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Boxing clever with new-found wealth

October 3, 2000

Thanong Khanthong makes some recommendations to Wijan Ponlid, Thailand's Olympic hero, on how he should manage his impending wealth for family security and life-long prosperity.

Wijan Ponlid, the Olympic gold medallist in boxing, will need a professional financial planner to help him manage at least Bt20 million in cash, hard assets and other rewards, so that he won't end his life penniless like most other Thai boxers.

Certainly, Wijan does not need hangers-on to burn a hole in his pocket. He will need all the help he can get from his wife, Julaphorn, to prevent the fortune from going down the drain. And he must reject the temptation to gamble that has ruined the lives of so many boxers.

Over the weekend, the Revenue Department said Wijan will not have to pay any personal income tax from his cash awards. Thai Rath has promised to award the amateur boxer, who is also a junior police officer, Bt10 million in cash. Added to this will be Bt3 million from the Sports Authority of Thailand, Bt2 million from the Amateur Boxing Association of Thailand, Bt2 million from the Royal Thai Police, Bt1 million from the president of the National Archery Association of Thailand, and a Bt8,000 monthly salary for 30 years from the Olympic Committee of Thailand.

He will also get gold worth Bt1 million from Sukhothai shops, a Bt1.5 million holding in a resort property in the Bonanza Khao Yai project, a Bt1.2 million Safira car from General Motors, and a pick-up truck from Somsak Thepsuthin, the Sukhothai MP.

According to the revenue codes, "gifts made in a ceremony or on occasions in accordance with established customs" are not subject to taxation. Since Wijan is an amateur athlete, the gifts and rewards he'll be given for his success at the Sydney Olympics will be exempted from any tax.

Dr Suvarn Valaisathien, the tax expert, says since boxers have a very short professional life cycle, they need good financial planners to advise them on how to manage their wealth. In the case of Wijan, he says the athlete needs to maintain a three-pronged investment strategy.

First, all the gold he'll get from the Sukhothai shops should be locked up in a safe box. Since gold will not go rotten or melt away and since its price is not going to fluctuate sharply from the present level of Bt5,000-Bt6,000 per gramme, Wijan should keep it for use in the future.

Second, he should keep at least Bt5 million in cash while other cash could be used to buy government bonds for long-term security.

Third, he should buy a house worth about Bt5 million as an investment.

Wijan and Juraphorn, to whom he has been married for a year, are now living in a frugal apartment in the Ramkhamhaeng area. A new house, equipped with furniture and a nice kitchen, should keep the couple happy. His wife is a good cook. She has promised to cook "kaeng pa", a special southern-style spicy curry, for him once he arrives in Bangkok on Tuesday.

Before leaving for Sydney, Wijan told Juraphorn that he hoped to win a medal so that the couple would have enough for an investment in a mini-mart outlet in Sukhothai, Wijan's native town. This is a good idea.

Suvarn adds that Wijan may consider using some of the money from the rewards to purchase some land in Sukhothai.

Now comes the most dangerous part of managing Wijan's wealth - how to cope with the hangers-on as friends and relatives flock to him asking for financial assistance. Suvarn says Wijan should set up a budget, say, Bt1 million, and distribute the amount to those who really need help. And that's it. There should be no more help the next time.

Moreover, if Wijan entrusts his wealth to his wife, it should enhance its security because women are generally more stingy than men.

Certainly, Wijan should not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Somluck Khamsingh, the Atlanta gold medallist, who is now saddled with debts of at least Bt5 million. Somluck was a millionaire four years ago with cash rewards of no less than Bt20 million, but he has squandered it all.



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