How to manage sudden financial opportunity with 4-time Olympian and Certified Financial Planner Lauryn Williams

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At 20-years old, Lauryn Williams CFP® was the fastest woman in America, and suddenly faced some very grownup financial decisions. Lauryn shares how she put together a team of advisors including her coach and an agent, how they vetted different sponsors, and how she learned to get paid to run for a living. 

In Lauryn’s money story you will learn:

-Why one of the fastest women in the world chose to slow down and carefully make her financial decisions

-How much money a three-time Gold medalist really makes 

-What goes into an olympic sponsorship deal

In Lauryn’s money lesson you will learn:

-How keeping an open mind prepared Lauryn for the opportunity of a lifetime

-How to cope with money anxiety when making a big financial decision

In Lauryn's everyday money tip you will learn:

-The one person who will always save you money

-How to listen to others talk about finance with a grain of salt

In My Take you will learn:

-The number one question you always need to ask yourself before making a financial decision

-Why Certified Financial Planners need to be your best friend

EPISODE LINKS

Check out Lauryn's website here

Listen to Lauryn's podcast here

Follow Lauryn's company! 

Instagram: @worthwinning

Twitter: @worth_winning

 
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Transcription

Lauryn Williams:
And so you can put the Adidas contract next to the Nike contract, next to the New Balance contract, et cetera, et cetera, and see one is offering a higher salary but the other one is offering a lower salary but is also going to pay for your school. Which I had one semester of school left when all this was taking place and that was really important to me, that I be able to finish my education and finish it for free.

Bobbi Rebell:
You're listening to Financial Grownup with me, Certified Financial Planner, Bobbi Rebell, author of How to Be a Financial Grownup. And you know what? Being a grownup is really hard, especially when it comes to money. But it's okay, we're going to get there together. I'm going to bring you one money story from a financial grownup, one lesson, and then my take on how you can make it your own. We got this.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hello, my financial grownup friends. That was fellow Certified Financial Planner, Lauryn Williams. Her company, by the way, is called Worth Winning. She also just happens to be a three-time Olympic medalist, the first American woman to medal in both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games. Lauryn was a track star and then just kind of decided to get into the bobsledding thing, because why not, and of course she won a medal there to. By the way, she's a four-time Olympian. And Lauryn not only is a CFP, she is an MBA, she has an MBA in Finance. Talk about a role model.

Bobbi Rebell:
So welcome, everyone. So glad you are investing the time. And for those of you that are new to the Financial Grownup podcast, we try to keep it short, about 15 minutes, because we know how busy you are. But if you have a little more time, feel free to stack a few episodes together. Let's get right to Lauryn, I met her through our mutual friend, Jamila Souffrant, of the Journey to Launch podcast at Podcast Movement, where else, this past summer. And immediately I adored her, I know that you will too. In addition to all of the accomplishments that I just mentioned, and many more, she's just the coolest and most lovely person, and also a fellow dog lover. Here is Lauryn Williams.

Bobbi Rebell:
Lauryn Williams, you're a financial grownup. Welcome to the podcast.

Lauryn Williams:
It's so good to be on. Thanks for having me, Bobbi.

Bobbi Rebell:
And I'm so excited to have you because not only are you a four-time Olympian, the first woman to earn a medal in both the Summer and the Winter Olympics, you get the biggest gold star from me because you're an actual CFP, Certified Financial Planner. So, so great to have you, Lauryn.

Lauryn Williams:
It is really good to be on the show. I'm looking forward to telling my financial story today.

Bobbi Rebell:
I do want to just mention, you also are a financial professional, you are the real deal. Your company, Worth Winning.

Lauryn Williams:
Yeah. I started a company to be able to help young professionals, people specifically in their 20s and 30s, organize their finances because I felt like there was such a big gap there. During my career as a professional athlete I had some advisors that didn't do a good job for me, and it was mainly because they didn't get what I needed at that age. So my company is specific to helping young professionals organize their finances.

