“We all live in a Robbie Fowler house” is a favourite Liverpool fan song that still occasionally rolls cheerfully out from the Kopp and around the four sides of Anfield well over a decade after the prolific striker last graced it. The typically Scouse wit is a nod to the financial success of one of the Liverpool faithful’s own and how he achieved it – property investment (and a number of other business ventures and investments).
With an estimated worth of somewhere around £31 million, ex-Liverpool and England striker Robbie Fowler is wealthier than all but the very top echelon of today’s modern sporting superstars. But Fowler played the game at a time when footballers, even if still very well paid, were on a fraction of the stratospheric sums of today. And his career at the very top level wasn’t the longest. So how did the Toxteth-born 44-year old manage to become so fabulously wealthy?
The clue is in the song – houses. And flats. Fowler has built a hugely valuable property empire. And not by investing in the upmarket properties a footballer might be expected to buy. Fowler invested in the terraced houses and flats that are typical to North West England. The kind of properties probably much like the one he grew up in himself.
Fowler puts the extent of his non-football financial success down to a single event that set him on the road to rude financial health long after he was no longer earning a footballer’s wages. As a fresh faced 18 years old, Liverpool manager Graeme Souness called him into his office. How events unfolded is reported in a 2015 Daily Mirror article that quotes the then 40-year property mogul Fowler looking back:
“’This is a financial adviser. He will look after you for the rest of your life’. That was by far the smartest thing I did”.
“As a young kid, I wasn’t really interested at that stage - getting financial advice was far from my mind. I was focused on playing football. But I got onboard with this financial adviser and I heeded his advice, and that was my smartest money decision”.
So Fowler started to invest a part of his earnings as a footballer from almost the beginning of his career. At an age when he admits he thought little of the future, his willingness to take the financial advice he was offered is notable. It’s not as though the young Fowler was known as the quiet type. He was a founding member of the ‘Spice Boys’, as the tabloids dubbed the close-knit group of young, fashionable Liverpool players at the time that included Jamie Redknapp, David James, Steve McManaman and Jason McAteer.
But despite enjoying his youth and sporting fame, Fowler didn’t go overboard. He kept on quietly and consistently tucking away some of his income.
“Don’t get me wrong, not everything went into property at the time. And I didn’t just invest on my own, because when I was 18, I was on next to nothing and I couldn’t afford it, regardless of what people think about football players”.
“I invested with partners. It was all through the advice was I given, not because I knew anything or wanted to know it, it was totally by accident”.
“When you’re 18, I think it is probably the last thing on your mind. You’re obviously signing new contracts and you want to go out, you probably want a new car, and you’ll get all the things that you haven’t had”.
“But then all of a sudden, there comes a time when you think: Uh, I need to pull the reins in a little bit here and maybe look after my life after football. When I was 18, that was far from my mind, but over the years, it does materialise that way”.
If there’s one key thing anyone can take from how Robbie Fowler enjoyed life while building a secure financial future, it is how he built the investing habit from a very young age. Even if investing wasn’t something he was particularly interested in at 18, he took some good advice and stuck with it.
As a result, and without ever making it the be-all-and-end-all, Fowler gradually learned the basics of investing and making his money work for him, building more wealth. Fowler admits he still enjoys spending money and it isn’t all about saving for him. But he found a balance and started investing the small amounts he could afford, while still living life to the full, from a very young age. He chose property as an investment at a good time to do so but also has a traditional pension, spreading his risk.
As one of the brightest footballing stars of his generation, the money Fowler earned from his day job has meant he has been able to build up a particularly valuable investment portfolio. But even if not everyone would be worth over £30 million by taking the same approach as Robbie Fowler, the same end result, if on a smaller scale, could be expected.
There’s a lot any aspiring footballer might learn from watching clips of Fowler the footballer, known as one of the best Liverpool and England finishers in history. But anyone starting out in their professional career, whatever it is, could do a lot worse than also learning from the approach of Fowler the investor.