (flat tire in one). I had another 6 races on the schedule for 2018, all offering prize money and had I remained fit and healthy the odds were that I would have earned prize money in some of those races given my track record of results and earning prize money every year prior.
Equipment Sales- $13,564
Big year here, mainly due to switching bike companies. This left a bike to sell, plus some items that came from the new bike, and then quite a bit of miscellaneous stuff. Unfortunately, the sales didn't cover the expenses of equipment, but as always I am sitting on quite a bit of equipment that could be sold to bring in cash if needed.
Travel Stipend/Support- $2,000
Both races I did helped out with flights, covering one completely and another partially, so all in all not bad here. If I would have raced at the end of the year, most of them would have been covered, but still would have had some expenses for a few of them.
Transport / Bike Fees- $6,865
Compared to 2016, I was able to cut back again on travel costs, even while traveling quite a bit. Totaling $6.7k for transport, and $150 for bike fees, this was a nice decrease.
Equipment / Nutrition- $16,980
As mentioned above, quite a big year here due to partnering with Canyon and needing to spend a bit on new bikes. With Canyon USA being a new company, the deal wasn't "great" but considering the current situation in the cycling industry we couldn't pass up getting our foot in the door (this is a partnership w/ KIS Coaching & Canyon, not just me personally). Only time will tell if taking this leap will pay off, but it's a good partnership and great people to work with.
Minimal racing left this area at $0. One thing I am really grateful for is how we are taken care of over in Asia, and I have yet to pay for a room over there.
Pretty straight forward. Most Pro Athletes pay a flat rate for coaching and then a % of winnings on top of that. That is the setup that I have with my previous coach (Scott DeFilippis) and with my current coach (Julie Dibens)
Coaching Company- $661
This year it was basically TrainingPeaks fees and WiFi while on flights. TrainingPeaks fees have gone up quite a bit this year as I have a few athletes on Premium Accounts, so that drives up the TP charges.
Race Entry / Membership- $1,166
WTC/IRONMAN has a pro membership that costs $972, however this allows you to do as many races as you want as a professional and as it may sound expensive, it ends up being a lot cheaper than what I had to pay as an amateur. The "memberships" includes the local Tri Team in the UK I pay to swim with, along with a few other places that I swam at throughout the year.
Showing a profit of $31.5k, is something that I am ok with, but could obviously be better. I was still able to max out the Roth IRA (one of the goals every year), travel the world and wake up every day (well most days) doing what I love. It may not be the most “luxurious” lifestyle, and as a few critiqued last year, “You could be making more money at a real job!” In my opinion, money is not everything, and money surely does not equal happiness. So continuing on this journey is the plan for now.
Either way, I would still be racing in some form or another, and when I do the math it just makes since from the business side of things to race professionally, and the results still support that, for now.
As with last year, I have cut way back on investing time in looking for new partners/sponsors. It is a big time suck, with very little return right now. I have a solid foundation of sponsor/partners that have been with me for a while now. I have instead focused on strengthening the partnerships/sponsorships that I have, and really focusing on cutting expenses down, which has been the trend the past 4 years now.
By the Numbers:
70,509 miles flown, 32 flight legs, 158 hours of "travel time" from first take off to last flight land of each trip.
How Do I Track All of This?
I figured there may be some interest on how I manage all of this "data". Below is how I currently do it, if you have any suggestions open to hearing how to make my life easier!
- Expense/Revenue Tracker- I just use Excel to track everything, pretty simple and straightforward.
- Paper Receipts- I use Foreceipt, pretty nifty app which links into your Google Drive and can transfers the receipts via photo/image & creates nice reports.
- Online Purchases- I use the "Snipping Tool" to screenshot the receipt and just save them in a folder by year and they are titled by date and company.
- Flight Data- I use AppInTheAir which has some nice features for historical flight data, plus current and upcoming flight info.
- Taxes- Our tax situation is a bit complicated with us living overseas, having a foreign bank account, and multiple income sources. Due to all of that we use TaxesForExpats.