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How to 'ace' your finances: What I’ve learnt about money from tennis

Tennis champion and Paralympian

2022-01-11 00:00

Estimated reading time
5 min

In this article

  • Five tips for success in money management
  • How to apply the rules of tennis to your savings goals
  • Take the first step and get your Financial Wellbeing Score

Tennis champion, Paralympian and all-round nice guy, Dylan Alcott, explains how applying the rules of tennis to money management can help you ace your savings goals.

When you hear the word ‘tennis’, a racquet and a court spring to mind, right? But what about managing your money? Ok, that’s probably not what you immediately think of, but hear me out - there are some huge similarities between playing tennis and getting on top of your money.

Since working with ANZ over the last few years I’ve definitely become more aware of my finances. I did the Financial Wellbeing Program and it’s made me realise that the key parts of succeeding in tennis – commitment, discipline, and energy – are really what you need to hit those saving goals.

To help you smash yours, I’ve put together my five tips for success in tennis that can be applied to your money management off the court.

1. The importance of a plan

In tennis, you always want to put yourself in the best possible position to win each point. I think about my strengths and how I can use them. Before this though, I’ve worked out an overall game plan for the match. And it’s no different with winning with your money – one of the most important components to long-term success is to make sure you have a plan you can stick to.

I’ll happily admit that I never used to plan my finances. In fact, I had no idea what I was doing! I’m still no expert, but I’ve tried to get better at it, which is all you can ask of yourself. Every day try to learn a bit more and try a bit harder. You might not see the results immediately, but over time you’ll improve.

Your plan might be deciding to transfer a third of your pay each month into your savings account or setting a food delivery budget so that you don’t blow your money on takeaway every night of the week.

That said, just as in tennis, you sometimes have to make adjustments to what’s happening around you because plans can go out the window. On the court, this might be responding to an opponent’s drop shot. In life, it’s having to pay for a flat tyre. So, preparing for the unexpected should be a part of your game plan.

2. Guard yourself against ‘unforced errors’

If you’ve ever watched a tennis match (and if you haven’t, what are you doing in January?) you might be familiar with the term ‘unforced error’. It’s basically when a player hits the ball into the net or beyond the baseline or sidelines. Unforced errors suck when they happen, and they can happen consecutively too. Embracing them is important though, because the more you berate yourself, the more likely it is that it’ll happen again.

In life we are all at risk of making unforced errors. In my experience, the game is won or lost more often by controlling unforced errors than it is by delivering winning shots.

So, when it comes to money, controlling what you can control is the key to success. If you know you can’t really afford those new sneakers or that brand new phone – or if splurging is going to make you miss a payment on an important bill – then perhaps you need to rethink your spending? I know I’ve had to rein it in in the past!

3. Play doubles if you can

Playing tennis is a team effort. Even when I’m playing singles, I have a huge team around me and without them I wouldn’t win anything at all. When I’m playing doubles matches with Heath Davidson, we bounce off each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses. Talking openly with your mates and teaming up to understand those tricky life moments or share advice can be extremely valuable.

If you have a significant other in life, (hello Chantelle!) then it makes sense to work together when it comes to your money goals. Have an open conversation, even if it’s super awkward like the one I had with Chantelle. It turned out to be the best thing we did and has made our relationship stronger now that we are on the same page.

Obviously, every couple is different and each person within a relationship has a different approach to money, so you should work out what works for you. That might be pooling all your income and combining your saving goals and budgets or keeping your savings and day-to-day accounts separate and coming together on household spending for bills and rent or mortgage.

4. Don’t dwell on the past

If I’m playing and I miss a big shot, I try to move forward and stop myself from thinking about it five points later. And believe me I’ve made many mistakes on and off the court. But I've actually learned the biggest lessons about my tennis in the losses and not the wins. It’s much better to bank the knowledge from the mistake and get stuck into the next play even stronger.

Similarly, when getting your money plan in place, the only thing you should take from the past is a lesson. Whether you were overdrawn, missed a payment or even were able to bank a little bit extra last month, make note of what happened and how you can improve next time.

5. Game, set, match!

“Game, set, match!” is the phrase used in tennis when the final point of a match has been played and there’s a winner declared. The phrase can help your mindset when it comes to acing those savings goals too – from getting all of your plans in place (game!), doing the hard yards of saving (set!) and enjoying that winning feeling when you hit your goal (match!). You need to celebrate the wins but also get straight back into it and keep looking forward. 

How to 'ace' your finances: What I’ve learnt about money from tennis
Dylan Alcott
Tennis champion and Paralympian

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The information set out above is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information, you should consider whether the information is appropriate for you having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. By providing this information ANZ does not intend to provide any financial advice or other advice or recommendations. You should seek independent financial, legal, tax and other relevant advice having regard to your particular circumstances.