Matt Grevers knows his time to make big money as a swimmer is limited, and slipping away.
Grevers, the six-time Olympic medalist swimmer from Lake Forest, Ill. currently living in Tucson, sees one more Olympics in his future, in 2016 in Brazil. After that, he will jump out of the pool of competitive swimming and go into the competitive field of teaching the sport of swimming.
Between now and then, he is trying to maximize his income while handling his finances with his new wife, swimmer Annie Chandler Grevers, in preparation for the day when he hangs up his goggles and puts on a whistle.
In order to make financial sense of his special first career, Grevers and his wife incorporated.
“I incorporated myself, started Grevers Inc.,’’ Grevers said in an interview at the Spectrem Group office in Lake Forest. “My wife is COO and I am CEO. We hold meetings once a week. It is a way for us to save our money.”
Grevers noted that his biggest pay days come during the Olympics, when he is paid bonus money from his sponsors for winning medals (from some sponsors, it is a six-figure bonus). It is in that single year that he is in the highest tax bracket; otherwise he is in a lower tax bracket. Incorporating allows him to pay himself a salary ($80,000 a year) so that his tax bracket is set.
The U.S. Olympic Committee pays its swimmers a medal bonus as well, $25,000 for individual gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. Relay bonuses are smaller, and when the U.S. 4X100 meter medley relay team was disqualified from the FINA World Championships in August for an early start on an exchange, it cost Grevers $15,000.
Grevers did win the individual 100-meter backstroke and finished second in the 50-meter backstroke in that competition.
While some countries do not offer athletes medal bonuses, some countries go beyond the U.S. amounts. Russia leads the pack, paying approximately $135,000 for a gold medal.
Grevers won gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics as a member of the 4X100 meter freestyle and the 4X100 meter medley relay team, and a silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke. In 2012 in London, Grevers won a goal medal in the 100-meter backstroke. He also won a gold again with the 4X100 meter medley relay team and a silver in the 4X100 meter freestyle relay team.
He can still make money swimming in between Olympics. There is a Grand Prix circuit of events in the United States, but the prize money is small. There is also a World Cup circuit in Europe, which operates in stages, with prize money ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the stage.
“But it is a gamble, a risk,’’ Grevers said. “I like the guaranteed money.”
So Grevers spends part of his year working in swim clinics around the United States for Mutual of Omaha and Fitter and Faster, which both operate swim tours and teaching events year-round. It is the beginning of Grevers’ stated goal of becoming a swim coach when his competitive days are over.
The Grevers are investing their money in the safest possible way, according to Matt. They own two homes in Tucson, one for themselves which they bought with cash and one that is being used as a rental property.
“That one is substantially paid off,’’ Grevers said. “We are making money over the mortgage. It is hard for us to get a loan. It’s tough to explain my job and income, and that is a big factor. It’s scary, because it is an investment, and all of your money is in there. But our cost of living month-to-month is pretty low.”
For the 2012 Summer Olympics, Grevers had endorsement contracts with FINA, Tyr (swimwear and goggle makers), Chobani yogurt, and Adjustable Platform Shoes. But those contracts get renewed every Olympic cycle, and he said that it is hard to explain in terms of income when it comes time to talk to mortgage lenders as well as in discussions with his own financial advisors.
In order to take the greatest advantage possible from his current financial opportunities, Grevers’ accountant has set him up with a SEP IRA, and they have made the maximum allowable contribution to that.
“We are able to do that now,’’ Grevers said. “We are putting money away for the business we hope to start three or four years from now.”
The business he hopes to start is a swimming school, where he could use his personal knowledge about swimming as well as his love of teaching kids how to swim.
“We are creating a business plan to show investors and banks,’’ he said. “We are gathering all of our business information now while I am still swimming. After the Olympics in 2016, we still start the business soon thereafter.”
The plan is to open the swim school in either Tucson or San Antonio, where there are fewer swim schools than in Chicago, where he learned to swim.
“I love giving lessons, teaching clinics,’’ Grevers said. “I love the idea of getting kids jacked up to swim, or to get excited in sports in general. I don’t just preach swimming. Anything to help with childhood obesity. It’s good to get out there and interact with the kids.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.