Bobbi Rebell:
And we'll give all the information for that. And by the way, your podcast, Worth Listening, after your money story. But we want to get to this because this is really a unique perspective into the world of a money-savvy athlete. Because when you were in college, just 20 years old, you won a very big, big race and that brought you to a big financial milestone in your life. Tell us your money story, Lauryn.

Lauryn Williams:
Yeah, so I was a junior in college at the University of Miami, having a blast. Made it to nationals my freshman and my sophomore year, but didn't have success. So on my junior year, I was on a tear. What do I need to do to win this national championship, I wanted to be the fastest girl in all of college. And I did, I achieved that. I ran the fastest time that day, won the race. It also happened to be the second fastest time in the world, for the whole year.

Bobbi Rebell:
Just happened to be.

Lauryn Williams:
Just happened to be. And it was 2004, the Olympic year. So immediately I had to turn my focus from this one goal that I had of wining college nationals to, oh my goodness, America is counting on me to go to the Olympic trials a month from now and win that thing and represent Team USA.

Bobbi Rebell:
But also, there was a money element to this.

Lauryn Williams:
Exactly. So immediately after running that time I started to be approached by agents and they started approaching mostly through my coach. She was kind of the middle woman and she just had to sit me down and say, "Lauryn, as much as I'd like you to stay in college, I think it's going to be more lucrative for you to leave school. And the first part of that process if for you to get an agent."

Bobbi Rebell:
Right. What happened was you were being approached by a bunch of companies who wanted to sponsor you.

Lauryn Williams:
Exactly. So, with track and field, the shoe companies are usually the main way that we earn a means of income. So it's not a situation where you earn a W3 employment somewhere with Team USA and then you get this as extra. If you don't have a sponsorship, you don't have an income and you're not really a professional athlete. That was the main thing, so I had to decide which shoe company I wanted to go with, which contract was going to be the best. And the agent helped a lot with putting in the restrictions and the bonuses and making sure everything was really good.

Bobbi Rebell:
Right. So let's take a step back. You finish the race, what happens then? Does a shoe company just call your mom? How do they first get in touch with you? Break down exactly what happens and, if you feel comfortable, who was approaching you and how they value an athlete early on.

Lauryn Williams:
Yeah. So the shoe companies are there at the meet, they're walking by you, they're shaking your hand, telling you good luck, we'd love to talk to you. And you don't have any long conversations in that moment, you just have kind of shorter ones. And then, like I said, my coach was very protective, made sure that first step is to get an agent, find someone that you trust, and let those shoe companies go through the agent instead of you having to talk to them directly. Because they're trying to woo you and tell you all these great things, but really it's going to come down to what's on that pen and paper and whether or not we should sign that. So we've got to get someone that's a professional, that knows about these contracts, in order to get the information we need. So that was the first step in the process really.

Bobbi Rebell:
So your coach guided you in choosing an agent. And what was that conversation like? Were you just swarmed by agents? How did you vet the agents?

Lauryn Williams:
I had to make a list of questions. I had to find out what I was looking for, what do I need from being a professional athlete, what can I expect from you? Because I'm 20 years old, I'm not even legally a grownup grownup yet. I'm going to need your guidance but I also know that I'm hiring you and you're going to make a living from this. So what can I expect from the money that you'll be paid to provide this service to me? And in track and field, an agent takes 15% of whatever they get for you, and that's a pretty hefty chunk of change. It's not 1% or 2% like it is in the other professional sports, so you'd better make sure that it's somebody that you trust and that's going to be making the best earnings for you so that they too, in turn, can earn.

Bobbi Rebell:
Wait, is that true? So in track and field they take 15%, what sports do they take only 1% or 2%? That seems really low.

Lauryn Williams:
Pretty much the big three sports. So the Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, NFL. All of those have much lower percentages, but they also have much higher earnings.

Bobbi Rebell:
Fascinating.

