Financing the Olympic Dream

Is anyone else out there a super-fan of the Olympics? Ordinarily, I don’t spend a lot of time watching sports. When the Olympics start, however, I’m glued to the tv for two weeks. I’ll watch anything and everything. I’ve been like this since I was a kid and my friends and I would make our own flags and medals to create our own Olympic Games.

Training to be an elite athlete is a full-time job. There are multiple training sessions a day, strength training sessions, physical therapy sessions, and time spent focusing on rest and nutrition. Yet, none of those activities make the athlete any money. Actually, every single one of those people helping the athlete needs to get paid. So, how do they pay them along with all of the real-world expenses like rent, gas, and phone?

Countries like Russia and China are known for providing strong government support for Olympic athletes. The United States, however, is one of only three countries in which the government provides no financial support at all for the development of Olympic athletes. Olympic hopefuls in the United States have to depend on corporate sponsorships and appearances. While corporate sponsorships for equipment are not difficult for elite athletes, they compete against professional sports leagues and athletes for corporate sponsorship dollars. As a result, most Olympic athletes in the United States can’t depend on paying their bills with sponsorship funds. Adam Rippon’s story about stealing apples from the gym has gone viral.

Sure, we can come up with names like Lindsey Vonn (net worth around $6 million), Shaun White (net worth around $40 million), and Michael Phelps (net worth around $55 million). They, however, are the outliers even among Olympic athletes. Many depend upon support from their parents and university athletic programs. Other Olympians have a side hustle. Speed Skater Derek Parra worked at Home Depot, and Pete Fenson (curling) runs a pizzeria. Olympians have been known to have side hustles as teachers, janitors, coaches, freelancers, waiters and waitresses, and even attorneys and accountants.

Training expenses alone can easily total $100,000 per year. So, that’s tough on athletes being supported by their families and those trying to make it on their own. It’s no surprise that some Olympic athletes even resort to crowdsourcing to fund their Olympic dream. Keep all of that in mind while you enjoy the athleticism and artistry of the Olympics. Appreciate not only the physical and emotional struggles it took for them to get to this one moment but also the financial struggles they have overcome as well.

My Four Favorite Budgeting Apps (and they are free!)

four favorite budgeting apps


As a finance professor, people ask me a lot of questions. One of the most common questions is about ways to make budgeting easier or if “there is an app for that.” There are two difficult parts to the budgeting process. The first part is sitting down to actually make a budget. The second part is knowing where you are in your budget and sticking to it. For me, this is by far the more challenging task because it takes time to record your expenses. I’m always looking for an app to help make my life more efficient, so I have actually tried a lot of budgeting apps over the years. Today I’ve decided to share four of my current favorites.


mint money budget app
Mint: Money Manager, Budget, and Personal Finance is a free app that provides a complete money management toolbox for users. You can connect all of your bank, credit card, and investment apps to your personal Mint account and let the app do the rest. Mint will keep track of your spending and income and even make suggestions for how you can improve your budget. If you want an app that will literally track and do everything for you, Mint is the way to go. Personally, I don’t want to use this app for security reasons. I don’t like the idea of tying all of my financial accounts into this one place. If you don’t mind, however, you won’t find anything better than this.


daily budget original money budget app
Daily Budget Original is a free app that provides you will a daily budget after you enter your monthly income and fixed expenses. Since it does not connect to your bank account, there is some work on your part. Each time you make a purchase, you’ll need to enter that into the app so that it can deduct that dollar amount from your daily allowance. However, the app is simple and easy to use.


mvelopes money budgeting app
Mvelopes is a nice, free app if you are fond of the envelope method of budgeting. You can set up the categories, or envelopes, of your monthly expenses as needed. These are fully customizable, so you can have just a few, broad categories or envelopes for individual expenses like cable, coffee, cell phone, gym membership, etc. Mvelopes will also connect to all of your financial accounts (like Mint) and automatically deduct your expenses. Again, this has the benefit of taking the work out of the equation for you, but be careful about keeping your accounts and identity secured.


wellspent money budgeting app
WellSpent is another free app also based on the envelope method of budgeting. Unlike Mvelopes, however, WellSpent does not connect to any of your financial accounts. So, you’ll have to be diligent about entering all of your daily expenses. Once you get into a habit of entering expenses as you go or at a certain time of the day (take a minute to do it while eating lunch or at the end of each day), you’ll find this is an incredibly useful budgeting app. You have the flexibility to add as many envelope categories as you want and track your spending in each category in real-time.

Do you use an app for budgeting? If so, do you use one of these or something else? If you do not use a budgeting app, which of these sounds the best to you?

christmas gift budgeting

The Gift of Not Gifting

christmas gift budgeting

Christmas is the season of giving, but sometimes giving can become a burden on our wallets. Unfortunately, the burden of giving turns into stress for far too many people. This can be even worse when you have a large family. Growing up, I had a total of seven siblings in my family after both parents remarried. That is a lot of kids and a lot of family gifts! I can only imagine how it would be if we were all still buying gifts for each other and our children. If you are feeling emotionally and financially stressed by your gift list, it might be time to re-think your gifting and suggest a change to the rest of your family for next year.


There are a few ways that families choose to handle the gifting burden. One option is to give to everyone but limit the dollar amount you can spend. Another is to have a sort of Secret Santa where you pick a name from a hat and only buy gifts for that person. Both of these are great ideas that can reduce the financial stress of family Christmas gifts. Plus, everyone still has a gift to put under the tree and open during your celebration.


My problem with this is that it is still a waste of money for everyone involved. How many times have you ever received a really fantastic gift that you loved from one of these gift arrangements? I can tell you that my answer is one time. Yes, one time I received a gift that I actually liked and used. Every other time? Well, there are gloves, hats, scarves, slippers, socks, and jewelry that I never wore and only end up throwing out or giving away. I am literally throwing someone’s money away, and I hate that. Chances are that no matter how much I try to find the right gift, my family members are doing the same thing with my gift to them. Let’s stop the madness this year!


Consider the gift of not gifting next year. What is that? You and your family members decide that you are not buying each other any gifts next year. (Note: I think this really applies best for adult family members. Kids still like to get gifts, and it is part of the holiday magic.) Everyone saves the money and stress of buying Christmas gifts. Take the money you would have spent and buy a nice gift for yourself instead. Use the money to pay down some debt or build your children’s college savings accounts. Donate the money to a favorite charity in your family’s honor. There are so many better ways to give by not gifting at all next Christmas.


What’s the worst gift you ever received from a family member?