Financial literacy

Why Danielle Collins has become a strong advocate for financial literacy

Danielle Collins graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016 with a degree in media studies. But what she really needed as she embarked on a career in professional tennis was a better understanding of money.

“I graduated from one of the best schools in the country,” she said earlier this year at the Miami Open, “but not every program prepares you to be the most knowledgeable person on the financial plan When I got out of school, I didn’t really know how it all worked – I still don’t.

“One of the unique things about being a professional athlete is that you have this opportunity to make a lot of money at a very young age, and when you’re younger you don’t always know how to deal with that. Sadly, we all know professional athletes who have been taken advantage of, we’ve heard horror stories.

Collins, a 28-year-old American, grew up in a lower-middle-class family, where her parents always prioritized savings. In fact, her 82-year-old father Walter runs a landscaping business where he still mows lawns and cuts trees every day in the Florida heat. The two-time NCAA singles champion wanted to build on that work ethic and go the extra mile. With a little help, she did. Today, she is a Top 10 and a strong advocate for financial literacy.

We mean business

It can be a lucrative profession. The $179,940 Collins took home for reaching the quarter-finals in Miami pushed her over the $5 million career earnings mark. But compared to many jobs, the pay window is extremely narrow; many players retire in their mid-thirties.

“That’s why it’s so important to educate yourself and put yourself in a position where you’re working with professionals who can guide you,” Collins said. “For many people, finances can be a scary subject. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to not be afraid to ask for help, to get a second opinion, to try to educate yourself as best you can in order to become the most resourceful.

“And I was really lucky. I’ve had amazing mentors outside of tennis who have been able to help guide me, put me in a position where I can be financially free.

After reaching the final of this year’s Australian Open, Collins joined winner Ashleigh Barty on stage and then thanked Barty, along with the tournament director, ball boys, volunteers, physios and his tennis team. But when she came to see Marty Schneider, her financial mentor, Collins became emotional.

“I wouldn’t be here without your support,” she said, looking at Schneider in the crowd. “Thank you for believing in me.”

It was a sincere thank you, and Collins went even further. When Schneider called to discuss Collins, he held up the engraved silver plaque she received for competing in the final.

“I won’t take credit for giving him that instinct — which comes from his upbringing,” Schneider said from his office in New York. “I’ll take credit for being very clear that, especially in tennis, the first time you get a paycheck, you should put some money aside. It’s as simple as that .

“Danielle was up for it. She understands that tennis is a finite period. While you are doing this, you should literally set aside as much as the government allows. And she owns that.

They met at the Connecticut Open three months after graduating, and Schneider agreed to help Collins gain a foothold in professional play. Schneider, who said he had “been extraordinarily lucky in the resource column”, is a philanthropist who works with a handful of players, offering financial aid, hiring coaches and the like. In retrospect, his advice was at least as valuable as his financial support. .

One of the first things Collins did as a professional was create a 401k retirement fund.

“One of the main goals for me, and it would be a great transition to inspire people to save money and build for the future, is to create a 401k at an early age,” Collins said. “It’s really important because a lot of people don’t start doing this until they’re in their 30s and 40s and then you don’t give yourself enough time to really grow that money.

“The sooner you can start your 401k, even if you slowly start investing money every month, 5%, 10% of every paycheck, that really has a huge impact down the road. You want your money to work for you.

After her first major touring tour, Collins had enough to put down a down payment on her first home, a two-bedroom condo near the water in Tampa. It wasn’t fancy, she said, but it was a lot more cost-effective than paying rent. It’s not just a place she calls home, it’s an asset that can be enjoyed.

“She’s driven by financial independence,” Schneider said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, I play the sport I love and I get paid for it.’ These things go together. It’s a job. I told him never to hesitate to make money.

Spending it, however, is not easy for fiscal conservative Collins. She admits the occasional spasm of “retail therapy,” maybe a goose-down jacket or even a couch. Yes, after taking home nearly $1.2 million for reaching the final in Melbourne, Collins splurged and bought a new couch.

“When you have four dogs, you have to buy a new couch every two years,” Collins said. “It’s white, with a special fabric that goes in the washing machine.”

Scout, a Boxer/Jack Russell Terrier, Harper (German Shepherd), Lola (Boxer/Pug/Bulldog/Beagle) and Quincy (Labradoodle) are all rescue dogs and, based on the myriad photos Collins has shared from his phone, they are a nice group.

The balance of this big Australian salary? Most of it went straight into his investment portfolio. Collins referenced Barty during a pre-tournament press conference in Miami, noting his ability to retire at the age of 25 (after winning nearly $24 million in prize money), talked about professional tennis opportunities.

“I think this sport empowers us in a way that is financially unique to other sports,” Collins said. “We are the highest paid women’s sport in the world. I think everything else that we work hard for every day, what we’re able to achieve on the court, that leads to so many great things later down the road.

“Just to see someone retire at 25 is incredible. It’s something that really needs to be celebrated and recognized.

The same goes for Collins paying for Schneider’s support. She mentors young players in the Tampa area and is also active with the Save the Children Fund.

At the Miami Open, Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law SB 1054, making the state the largest to require a financial literacy course for high school graduation.

“Which,” Collins said, “I think that’s really cool. Primarily, secondary education usually doesn’t include a curriculum that includes that specific subject. And so I think that’s going to be really great for a lot of people. children to educate themselves early. I would have benefited so much from taking a course like this.

“Even if you take courses in economics or finance, you don’t learn about money management, how to manage debt, how to pay off debt, how to save and to invest money. This is why education is essential.

Following a viral illness that put her out of action for a month, she performed with a chronically sore neck in Miami. At this point, Collins is about to make another investment in herself.

“I can’t wait to have a full-time physical therapist on the road with me,” she said with a smile. “I think it will make a very big difference in my career. I’m counting the days.