In 2019, just under 1,000,000 people switched their current accounts. At face value, this sounds encouragingly high. But, as I sit down to write this blog – almost 7,500,000 people have signed up to play this season’s Fantasy Premier League. These numbers seem to suggest that – worryingly – people are more interested in Mohammed Salah’s goal-scoring feats than their finances. So here’s what fantasy football can teach us about financial capability.

It’s not all bad news. It turns out you can apply the skills that make a successful fantasy football player to your finances. In this article, we’re going to break down three of these similarities, and by the end hopefully, you’ll feel more confident when building your financial dream team. By training our skills in the world of fantasy football, hopefully, we can be match fit when it comes to personal finances.

Knowing the Score

The question you probably have in your mind right now is “why is there so much more active engagement with fantasy football than personal finance if the skills involved are so similar?” That’s a very sensible question. The answer is simply a matter of knowing the score. Even the most committed football-hater would understand that scoring goals is good and getting red cards is bad. The same isn’t true for finance – the FCA’s 2017 Financial Lives Study found that only 37% of people feel confident in their understanding of money. The vast majority of the population would find it easy to choose between a free-scoring striker and an injury-prone goalkeeper. However, most people wouldn’t be as comfortable choosing between two financial options. That’s because they just wouldn’t understand what they were comparing.

What’s the Goal?

The basic premise of fantasy football is simple. You have a limited budget and a choice of different players and positions from which to pick your team. Your objective is to build a team which will generate the best overall points return. It’s no good having the three best players in the league if the rest of your team is useless because you had nothing left to spend. Now, how about personal finance? You have a limited budget (your savings/wages) and a choice of different financial products (savings accounts, investments, bonds etc.). Your objective is to select a combination of products that will give you the best overall return (i.e. a nice healthy retirement pot). It’s no good having one investment that triples in value if the gains are offset by other investments that perform poorly. 

The two things are pretty much identical. The only difference is that you almost certainly understand the difference between 20 goals and ten goals, but you might not know when a 0.1% interest rate is better for you than 0.5%. So, if the overall premise is the same, let’s have a look at some popular fantasy football tips and see how we can apply them to financial capability.

Split your budget evenly: Training

According to fantasyfootballscout.co.uk, one of the best tips for a successful fantasy football season is splitting your budget across all your positions. It’s true that forwards score the most goals and tend to get the most points. Therefore, it can be tempting to blow your entire budget on a lethal front three. However, scoring goals isn’t the only way to earn points. Harry Kane scoring gets you the same amount of points as a Lewis Dunk clean sheet, and Dunk costs less than half as much as the England captain. Kane is perhaps a bad example here. He can (and frequently does) bag a hatful, but what about a less prolific striker? Is Michy Batshuayi a better deal at £5.8million than Dunk at £4.8million? How about Tammy Abraham at £7.2million? 

Of course the same is true in reverse. Having a super reliable team of players who consistently get you 4-5 points a week is all well and good. Still, if you’re missing out on an expensive player like Lampard getting 28 points in a single week, then you’re somewhat shooting yourself in the foot. To build a successful team, you need to make a series of these decisions and achieve a balance between high-scoring but expensive superstars and some cheaper but reliable bargains.

Split your budget: Match Day

Precisely the same logic applies to your finances. It would be lovely if you could have put all your money in Apple in early 2006 and were now sitting on an investment worth 50x what you paid for it. But, would that have been a good idea? Even if you were 100% sure that Apple would be as successful as it has been, putting all your savings into an investment would have limited your immediate financial options. Imagine you crashed your car and needed to buy a new one, but you had no savings because all your money is tied up in Apple. A relative falls ill, and you need to pay for a carer? No can do, all your money is tied up in Apple. 

But again it works both ways – if you leave all your money in a savings account, then it will be there when you need it. In 40 years, however, it will have depreciated thanks to price inflation. (For more on real returns, see this blog from November). The solution? Share your budget around a bit. Savings accounts are your Lewis Dunks, high-growth stocks are your Harry Kanes. That way you get some of the benefits of each, but you protect against the potential downsides.

Be Patient but Engaged: Training

We’ve all been there. You’ve carefully managed your budget to give you a perfectly constructed point-scoring machine. You’re ready to reap double the rewards when Kane and Son combine to score, and you’ve got Aubameyang as your triple captain to play newly-promoted Fulham. You log into your account on Saturday afternoon expecting to see a notification saying you topped the national leaderboard. Except that’s not what you see. Son didn’t start, Kane got sent off after 10 minutes, and Fulham embarrassed Arsenal 4-0 at the Emirates. Elsewhere, a defender scored a hattrick, and a £4million midfielder got five assists. It’s incredibly annoying when this happens, but do you immediately sell all your underachieving players? No, you assume their quality will show over the course of a full season and – in most cases – you stick with them.

