Christian Wade: ‘I was paid $400,000 a year when I ditched rugby for the NFL’

Christian Wade NFL - Andrew Crowley
Christian Wade NFL - Andrew Crowley

Christian Wade, 31, is a professional rugby union player turned American footballer who was a winger for the Premiership side Wasps; he scored 82 tries in 165 appearances between 2011 and 2018.

He has one England cap and played for the British & Irish Lions and England Saxons. In 2019 he joined NFL team the Buffalo Bills before his departure this year. Today he lives in Buffalo, New York, with his wife, Lisa Ramos.

How did your childhood influence your attitude to money?

My dad was a financial adviser and helped me understand money and business from a young age. I grew up with my brother in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and we’ve always been around music and sports; he’s a professional drummer who recently toured with Craig David. My mum was a beautician who gave up her career to raise us.

We didn’t have lots of money but our parents made sure we had the basics. My dad then started a real estate agency with somebody but learned hard lessons with people ripping him off: he was a bit too nice, which in business you can’t be.

We had no money for holidays.

What was your first job?

At 15 I worked for after-school club Kumon, teaching maths and English twice a week for £40 a week; it’s the only job I’ve had other than professional sport.

I went pro with London Wasps at 18 as soon as I left school, but I’d signed a contract with the Academy at 16 and got £100 a month for expenses to get to and from training. My first contract with Wasps was around £17,000 a year and in my last season I was on £250,000‑plus.

What were you paid for playing international rugby?

You’d get paid for summer tours. I did tours for England – to South Africa in 2012 (£25,000) and Argentina in 2013 (£25,000). For the Lions tour to Australia I was paid £50,000, but pro rata for the six weeks I was out there. And I was paid about £15,000-£20,000 for the England Saxons tour to South Africa.

christian wade buffalo bills - Brett Carlsen/Getty Images North America
christian wade buffalo bills - Brett Carlsen/Getty Images North America

How did you manage your rugby income?

In 2016 I bought a house in Coventry for around £450,000 with a £70,000 deposit. I had a short mortgage, like 15 years, because I wanted to pay it off. I don’t buy cars; I lease them because I like to hold on to my money.

Most of the time I was getting special endorsement deals. With England we had a BMW deal so I had to get my cars there.

Then I had my own relationship with BMW and would get loan cars.

Why did you swap rugby for the NFL?

I wanted to test myself against the very best athletes in the world to draw more out of myself as I was only operating at around 60pc-70pc of my capabilities.

So was it a question of money?

Money is a useful tool but tapping into my true potential was the priority. “The money will follow later” is still my belief.

How much were you paid in the NFL?

In the NFL you’re either in the practice squad or the 53-man roster. I’d been with the Buffalo Bills since April 2019 but injured my shoulder before the first season started.

So for the first two years I was in the practice squad (paid $150,000 a year). If you make the 53-man roster the minimum you get paid, I believe, is $600,000 a year now.

But this last year I was on injury reserve so was getting paid just over $400,000 a year.

And I still had my Adidas sponsorship I’ve had throughout my career, which provided equipment.

Are you a saver or a spender?

A spender in my early years, now more of a saver. When you’re young and making money you want to live a little.

I had my insurance, pension and an Isa that I would max out every month, so that whatever happened I wouldn’t be left out on a limb.

Since I’ve been in America I’ve been earning money and paying tax here and we have a pension fund – for every dollar I put in, the NFL puts in $2.

Christian Wade in his rugby union days in 2013 - Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Sport
Christian Wade in his rugby union days in 2013 - Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Sport

Do you use cash, debit cards or credit cards?

Cash is king but over here I definitely use credit cards because you can do more things. If your credit score isn't good, you can’t buy a house or lease a car.

Have you invested in property?

Yes. I have two houses in England and I’m in the process of buying more properties here in America.

Have you ever had trouble paying your bills?

There were a couple of difficult times for us as a family when I got behind with payments. And when I was coming into a little bit of money with Wasps I was able to take the load off my dad.

Does money make you happy?

Yes, but with the character-building I’ve been through I know that money isn’t everything. I’m very creative and understand how to bring people together. When trying to make money for myself it never goes to plan, but when I try to help people it usually ­generates money.

What have been your best and worst financial decisions?

Best: buying my first house. Worst: my first car. Everybody’s first car is like a £200-£300 banger, right? Because I was playing rugby I wanted a nice car. The Peugeot 207 cost me £5,000, but I wasn’t disciplined at 18 to keep up the payments because I was spending money on other things. So that put me into debt. I was staying with my dad and we had to make arrangements so it wouldn’t be repossessed.

What is the worst thing you’ve bought?

In LA one time I was enticed to buy this jacket. But it was really because I fancied the girl working behind the register and was trying to show off. I went back into the shop and bought it for $750 (£615) but I’ve probably worn it once.

Have Americans taught you anything about money?

In America, everybody tips. I didn’t realise you had to tip properly, like at least 15pc-20pc. In England you just give them some change. When I first came here I was tipping $1, $2, nothing more than $5.

But my American wife said “how much did you tip?”, then “oh my gosh, do you know how much of an insult that is?” and asked the waiter to bring the receipt back. I let her pay now.

Christian Wade is planning his follow-up Next Gen You rugby camps for 12 to 16-year-olds starting on Oct 24 (