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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
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

    SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

    £18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

    £50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?