However, there are some exceptions to this patience, so let’s continue looking at the scenario I described above. We’ve established that you’d want to be patient with Son and Aubameyang, but Kane’s three-match ban might persuade you to swap him out for another expensive striker for a few weeks. Any striker you replace him with will be cheaper than Kane so, as long as you don’t spend that extra budget elsewhere, you can very easily put him back in your team when he’s served his ban. And what about that £4million midfielder with all the assists? It might have been a fluke, but he might also be a hugely underrated young playmaker who’s set to take the league by storm. For such a low price, you’d undoubtedly have a look at bringing him in for one of your cheaper midfielders.

Be Patient but Engaged: Match Day

These two points are crucial parts of being financially capable. You have to be patient with your assets, but also take an active approach in managing your money to get the best returns. If an investment goes badly, it’s very rarely a good idea to rush into selling it. At the same time, you can’t just leave it indefinitely and assume it will keep providing returns. If you bought Cisco stock in 1990 and were patient for ten years, you’d have achieved a return of 77,000%, but if you ignored the stock price starting to drop then just a year later in 2001 that investment would have lost three-quarters of its value.  

Patience is less critical with your current or savings account than with investments, but active management is certainly still crucial. Imagine your provider snuck in some new charges and you weren’t actively managing your money so didn’t notice.  Or, perhaps, the interest rate on your savings account was suddenly slashed. In both of these cases actively managing your money would ensure these changes didn’t catch you out.

Listen to the Experts: Training

All this might sound a little overwhelming. You know you need to arrange your finances sensibly, and you know you need to reassess them occasionally. Just how do you know how to do that? How do you make those decisions on how to split your savings or whether you’d benefit from switching your current account?

Luckily, you’re not on your own, and you don’t have to make those decisions blindly. Let me show you what I mean.

I am a Brighton fan. Every single Premier League season since we got promoted in 2017, I have genuinely believed that we would be challenging for a top 10 finish. This season is no different. I am wholly convinced that we will finish in the top 10. I am also pretty sure that Adam Lallana is going to win Player of The Year, Lewis Dunk will become England captain, and Neal Maupay will score 25+ goals. There’s only one problem – I have no reason at all to believe any of this. Maupay is 66/1 to win the Golden Boot, Dunk has never played competitively for England, and you can’t even get odds on Lallana to win Player of the Year. We are currently 6/1 to finish in the top 10 though, so fingers crossed. 

The point of this little ramble is – if left to my own devices – I would quite happily pick the Brighton starting XI as my Dream Team. However, a ridiculous thing to do, numerous blogs tell me exactly that. This tip is, therefore, a double whammy. You have to follow the numbers and listen to the experts. There are dozens of sites which will give you fantasy football tips and the Fantasy Premier League site itself gives you all the stats you could ever need. There is no excuse for not making informed and unbiased decisions. 

Listen to the Experts: Match Day

Surprise surprise, personal finance is no different. As I mentioned earlier the numbers are perhaps a little more complicated. You’re also less likely to be as biased as I am when it comes to the mighty Seagulls, but you’re not on your own. Websites like moneysavingexpert.com and thisismoney.co.uk have plenty of guidance on personal finance. Some organisations like the Money Advice Service even offer free guidance and advice. 

Taking advantage of this advice even gets around the problem of knowing the score. If Martin Lewis tells you something is a good idea, you don’t necessarily need to understand why it’s a good idea. Being financially capable doesn’t require an understanding of the intricacies of the stock market or the relationship between economic growth and interest rates. It just needs a little bit of active engagement and willingness to learn about your options.

The Final Whistle

This blog is not claiming that the person who wins your office fantasy football league could be the next Warren Buffett or Governor of the Bank of England. But I do hope I’ve demonstrated that picking footballers isn’t wholly unrelated to picking financial products. Following the three tips above isn’t going to guarantee you one of the incredibly rare mugs that Fantasy Premier League give to each week’s national winner. Still, it will almost certainly improve your financial capability. If you,

  • Split your budget between different options
  • Strike a balance between patience and active management, and
  • Are willing to be realistic and listen to the experts

You’ll be well on your way to building a proper financial dream team.

Written by: Dan Brooks, Cheddr Guest Contributor