Go for gold: 3 ways to save like an Olympic athlete

Eckmann shares several behaviours we can learn, which will guide us when it comes to saving and investing our hard-earned money.

Eckmann shares several behaviours we can learn, which will guide us when it comes to saving and investing our hard-earned money.

Published Jul 11, 2024


With the 2024 Olympic Games set to take place in Paris later this month, all eyes will be on big name athletes like basketball player LeBron James, cyclist Jennifer Valente and swimmer Chad Le Clos to see how they fare at this year’s games.

But July not only sees the start of the Olympics – it is also National Savings Month; a time when South Africans are encouraged to live within their means and put aside a little for the future. And there are a couple of things that South Africans can learn from the habits of these Olympic athletes, which they can apply to their finances, says Jurgen Eckmann, Wealth Manager at Consult by Momentum.

“While athletes are human – like us – it is their mindset, habits and behaviours that set them apart from others, and up for phenomenal success, says Eckmann.

“They see their body as a tool in helping them achieve greatness, and invest in its performance through physical training and nutrition. Likewise, by viewing our money as a tool in helping us achieve our dreams – and through carefully nurturing it – we too can realise our financial goals, whatever they may be.”

With the Olympics around the corner, Eckmann shares several behaviours we can learn from top-performing athletes, which will guide us when it comes to saving and investing our hard-earned money.

Have a game plan

Top athletes will not enter a contest like the Olympics without having a serious game plan or strategy. This usually includes several hours of training a day, a strict diet, physiotherapy, medical care and early nights – every night – until they reach their goal.

“Athletes understand that they need a clear goal and a game plan. The same goes for savings. I recommend that you start by defining your goal: perhaps it is something you want to purchase or an amount you want to have stowed away by a certain date. Then calculate how much you can reasonably afford to put away each month, and how much time it will take you to reach this goal.”

Eckmann advises that you then align this plan with your budget, and ensure that your savings contribution is a fixed line item under ‘essential expenses’. Automating these savings as a debit order from your bank account will ensure you are not tempted to skip a month.

“Adopt an athlete’s mindset: look beyond the short-term pain or sacrifice and focus on the long-term glory of achieving your goal.”

Know that practice makes perfect…

…or that consistency gets you results. It’s rumoured that at the height of her career, Maria Sharapova hit 1000 tennis balls a day, while legendary runner Emil Zatopek – who won gold at the 1952 Olympics – used to run for hours a day in heavy army boots, to get race-ready.

“At first, it might be hard to put aside that money and not spend it, but it is only through repetition and consistency that your savings will begin to grow. And it starts to get really exciting when the power of compound interest kicks in, which is where your money starts working hard for you!” he says.

Also, know that excuses don’t yield results. Yes, you could dip into your savings and buy that gorgeous new coat you’ve been lusting after, excusing yourself by saying “I deserve it!”, but know that it won’t take you any closer to your ultimate goal… just like skipping training wouldn’t have taken Michael Phelps any closer to his 23 gold medals.

Have the right team behind you

An Olympian knows you are only as good as the team around you. “They understand the value of having the right expertise on hand to give them the best support possible, which includes a plethora of specialists – coaches, nutritionists, doctors, sports masseuses and more – who they lean on to help them achieve their desired outcome.

“Olympians know that to be the best, they need access to the best people. The same goes for your savings and investment goals. Yes, it’s important to take a keen interest and to be involved in your finances – it’s your money after all – but it is equally critical to engage a qualified and experienced financial adviser, who will be able to offer you expert, unbiased financial advice, says Eckmann.

“If you want to get serious about your financial goals, you need to get serious about who you’re choosing to be on your team, who’ll guide you on your journey to success.”