It’s easy to think of Olympic athletes as being somehow superhuman. In reality, though, most of them face the same struggles as the rest of us. Financial problems and unbearable debt are no exception.
Recently, the families of two Olympians have publicly discussed their struggles with financial distress.
When asked by reporters about her recent bankruptcy filing, Natalie Hawkins – the mother of gold medal-winning gymnast Gabby Douglas – responded by saying “I’m not even embarrassed.”
Nor should she be. According to her bankruptcy filings, Hawkins is raising four children on an income of about $30,000. There’s no indication that she engaged in a lot of reckless spending; it’s just that the economy has been hard on families like hers. She says she thought filing for bankruptcy would be the best way to keep her house.
Hawkins isn’t the only Olympic parent facing financial troubles. The New York Times has reported that swimmer Ryan Lochte’s parents are in arrears on their home. They stopped paying the mortgage last year and are now being sued by the mortgage holder.
There is little evidence that either Hawkins’ or the Lochtes’ financial troubles were caused by the expenses related to their children’s Olympic training. Instead, they were caused by the same things that put so many New Jersey families in financial trouble: health problems, divorce, unemployment and mortgage difficulties. In fact, these factors account for far more bankruptcies than overspending does. In such an unstable economy, many families are forced to live with the knowledge that they could be just a couple missed paychecks or one big medical bill away from bankruptcy.
Source: The New York Times, “Olympic Bankruptcies for Ordinary Families,” Helaine Olen, August 8, 2012.
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