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Budgeting Lessons From Fantasy Football

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$465. That’s how much I paid to play in 3 fantasy football leagues this season. At this point, I’m fortunate to have all three teams in the playoffs competing for a total winning of $4340. Not a bad return, right? For me, fantasy football is all fun and games until the playoff runs begin. At that point it turns into something entirely different – an investment. This past weekend, as I was looking back on the season, I perceived three concepts winning teams possessed. Forecasting, risk, and management. Inevitably, next came the question.

Who Benefits?

For the sake of this article, I will use football as the primary fantasy sport but the lessons can be drawn from any of the myriad of fantasy sports out there. First off, the numbers. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (yes, they actually exist) estimates that as of 2014, there are more than “41 million people playing fantasy sports in the USA and Canada.” The average demographic is as follows:

  • 80% Male
  • 8% Caucasian
  • 5% Not Married
  • Average Age: 34
  • College Degree or More: 78.1%
  • Years in Fantasy Sports: 9.51
  • Hours Consuming Sports per week: 17.89
  • Hours Consuming Fantasy Sports per week: 8.67
  • Favorite Fantasy Sport: Football (69.4%)
  • Fantasy Sports Players that Pay League Fee: 46.9%*

This is all pretty impressive; however, what’s more important is that based on the demographics, there are roughly 32.8 million males and 7.2 million females who can translate the following lessons from their hobby into positive gains on their wallet. That’s what we in the business call a win-win. Moving forward, let’s put the lessons out there and get you on your way to increasing the cash in your wallet.

Lesson 1: Forecasting

A lot of talk goes on before drafts and during the season about what specific players are going to do. It is all speculation; however, a significant amount of number crunching goes into developing those projections and I’d venture to say that most people abide by them when in doubt.

Your job as an owner before the draft is to not get the single best player at one position. Rather, it is to have the most complete team at each position. When you search for players and positions and evaluate this in the context of rounds, you are forecasting the “big picture” of what your team is going to look like.

So, how do you apply forecasting to your budget? Instead of looking at players and rounds, take a look at a calendar and treat it as a “round.” In this sense, each round is a month of the year. You can make an educated guess as to what players will be drafted in the first round just like you can make an educated guess as to what expenses you may have in two months. If you know that your family or significant other has vacation time in a certain month where you are likely to join them, plan for that just as you would taking a specific player in a given round. The primary function of forecasting is to have an idea of what your big-picture expenses will be.

One note to remember – just as the pre-draft projections on players are speculation, so is financial forecasting. There will always be expenses that you are not prepared for, but this is precisely why forecasting so important. If you are already planning on budgeting for certain expenses, then you can avoid the coup de grâce by being in a stronger position financially to take on the unforeseen.

Lesson 2: Risk

If you are one of those owners who goes to the depths of the dark web to peer through various rankings, checking twitter and a team’s webpage to follow some backup’s sore hamstring progress, this will resonate with you. Every week, projections are given on each player in order to make it more simple for the average owner to determine who is the best start in each position. Every week, players score all sorts of numbers in spite of their projections. Sometimes your research plays out as expected and sometimes it doesn’t. This is the essence of risk.

Where risk pertains to your personal budget, you have much less room for error than in fantasy sports. For one, a series of miscalculations only cost you a few wins or maybe even your season. Never fear, there’s always next year. With your budget, blown risk can result in consequences you’re left dealing with for years. The key is to hedge risk.

When budgeting, everything you are planning on putting your money towards has range of benefit. Just like players on your roster, sometime your benefit is greater than you project and sometimes it is less. The key is to do your research on what you are buying and know what type of value you can expect from it. In football, some players who are never owned have a one or two breakout weeks in a season. Following one of those weeks, their projections increase above what their actual value is. Assets and products are no different. The rule here is to avoid fads and pop-culture buys and ensure that what you are buying is going to bring steady value over the long haul. Do your research, know what you’re paying for, and know competing products and you’re well on your way to managing the risk in your budget.

Lesson 3: Management

The final lesson, and most important one of all, is management. Anyone who plays fantasy sports has a story about an owner in a league who checked out after a few weeks. I’ve always referred to them as DBO’s or deadbeat owners. These owners don’t try to improve their teams, usually finishing the season with the exact same players they drafted (fantasy advice – if you do this, get active!) and a steady string of losses. Consider this question, how often have you seen one of those owners make the playoffs. If you have, find me on twitter (@realjohngainer) and let me know so I can officially quit fantasy sports entirely.

Just like your fantasy teams, your budget is no different. You can spend hours upon hours collecting data, tracking spending and income, and plugging in numbers on Excel but if you don’t stay on top of it, it’s worthless.

The advantage to managing your budget over managing your fantasy football team is that you actually have much more control over the outcome of how your budget performs. As the executor of your money, the final decisions all rest with you. In essence, you don’t have to lose a dime that you do not choose to. If you are proactive about knowing where you are within your budget and you’re consistently monitoring in, a solid financial foundation is not far away. Bottom line, don’t be a deadbeat budget maker.

Hopefully, you can utilize these lessons while continuing to innovate in your own way to extrapolate methods from your hobbies that can also help you financially. Money can bring about a unique type of stresses that most of us would not wish on our worst enemies. For this reason, finding deeper analogies in the things you enjoy will never cease to benefit you. For the basics, think about fantasy sports and focus on these 3 simple lessons – forecasting, risk, and management. Best wishes in life, finance, and fantasy.

* taken from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association website. Full disclosure – I do not, nor have ever, worked or provided any service to the FTSA. Available at: www.fsta.org

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About John Gainer ohn works in finance and has experience in both the private and public sectors. He has a BBA in Business Management from Abilene Christian University as well as an MPA with a focus in International Relations from Texas State University in San Marcos. In his free time, he enjoys golfing, traveling, reading, and spending time with his mini pig Zoë. You can follow him on twitter at @realjohngainer or feel free to email him with questions or comments.

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