Lauryn Williams:
Yeah, our income fluctuates quite a bit in track and field. And so, for me, I was at around $200,000 as a 20-year-old. Like you said, fastest woman in the world in 2004. With, like I said, different bonuses and prize bonuses, if I ran a certain time I could get a bonus, if I won the Olympics I'd get an increase in salary. All those different sorts of things had to be negotiated.

Bobbi Rebell:
All right. So let's back it up a little. So you get the agent, then what happens? Did you just get a pile of offers and you just picked one? How did it work? Were there other factors? Was it just money? What kinds of things were you seeing, as a 20-year-old just getting these first money offers?

Lauryn Williams:
Yeah. So the agent comes to me kind of with a summary of here's what Adidas is offering, here's the salary, here's the bonus structure, and here's the ... You know, he was just going with the main things. Of course, you know, the final contract is 20 or something pages long, but the initial part is just here's a summary of what it is. And so you can put the Adidas contract next to the Nike contract, next to the New Balance contract, et cetera, et cetera, and see one is offering a higher salary but the other one is offering a lower salary but is also going to pay for your school. Which I had one semester of school left when all this was taking place and that was really important to me, that I be able to finish my education and finish it for free.

Bobbi Rebell:
And so you went with Nike. What were the factors that made that the winner for that first sponsorship endorsement deal?

Lauryn Williams:
Ultimately it was, like you said, the schooling was one of the big keys for me. Because, like you said, education was not optional. So for them being willing to support me, one, financially with a really good salary, then also pay for my education, they had a really good prize and bonus structure that if I did in fact run fast I would be compensated accordingly, which I thought was very fair. Every year that I won, I got a nice rollover or a nice salary increase. It was the most lucrative of the different contracts that were offered.

Bobbi Rebell:
Tell me what was your feeling when you signed that first contract. Did you have a new sense of financial security when you signed with Nike, at age 20, for $200,000?

Lauryn Williams:
As a finance major, I think my biggest feeling when I signed that contract was anxiety. It's like you've been given a really cool opportunity, don't blow it. And so the first thing I wanted to do was go and find a financial professional to help me, because I knew even though I was a finance major that I didn't have what it took just yet to be able to organize such a large amount of money that I'd never seen before, no one in my family seen before. It was excitement but mostly anxiety.

Bobbi Rebell:
What is the takeaway for our listeners from your story? From signing that first big contract at age 20?

Lauryn Williams:
I would say the takeaway is you never know when something really awesome is going to happen, when that windfall is right around the corner, but it's really about being prepared all the time. When opportunity knocks, be ready to answer the door and be prepared to take life at whatever it is, because it can immediately change. And my life changed overnight, I was a broke college student to hundred-thousandaire. Literally overnight.

Bobbi Rebell:
Amazing. All right, let's get your everyday money tip, because this also relates back to those early experiences and some good habits that you learned early on.

Lauryn Williams:
Yeah, I would say everyday money tip, make sure you have questions for whatever it is that you're going through in life. Whether it's hiring a financial professional, an accountant, an agent, when you're talking to your friends, ask questions. It's so important to be pulling information out of others as opposed to just taking the information as being fed to you. I found frequently during my career that people would give me information and they were only giving me the information they wanted me to have, and that ended up being catastrophic in a lot of different situations. So really having the ability to ask questions, look for red flags, and educate yourself in all aspects of life is the most important everyday money tip that I think your listeners need to hear.

Bobbi Rebell:
Wonderful. Tell us a little bit more about your business now. So you did have some tough experiences with financial advisors and you've talked about that widely, that really helped pivot your career when you moved away from full-time being a professional athlete into being a full-time financial advisor.

Lauryn Williams:
Yeah, I just had to find a way to fill the gap. Like you said, there was so many basic things, from budgeting, to understanding first-time home purchase. I needed help with just those basic things and I realized that as young professionals, there's a gap in the industry. There's these big wealth managers that require you have at least a million dollars before you can get help and then there's these other guys that sell you crappy products. And I was like we deserve something better, we deserve just unbiased advice that could help us build wealth, sort through our student loans situation, sort through the financial basics so that we can get on the right track. And that's how Worth Winning was born.

