Wise Winnings: Financial Fundamentals for Team Ropers
If there’s one thing tax season does, it reminds us to plan better for the next year. WSTR Finale winner and financial advisor Hank Robins lays out some financial fundamentals for his fellow team ropers.

Tax season has come and gone, but not really, because preparing for next year starts today (or yesterday, really). For team ropers especially, the jackpot season is heating up, making it easy to put any financial goals on the back burner—a pretty common occurrence, according to Hank Robins, a financial advisor for Edward Jones of Richfield, Utah. Robins, you may remember, also won a whopping $310,250 at last year’s WSTR Finale, putting him in a particularly perfect position to offer some sage wisdom when it comes to team roping and taking care of your finances.

Team Roping Dollars and Sense

“Team roping is an expensive hobby,” Robins admitted. “The start-up costs are unique, which is something people outside of team roping don’t understand. It takes a lot of time and money to get started.”

For planning purposes, Robins says ropers have to decide how much of their resources they’re willing to dedicate to the sport. That part isn’t so unique if you want to be successful. And there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

“I know people who rodeo all summer,” Robins said, “whereas I like to go to the jackpots and Las Vegas. It starts out just for fun, but then you have to be honest with yourself about your goals and your time. You have to decide if you’re going to continue and if you’re going to do it well. And I think it’s important to recognize how much they’re wanting to risk and not go beyond that.”

While financial planning can look vastly different for professional ropers whose goals—because it is a business—are to make a profit, these foundational principles are the same for them, too. When a roper decides to make a living roping and training, they still must determine how much can be invested: how many miles, horses, entry fees, etc.

Hank Robins Financial Advisor for Edward Jones Home: Aurora, Utah 6 header, 5 heeler 2018 WSTR Finale Winnings: $310,250.
Jennings Photography

Personalizing Your Strategy

Robins knows that asking anyone, ropers included, to determine their financial goals can be a bit tricky and overwhelming. Not to mention, beyond the basic principles of determining dollars-coming-in versus dollars-going-out, real financial planning depends greatly on each roper’s individual needs, so he relies on a Five Step Process from the Edward Jones team to get folks pointed in the direction of financial success.

“A lot of folks can answer the first and second questions pretty simply,” Robins said, “but the rest aren’t so simple.”

Robins also stresses that finding the answers aren’t as easy as finding an app on your mobile device to help you sort out your finances.

“Financial planning is relationship-based. For real results, we need to know more about you than what you can type into your phone. And, at a company like Edward Jones, you can have access to a team of people, or you can come and meet me face to face.”

Through such relationships, experts like Robins will create a strategy for your money, so that when you bring home that winning check, those extra dollars can go right to work for you.

Put a Winning Check to Work

“I won $310,000,” Robins stated regarding his 2018 WSTR Finale mega-win, “and the first thing I said to my wife was, ‘We have a tax problem.’”

The problem, according to Robins’ CPA, was that, if those winnings weren’t put to use before the end of the year, Robins would have to pay nearly $155,000 in taxes. Thankfully, the Robins family already had a plan.

“Everyone says that’s life-changing money,” Robins said. “But the first thing we did when we got home from Vegas was we went back to work. Cowboy logic says to spend the money, but we’d already put great effort into putting money into things that will show return over time.”

Which is to say, don’t wait until you’ve won big to do the things you want to do. Instead, get that financial plan rolling today so that, when you do score some life-changing money, it can be enrolled in that dream you’re already making come true.

For Robins, a 33-year-old husband, father, roper and financial professional, that plan included purchasing a franchise earlier in the year and increasing the acreage of his farm. These were investments he and his wife made without ever knowing he’d get to cash in on a few hundred-thousand dollars. Then, when he did bring home that money, not only did he not have to make any big purchasing decisions in the final weeks of the year, he and his CPA were also able to reduce his tax bill to a negligible amount.

“Often, ropers want to buy a truck or a trailer,” Robins explained, “but those are depreciating assets. Next year they won’t be worth as much as they are now. And it’s different if you’re a business owner versus an employee, so you need to discuss with your financial advisor and your CPA if there are things you could invest in or if there are any bills you can prepay, for instance.”

Robins also notes that winning that kind of money will mean different things for different ropers. A 23-year-old roper and a retired roper and a roper with a family and a first mortgage will not have the same experiences. Each of them, however, can put their winnings to work.

“Look at the long term,” Robins said. “It would be a shame to win life-changing money and not have it change your life in the long run.”

Tools for Financial Success

Robins gives immense credit to his CPA for helping him navigate the rules associated with his end-of-the-year windfall and believes that anyone interested in tackling financial goals should, in addition to finding a financial advisor, also find a CPA to help with taxes and an attorney to handle any estate planning.

“There’s no way to quantify their value,” Robins said of these experts; especially if, for ropers, they are well versed in rural and agricultural affairs and have a handle on team roping or rodeo.

Another important element in the planning process isn’t just to prepare for winning, but to safeguard yourself from the losses, too.

“I think it’s absolutely important to protect your investment, even though I’ve never insured a horse,” Robins admitted. “There was a time when I should have insured my head horse—the one I ride now— when he was like 10 or 12 years old and he still had 10 more years in him. But I was in college. Now that he’s 18, I can still use him, but he only has a few more years in him, and I have new talent coming up. But, if people have spent a significant amount of money, they should explore some kind of insurance option.”

Finally, Robins stresses that ropers should keep their receipts, even though most aren’t roping for profit.

“I think of roping as a hobby,” Robins explained, “but when you win that kind of money, [the government] doesn’t think of it as a hobby. Keep your receipts for the costs you’ve incurred. You need to let your CPA tell you what to do, but keep your receipts for fuel and hotel rooms and feed bills to show how much you’ve put into it and to prove that you have some costs associated with this win.

Getting Started

If words like planning, and attorney and asset management have you tempted to trash this article and head for the practice pen, you’re not alone. Most of us don’t feel like we’re prepared for this part.

“One thing that’s all too common with people is they don’t pick up the phone and talk to a professional because they feel like they don’t know enough. So, they ask their buddy for advice and it’s likely a mistake because it’s too easy. My best advice is to call someone and don’t be afraid. It’s our job to help people who don’t know how to do this stuff. We spend a lot of time and effort becoming experts so that we can give you the help you need,” Robins concluded.

So trash the article if you must, but while you’re out roping, go ahead and ask around about who can recommend a great financial advisor because, come mid-December, when you’ve finally won that Finale check you’ve been dreaming of, you’ll also have the pleasure of turning that life-changing money into a changed life. 

Disclaimer: Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.

Tips & Tools

What you Need

• The Experts—these are the people who can help you grow your wealth while you live your life.

• Financial Advisor—to create the map between where you are and where you want to be.

• CPA—to keep track of extensive tax rules and how they can work for you.

• Attorney—to ensure the safety of your wealth.

• Insurance—to help protect your investments.

• Receipts—to demonstrate costs incurred.

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