10 financial planning lessons you can learn from the Ashes

Category: News & United Kingdom

The latest instalment of one of the longest-running international sporting contests – the Ashes – kicks off at the Gabba in Brisbane on 8 December 2021.

When Australia and England meet on the cricket field, you’re never too far from sporting tension and excitement.

With offices in both countries, we’re remaining officially neutral, but our geographic duality does mean that we’re well-placed to give you a unique financial planning angle on the event.

So, here are 10 financial planning lessons you can learn from the Ashes.

1. Make sure you have a plan

Possibly the most notorious of all Ashes series was the 1932/33 “Bodyline” tour.

The England captain, Douglas Jardine, arrived in Australia with a set plan on how he was going to stop Australian batting genius, Don Bradman, and regain the Ashes. In the face of opposition from the media, some of his own players, and the English cricketing authorities (plus a near riot in Adelaide), he stuck to it and was successful in his quest.

Decades later, Allan Border’s 1989 team to England adhered so effectively to their plan that they only used 12 players in the six Tests. England, in contrast, got through 29. The result was one of the most one-sided Ashes series in living memory.

When it comes to your financial future, having a plan gives you focus and helps you stay on track. You can start with a simple outline and then develop your plan as you move forward.

2. Change your plan if your circumstances change

From his first ball in Ashes cricket – “the ball of the century” – Shane Warne cast a spell over English batters that was never really shaken off. But a shoulder injury meant that he missed most of the 1998/99 series in Australia.

This forced Australia to resort to “Plan B”. Replacement leg-spinner, Stuart MacGill, stepped in and took 27 English wickets to top the bowling averages. Australia won the series three Tests to one.

It’s likely that your circumstances will change once you’ve got your plan in place. If the change is impactful – maybe an inheritance or divorce – then your plans should change to reflect this.

3. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers

When the 1986/87 England tourists arrived in Australia, they were met with newspaper reports telling them that they “can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field” – and that was written by an English journalist who’d flown out with them!

Suitably motivated, England won the series by two Tests to one.

Two years later, another English reporter told his readers that Allan Border’s aforementioned Australian team were “possibly one of the worst sides to ever tour England”. They won the ensuing series convincingly.

Both squads took no notice of what was written about them – or used it as motivation. In the same way, try to avoid giving credence to investment tips you read in the media. A successful investment strategy will involve long-term growth from a spread of funds rather than chasing gains from a single stock.

4. Be prepared for the unexpected

We’ve already referred to the “ball of the century”, but it’s always worth revisiting.

Mike Gatting was considered to be one of England’s best players of spin bowling but was unprepared for the delivery from Shane Warne that pitched outside leg stump and turned enough to hit the top of the off stump.

Have an emergency fund set up that you can use to meet your financial costs in the event of an unexpected emergency. It won’t help you stop a Shane Warne leg-break, but it will give you peace of mind and help you cope with a sudden financial shock.

5. Have an idea of when you want to retire and work towards that date

Both Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath made it clear at the start of the 2006/07 Ashes series that, for both of them, it would probably be their last.

Their timing was perfect. Having regained the Ashes in the third Test at the WACA in Perth, Warne took his, then record, 700th test wicket at his beloved MCG in the fourth Test.

McGrath then took six wickets at his home ground in Sydney. Both then retired with the Ashes regained.

Your plans may change but having an idea of when you want to stop work and start enjoying your retirement can give you focus and help your planning process.

6. Remember that diversity can be your friend

All successful batting sides have had a mix of batting styles in their top order.

Kevin Pietersen was considered to be the big attacking threat in the England team of 2010/11. But it was the more solid Alistair Cook – very much the “yin” to Pietersen’s “yang” – who led the England run scorers with more than 700 runs at an average of 127.

England won the series – their only series victory in Australia since the 1980s.

You should try to maintain a mix of investments and avoid putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to building an investment portfolio.

Market sectors will fall and rise at different times, so by spreading your investments you can potentially benefit from consistent growth opportunity rather than being exposed to the fluctuation in a single market.

7. Keep in control

The 1974/75 Ashes series in Australia is rightly remembered for Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson terrorising England’s batters and driving their side to a convincing series win.

But both of them have acknowledged the debt they owed to the other Australian bowlers – Ashley Mallett and Max Walker, in particular – for exercising control and keeping England in check while they were resting between spells of bowling hostility.

Always keep control of your finances and a level head when it comes to investment choice. It’s easy to get carried away in a period of investment growth and to panic when there is a sudden downturn.

The nature of investment markets means that fluctuation is inevitable, but you should always think about the long-term rather than short-term performance.

8. Get expert advice

England were bottom of the Test rankings and had been booed by their own fans when Duncan Fletcher was appointed their coach in 1999.

Within six years his tactical nous and ability to wind-up opposing captains had won England back the Ashes for the first time in 18 years.

It always pays to get specialist advice and guidance when it comes to your finances. A financial planner will be able to assist you with all the steps we have outlined here, and help you put a detailed plan together to ensure you make the most of your savings and enjoy the retirement you have planned.

9. Avoid costly mistakes

Winning the toss and asking the opposition to bat first probably seemed a good idea to Nasser Hussain at Brisbane in 2002. Likewise, Ricky Ponting’s similar decision at Edgbaston in 2005. In both cases, the decision was costly and resulted in defeat.

Both Hussain and Ponting have subsequently admitted that they should have made a different decision and listened more to the advice of people suggesting an alternative course of action.

Although they won’t be based on the toss of a coin, many financial mistakes are avoidable with careful planning. It’s always worth getting professional advice for anything you’re not totally sure about as most mistakes are irrevocable and can leave you facing an unwelcome tax bill.

10. Think about succession planning

The Australian captaincy torch passed from Allan Border to Mark Taylor to Steve Waugh throughout the 1990s. They all skippered Australia to Ashes victories, both home and abroad.

In each case, other names were suggested but the succession, inevitable in retrospect, was the result of continual planning by Cricket Australia.

Take steps to manage your succession by ensuring your family will be comfortable in the event of your death. Make sure you’ve got a will in place and keep it up to date. Also consider how your assets can pass as smoothly as possible to your heirs. 

Get in touch

We’re big cricket fans and will be watching the Ashes series with keen interest.

We have a wealth of experience in helping clients with their financial planning. Get in touch if you need any support or advice regarding any of the issues you’ve read here.