Wealth Check: 'How can I win gold when the cash isn't there?'

The problem: Something has to give for a top skier

Simon Bates, Britain's champion freestyle skier, narrowly missed out on a place in the Winter Olympics. In January's World Cup event at Lake Placid, he needed to make it into the top 20 to be eligible to compete in Turin. Sadly, the 29-year old from Edinburgh came 29th.

The struggle to finance his training played a large part in this, he says. "The [annual] coaching costs amount to £5,000 - on top of travelling and accommodation expenses."

To get better results, Simon says he would need to reduce the amount he works - and for that to be possible, he needs funding.

When not competing, he earns around £8,300 in customer services at insurer Standard Life. This is supplemented by the £1,000 he receives as an instructor at his local ski school.

In order to have a career to fall back on, he is currently studying for a certificate in financial planning - the basic-level qualification for financial advisers.

Despite his modest salary, Simon has been disciplined about building up savings to help fund his skiing. He draws an income from the £19,400 in his Alliance Trust "self-select" individual savings account (ISA), where money grows tax-free. He also has £5,000 in a Cahoot savings account, paying 4.85 per cent, and £2,500 in a share account with broker The Share Centre.

But Simon also has debts to overcome. He owes £7,700 on a loan from Cahoot at 5.8 per cent, and £5,000 on a loan with Alliance & Leicester (A&L) at 5.9 per cent.

On top of that, he owes £2,800 on an A&L credit card, which is interest-free until June (by which time he plans to have it paid off), plus £2,800 in student loans.

Simon shares the cost of the interest-only £69,500 mortgage on his flat with his brother. They bought the property - currently worth £140,000 - in April 2004, with a two-year discounted variable-rate deal from Standard Life Bank at 4.95 per cent.

He doesn't pay into a pension and has no insurance.

The cure: Get your employer to raise its game

Drawing on savings is a short-term solution, says Justin Modray of independent financial adviser (IFA) Best-invest. "He should knock on Standard Life's door - given that he works there - and see what it can offer in terms of sponsorship."

If this isn't forthcoming, Simon may need to make the difficult decision of whether to continue.


A switch of savings from Cahoot (where they're taxed) to a mini cash ISA with a good rate will make his money work harder, says Dominic Mansley of IFA Key Financial Planning. The Halifax pays 5 per cent.

"He can [first] utilise his £3,000 allowance before the end of the 2005-06 tax year and then move the rest of the money after 6 April."

Simon's Alliance Trust ISA has turned in a "reasonable" performance, says Mr Modray. "Because it invests across global markets, it provides a good spread of risk and opportunities for growth."

But if stock markets fall, the returns will suffer - and Simon cannot bank on his investment continuing to rise, adds Mr Modray.


Simon's personal loans are at competitive rates of interest, so it's unlikely to be worth shopping around for a better deal.

If he hasn't repaid his credit card by June, he should consider moving the balance to another 0 per cent deal, says Mr Mansley.

The student loans are not a concern, adds Mr Modray, as interest is charged only at 3.2 per cent. And he won't have to start repaying them until he's earning more than £15,000.


Simon and his brother should seek a better deal when their discounted mortgage deal ends in April, says Amanda Davidson at IFA Baigrie Davies. "They should see what deals Standard Life Bank offers and compare this with other deals on the market."

Bristol & West currently offers a two-year discounted rate of 4.79 per cent with no fees, she says.

Mr Mansley says a fixed-rate deal might help them budget more easily, and picks out a two-year fix from Nationwide building society at 4.44 per cent. "This does have a £599 arrangement fee, but it could be added to the loan."

Simon could also consider raising additional finance when he remortgages, adds Mr Mansley, to help with his personal loans.

"These are being repaid at a higher rate than would be the case if they were consolidated with the remortgage. And spreading the cost over a longer term will free up income for the expected increase in his training expenses."

However, adding his debts to his mortgage will work out more expensive in the end, as interest will be charged on the higher mortgage amount for longer.


For a competitive skier, having no insurance in the event of injury or illness is unwise, says Mr Mansley.

While Simon may struggle to get any critical illness cover or income protection from a mainstream insurer, he should investigate any special arrangements offered by professional ski associations, he stresses.

Ms Davidson adds that Simon should check whether there is any death-in-service benefit offered by his employer.


Ms Davidson also urges Simon to see if Standard Life has a pension scheme, so he doesn't miss out on employer contributions.

Even if he were to save £100 a month into a pension between now and the age of 65, his pension income might be only £6,000 a year in today's terms, warns Mr Modray. "But he should start saving for retirement as soon as he can."

If you would like a makeover, write to Sam Dunn at The Independent on Sunday, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email s.dunn@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

    £450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

    Project Manager - Pensions

    £32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

    KYC Analyst, Birmingham - £200-£250 p/d

    £200 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: KYC Analyst, Key Banking Client, Bi...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone