Habana regrets poor financial decisions

Springbok rugby legend Bryan Gary Habana holds strong views that sports people should focus on building their wealth for the future while at the peak of their sporting careers.

He says being on the field is great for the years it lasts, but life after sport, when they no longer get the CEO-like pay cheques, can be straining without a proper survival plan – including professional financial planning.

Habana, who is named after English Premier League’s Manchester United greats Bryan Robson and Gary Bailey, took a trip down memory lane reminiscing about his “out-of-the-blue” journey in rugby and being a Springbok.

Having grown in the apartheid era, Habana says he was fortunate to have parents who supported his every dream and always motivated him to dream big

“So, I didn’t understand the whole financial jargon of short- and long-term savings. I mean, who does when you are 18, 19, 21 years old? And I got thrust into this money, earning as much as  R100 000 a year.

“Back then in 2004, it was a lot of money for a 21-year-old. As players we didn’t really have expenses, didn’t have a house, and a petrol of less than R300-R400 a month was what kept me going,” recalls Habana.

He says one of the mistakes he made at the peak of his career was signing up for two retirement annuities that escalated 10% per annum with access to the money at age 55.

Habana believes this was a silly mistake he committed without understanding that in sport, you retire at an early age of about 35. As it turned out, he did not get the same pay cheque for the rest of his life.

“If I had started understanding my money a bit better at a younger age, I would have made massive beneficial financial decisions and would not have put myself in a tough financial situation I would regret,” he says.

Habana emphasises he was not perfect and for those who look up to the star player, he advises them to manage their money well and always fully understand the investments they are making by engaging with finance professionals.

“It is important to ask, engage and consult, read about investments and its pitfalls, but must of all, ask questions, educate yourself and the advice does not have to only come from the professionals, but also from the ordinary folk – your friends and family.”

Ha says he was typically a fan of the Red Devils and aspired to play for the team one day. But this was only until his father picked him up from school one day and drove with him to Cape Town to watch the opening game for the 1995 Rugby World Cup. He was 12 at the time.

“Nelson Mandela walked up wearing the number six Springbok jersey that was potentially seen as a symbol of oppression for many in our country, but at the time, Mandela understood the power that sporting moment had in store for the future of the country.

“Sport really has the power to change the world, but unfortunately, sport is also a very unrealistic fantasy you live in for the better part of 10 to 15 years and I was a 21-year-old boy whose parents had sort of given him advice on savings but the fundamentals of finance were never really taught to me.”


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