Bobbi Rebell:
And what inspired you to become a CFP and not just a financial advisor? Because you don't have to be a CFP to do this.

Lauryn Williams:
You don't have to be a CFP but I feel like it's the standard. I wouldn't go to someone who said, "I read medical books all the time, so certainly I can perform this surgery on you." Yeah, you may be really smart, but I'm going to go with a doctor that's actually been to medical school. And CFP to me is the same sort of standard, where you've gone through rigorous education, you've gotten a certain amount of experience, you've taken a hard, hard, hard exam, and you're held to a level of ethics that is not what the whole industry is held to right now. So it was really important to me to be able to put that seal of approval and that stamp on, to be able to say I'm competent to serve people and do my best job for them.

Bobbi Rebell:
Awesome. Where can people find out more about your and Worth Winning, and Worth Listening, your podcast?

Lauryn Williams:
Yes. Worth Winning is worth-winning.com and the podcast is worth-listening.com. And you can get to Worth Listening by going to Worth Winning, so I'd love to have you go and check out my website and see if something there rings true with you.

Bobbi Rebell:
And your social channels, you have a great following, by the way.

Lauryn Williams:
Oh, thank you. @worthwinning on Instagram, @worth_winning on Twitter. And then if you're looking for me, Lauryn Williams the Olympian, you can do lauryncwilliams on Instagram, Twitter, and you can find me on Facebook as well, by typing in either of those.

Bobbi Rebell:
Awesome. Thank you, Lauryn.

Lauryn Williams:
Thank you.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey, everyone. Love Lauryn's story, because it's such a different world. I mean, can you imagine being a star athlete and being offered hundreds of thousand dollar contracts when you're 20 years old, out of the blue, and all the responsibility that comes with it? I love the fact that she came out so strong and then it became such a great foundation for building her Worth Wining financial advisory business, and her Worth Listening podcast, which everyone should check out. Lauryn is a wonderful role model.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup tip number one. Lauryn talked about asking a lot of questions and having your list. Okay, I want everyone listening to always have one question at the top of that list, no matter what you are buying, financial services or otherwise, how do you get paid? It's very important to know, is someone being paid a flat fee or are they being paid on commission. Now, there's no right or wrong answer, as long as you're comfortable with the answer. Generally, it's nice for financial services to go to somebody who's not being paid on commission because you know that they're seeling you, in theory they should be selling you, what is best for your needs. If it's commission-based, they may be selling you what gives them the best commission and you never really know.

Bobbi Rebell:
So it's important to know how they're being paid. But remember, this is the financial services industry. In many other industries the general rule is that commissions are often the preferable way to be paid. For example, think about travel. Very often someone that helps you set up a trip is getting a commission and most people are okay with it being paid that way, as opposed to paying them a separate fee, although it can be done that way as well.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup tip number two. You may have noticed that I was fawning all over the fact that Lauryn is a Certified Financial Planner. It is a big deal. When you give your money to someone, you need to know that they are qualified, that you can trust them. And I can tell you, that as a Certified Financial Planner myself, we are what is called fiduciaries. And that means that we have to work with you to find whatever solution is in your best interest, not just what is suitable. Fiduciary, big word, very important word, but pay attention to it.

Bobbi Rebell:
Thank you all for your support. If you have a financial question, a money question, or just a question about what goes on behind the scenes here at Fin aical Grownup that you want answered on one of our bonus episodes, we are taking listener questions. So just DM it to us on any of the social channels. On Instagram @bobbirebell1, on Twitter @bobbirebell, or you can also just email it to us at hello@financialgrownup.com. That's hellow@financialgrownup.com. And thank you to Lauryn Williams for helping us all get one step closer to being financial grownups.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup with Bobbi Rebell is edited and produced by Steve Stewart and is a BRK Media production.