Subscribe

Why children's sports are a waste of money

The economics of children's sports have turned into a financial burden for many families, writes Anthony Isola. Parents should focus on more sustainable financial goals, like saving money to send their children to college.

  • close
    Girls on the Hickory Christian High school soccer team scrimmage to warm up before a game against Carmel Christian High in Hickory, North Carolina. Between pricey uniforms and equipment, children’s sports are denting the finances of many parents.
    Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Children’s sports are denting the finances of many parents.

A recent Wall Street article titled “Why Children Are Abandoning Baseball” pointed out that participation in youth sports leagues, especially baseball, has declined dramatically since 2000. The article, written by Brian Costa, cited a “pervasive emphasis on performance over mere fun and exercise” as a big reason for the drop.

I’ve also noticed that heavy travel schedules and pricey uniforms, equipment and extras — even sports trainers — are becoming increasingly common. That’s digging into family savings.

Recommended: Turn your kids into super-savers: six tips for parents

Why are some parents jeopardizing their finances while the main goals of sports programs are also being diminished? The answer can be found in an aspect of behavioral economics: exclusivity.

Many people believe (incorrectly) that they are getting more from their investments if those investments are “exclusive” — basically, not available to the masses. Hedge funds that require high minimums and charge high fees are often sought after because bragging rights at cocktail parties are more valued by some investors that solid returns.

This illusion of exclusivity is at play in children’s sports as well. Intramural town leagues are brushed aside for more expensive travel teams. Often these teams are based less on talent than on who can write a check to pay for them. Financial means trumps athletic skill and motivation.

To keep their kids on these teams, families hire high-priced trainers. Specialized coaching in running, batting, endurance and other facets of the game becomes necessary to make the grade. Some of these costs approach $100 an hour. This, of course, rules out many young players whose parents cannot afford such amenities.

What is the goal here? Why do some families endure months of stress, disrupted family time and exorbitant costs?

For many parents, the goal is to help their child win a college scholarship to defray the cost of higher education. But to me, the logic of spending thousands of dollars a year with a low probability of securing such a scholarship is baffling. Too many parents are choosing their own sports version of a hedge fund.

This is yet another example of the dearth of financial responsibility in this country. Many Americans have saved very little for retirement. The average 401(k) balance for people ages 55 to 64 is $104,000, according to the Federal Reserve. Combined student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion.

If parents decided to forgo the frills and excess of these extravagant sports leagues, they could focus on their college-financing goals in more achievable way.

For example, they could consider starting a 529 plan. Saving $3,000 a year in a 529 plan for 18 years at a conservative rate of return of 7% can yield huge results. More than $105,000 in tax-free dollars could be available for tuition under this disciplined plan.

Keep in mind that 529 plans have advantages and disadvantages, so do your homework. For more information about the different 529 options, check out NerdWallet’s Best 529 Plans by State.

There are also many scholarships available for students with strong academic records and special interests — no athletic skills required.

While these options may not be as much fun as dreaming of college glory and a professional sports career, the probability of success is markedly higher.

Maybe the kids are right. Many of them are dropping out of sports leagues because they want a balanced life. They don’t want trainers or overbearing parents with misguided ideas on how to get them into a good college.

Imagine a world with funded retirement accounts and families not having to arrange their Mother’s Day schedule around a lacrosse tournament.

Maybe it is time to put our egos aside and focus on what is really important. A balanced family life, a college funding plan and a secure retirement would be excellent goals for all of us.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK