As the Olympic torch blazed during the opening ceremonies in London, athletes were dreaming of all things gold -- plus, if we're being honest, all the cash that comes with success at the games once they're back home.
That's because some athletes have a chance of becoming filthy rich after standing atop the podium.
Michael Phelps’ Worth: Posterboy for Sponsorships
After the 2008 Olympics, Michael Phelps' managers and agents were hoping the multimedaled swimmer would become the first $100 million Olympian. After all, he did break Mark Spitz's 36-year record by winning eight gold medals, a move that launched the then-23-year-old kid from Baltimore into the record books.
Despite the lucrative endorsement deals with Visa, PowerBar, Omega, Subway, AT&T Wireless and, of course, Speedo, the maker of the high-tech LZR suit Phelps wore as he took the gold, Phelps fell short of the $100 million mark. In addition to the sponsorship, Speedo made good on a promise to give Phelps $1 million if he won seven gold medals. Winning eight, the philanthropic Phelps used it as seed money to start a charity, the Michael Phelps Foundation. As he headed into the London games, his estimated net worth was somewhere between $40 million and $50 million.
Phelps all but guaranteed fulfilling the dream of his agents and managers this past week when the swimmer broke the all-time Olympic medal record by earning 18 of the coveted gold honors, plus two silver and two bronze. No doubt he'll be able to summit the coveted $100 million pinnacle once he gets home from London.
How Olympic Athletes Make Their Money
There isn't a science to measure the wealth, investment success or financial planning strategies of sports stars because most of their millions come from endorsement deals; Olympians who acquire wealth earn their dollars from corporate endorsement deals, and those are reported as approximations, not hard figures. While Olympians don't earn money simply by appearing at the Olympics, if a U.S. athlete medals, he will score a little cash. The United States Olympic Committee pays medal bonuses of $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. Not exactly "get rich quick" money.
Phelps wasn't the first to strike it rich post-Olympics. Here's a look at some other former Olympians who struck it rich after the Games.
Bruce Jenner’s Sponsorship Deals
Who can forget the original golden boy of the summer games, Bruce Jenner? Not only did the track and field athlete score big with endorsements that seeded his financial empire (remember his image plastered on Wheaties boxes?), Jenner continues to capitalize on his Olympic fame, starring alongside his Kardashian family members on reality TV, touring as a motivational speaker and as founder of Jenner Aviation, a company that specializes in purchasing and reselling aircraft. Jenner's estimated net worth is a staggering $100 million.
Shaun White’s Net Worth from Sponsorships
Two-time Olympic gold medal winner White, the carrot-topped snowboarder with a wide smile and thrill-seeking attitude, flexed his entrepreneurial skills to score some serious coin. Thanks to ventures ranging from video games to snowboards, White earns several million a year, not to mention the cash he rakes in from endorsements.
Shawn Johnson’s Net Worth from Sponsorships
Johnson balanced and danced her way to an estimated $9 million estimated wealth. In 2008, the plucky teen from Iowa captured gold on the balance beam, silver in the women’s all-around competition and the mirror ball trophy on "Dancing With the Stars" less than a year later. And all that glitter catapulted her into the hearts of American consumers and advertising moguls who wanted her to endorse their products.
Usain Bolt’s Sponsorship Deals
This lightning-fast Jamaican superstar sprinter is one of the biggest names of the London Olympics. Bolt, who set world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter runs in the 2008 Olympics and won gold in the 100-meter dash this year, has earned roughly $20 million in 2012, according to Forbes. The magazine reports that he earns about $9 million per year from his biggest endorsement deal, with Puma.
Nastia Liukin’s Net Worth
Liukin won five Olympic gymnastics medals in 2008, including becoming just the third American woman ever to win the all-around gold medal. As a result, she has lined up endorsement deals with Subway and Cover Girl. She even has a line of clothing -- Supergirl by Nastia -- that's sold exclusively at J.C. Penney. In a report from Bloomberg, Liukin's agent wouldn't provide details about the deals. However, in the same report, an official with USA Gymnastics said that personal endorsements can push earnings well over $1 million for someone like Liukin.
Sanya Richards-Ross’ Net Worth from Sponsorships
Richards-Ross, one of the world's top sprinters, may not yet be a household name like the other folks on this list, but her post-Olympic success has been real. Her net worth is estimated at $1 million or higher, thanks to endorsement deals with BMW and Nike. She won gold for the U.S. in the 4x400-meter relay in Athens and Beijing and another gold medal for the 400-meter dash this past Sunday in London, so it's only right to expect that number to go higher. In addition, she is married to NFL star Aaron Ross, who reportedly just signed a contract worth $15 million over the next three years.
Training for Financial Success
Matching the training on the field with training for financial success, a survey released by TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation, official online brokerage sponsor of Team USA, says U.S. Olympians are carrying their winning attitudes into their financial lives so they can spin their gold medals (silver and bronze ones, too) into fortunes.
Sixty-five percent of U.S. Olympians surveyed believe that discipline as a world-class athlete has helped them be more disciplined with managing money. And they're pretty restrained, too; if they were to win the lottery, only 3% of U.S. Olympians say they would use the money to indulge. A savvy 42% say they would save or invest it, 32% would pay back loans and 18% would give it away to a charity or friends and family.
Beyond being the fastest swimmer or highest jumper, U.S. Olympians have financial goals, too. Of those who have a financial plan, a whopping 99% said they were "confident" they would reach their goals.
Be Inspired, Be Realistic
The Investing Answer: Financial analysts say a healthy dose of realism will help Olympians -- and everyday John and Jane Does -- make sound decisions when coming into a sudden windfall.
"People who receive a windfall need to differentiate between assets and income," said Len Hayduchok, president of Dedicated Senior Advisors LLC, an independent financial services firm based in Princeton, N.J. A chunk of money from an endorsement, bonus or the lottery is an asset, not income.
"You need to consider how to benefit from the sum of money over our entire lifetime while realizing it's a one-time influx of cash," he said. "Keep in mind that after the endorsement ends or the bonus check is cashed, you might not get another check like this again."