Would You Encourage Your Child to Try to Be an Olympic Athlete?

The Olympics have been on for a week now, and across the world, young children are watching and finding themselves thinking of Olympic glory.  Every time the Olympics air, young children are inspired.  If they’re already in a sport, they may work harder, dreaming of Olympic gold.  If they haven’t yet started a sport, they may want to begin to see if they, too, can be like their Olympic idols.

Yet, as parents, should we encourage these dreams?

The Financial Toll of Pursuing an Olympic Dream

Being an Olympian extracts a heavy financial toll on a family, not to mention the time commitment.

Is this a worthwhile dream for our children, or are we setting them up for failure?

When I was young, my teacher was friends with a family whose college-aged son was training to be a speed skater.  His family had to hold fund raiser after fund raiser just to pay for his training.  Meanwhile, because of the time commitment for training, he was unable to hold a regular job, so he also needed money for living expenses.  In the end, he didn’t make it to the Olympics to compete, let alone try for a medal.

Was all that time pursuing his dream a waste of money and time?

The Financial Rewards of Being an Olympian

Olympic AthleteThe glory, the fame, and the money from endorsements are only for those who receive a medal, usually a gold medal.  Those who reach this pinnacle can expect a handsome return on their time and money investments.  Take Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer, who is reportedly worth $30 million thanks to endorsement deals.  Shaun White, two-time Olympic gold medalist for snowboarding, brings in an estimated $7 million a year in endorsements (The Examiner).  Yet, the chance of reaching the pinnacle of your sport is very rare.

Is this a worthwhile dream to pursue?

If an Olympian doesn’t win gold and reap the endorsements, she can often find herself able to create a job as a sports commentator or as a coach.  These can be good jobs that keep the athletes in the field they love.  But is all the money they spent to train for the Olympics worth the career choice?  Can being a coach really help justify the money spent to pursue an Olympic dream?

Many people may argue that the point of the Olympics is not about the finances.  The Olympics are about pushing yourself and trying to reach your goals.  They’re about training to become the best athlete you can be.

This is a noble goal, but is it worth the expense and sacrifice to family, friends, and athletes?

A Better Way to Pursue an Olympic Dream?

If my child were to express an interest in being a world class athlete, I would encourage him to train as he could when he was young, but the goal for me personally would be for him to receive a full ride athletic scholarship to college.  If he could reach his Olympic goals from there, wonderful.  If he couldn’t, then at least he would have had the chance to compete at the collegiate level, and he would also have an education.

Would you encourage your child’s Olympic dreams?  If so, how?

How Your Confidence Affects Your Finances, Part Two

For part one of this series, go here.

In our earlier post, we talked about how debt can seem insurmountable to some, as documented in the movie, Maxed Out. Unfortunately, some people feel their debt is so overwhelming that they take their own lives. That includes a college student who owed $12,000. While $12,000 is not a small sum, it’s not worth taking your life.

Debt and Your Self Worth

Our culture recognizes that many people identify their worth by their jobs. When we meet someone new and tell them what we do for a living, we say, “I am a teacher” or “I am an engineer.” We literally take on the identity of the job that we do.

What is not discussed is that we often measure our worth by our debt, also. If you’re in debt and struggling to make your monthly payments, it’s easy to feel worthless and hopeless. When my husband and I finally faced our nearly $57,000 in credit card and student loan debt, I felt embarrassed and stupid. After all, how did I let myself get in this position?

Your Thoughts Can Determine How Quickly You Can Get Out of Debt

Keep Calm Payoff Debt 2You may begin your debt pay off journey as I did–chiding myself and feeling like it was hopeless. How would I pay off this debt that was greater than our annual income? The whole process felt hopeless, and I wanted to give up before I even started.

But through our two year long journey thus far, I learned some things that make paying off debt easier.

  1. Be confident. When I stopped chiding myself and instead decided to encourage myself, the weight caused by debt was lifted. Instead of thinking, “I’m so stupid for being in this much debt,” I thought, “We’ve made mistakes financially, but now we’re on the right path. We’re making strides in our debt repayment plan, and eventually we’ll be out of debt.” This encouraging self-talk increased my confidence and reduced my anxiety. I felt empowered.
  2. Look at the little picture. Sometimes looking at the big picture–the total debt that you owe–can be overwhelming. Instead, focus on the smallest debt. If you put your extra money on the smallest debt, you’ll see progress more quickly. If you owe $60,000 but your smallest debt is $5,000, focus only on that one. Don’t look at your total debt load. You’ll feel elated as you watch your progress paying down the smallest debt.
  3. Celebrate small victories. Encourage yourself every step of the way. Praise yourself when you’re able to pay more off in a month than you typically can pay. Celebrate when you pay off one debt. Shout in your house that the debt is gone. Share it with your friends if they know of your debt struggle.

If you’re in debt, you can either hurt yourself mentally and physically by berating yourself and wallowing in self-pity. Or, you can heal yourself mentally and physically by praising and encouraging yourself through the long journey of paying down debt. Which would you rather do?

How do you encourage yourself when paying down debt?

Do We Inflict Peer Pressure On Ourselves?

When my husband and I got married, we were flat broke.  Broke.  We bought the cheapest wedding bands that we could find, and my diamond is small.  However, that was my preference.  I wanted to stay within budget, and I personally like smaller diamonds rather than the big rocks that some women wear.  (All I could think was that when I had babies, I’d accidentally scratch them with a big ring.)

Still, there have been times that I’ve been in the presence of a group of women, each with a huge rock on her hand, and I’ve been a bit embarrassed by my small diamond.  I’ve wondered what other people thought of us and our financial situation.

Peer Pressure Doesn’t End in High School

In high school, peer pressure is at its peak.  If you want to be popular, you have to follow what the other kids are doing.  I didn’t cave to peer pressure often.  Instead, I had a few close friends, and I followed the path that was important to me.  I was relieved when I graduated because I thought the peer pressure would finally be done.

In college, I found that the peer pressure did relent.  People would respect your choice if you didn’t do what they were doing.

However, as I got older, I began to realize that there are societal norms that you’re expected to maintain.  This becomes the “keeping up with the Jones’” phenomenon.

The Pressure Becomes Internalized

Self Inflicted Peer PressureMy husband and I are digging our way out of serious debt.  We are scrimping and saving, knowing that in a few short years we will be out of debt and can start fresh.  We can have all of our money be our own once we’re out of debt.

Meanwhile, we drive a 10 year old minivan with over 125,000 miles on it.  I wear my small diamond ring, which I don’t ever plan to replace with a bigger version.  We rent an apartment instead of owning a home.

No one is pressuring me to spend money that we don’t have.  No one is passing judgment on us (at least not to us directly).  But it’s hard not to look at other people’s lives and see the “stuff” that they have.  The nice cars.  The nice home with brand new furniture and a manicured lawn.

No one is telling me I’m failing, but I feel it sometimes.  I feel that I’m not living up to society’s standards.  I can see how easy it is to want to keep up with the Jones’, even if you can’t afford it.  I can see how easy it is to pull out the plastic just this once because you’ve been scrimping and saving and just want to be like other people once in a while.

For the people who can afford it, there is no danger in this.  For the people who can’t afford it, there’s just debt and heartache.  You might then be just like those you want to be like.

Me, I’ll keep resisting the peer pressure, even though now it’s mostly pressure I put on myself.