“Give me neither riches, nor poverty- just give me my daily needs.”– proverbial wisdom that I try to practice in life.
There was an interesting article on Facebook a few months ago that I ran across, and quite timely as we talk about this during Super Bowl weekend. It confirmed stories on some well-known, very successful NFL football players who are or were known to be financially broke It’s staggering to find out that after two years of retirement 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or financially stressed. Our knee-jerk judgement may be “how could they go broke after becoming multi-millionaires? They’re making at least $__million a year!”What in the heck is their ‘average’ lifestyle when you compare that to someone in Virginia?
An ‘average’ lifestyle is such a relative term, right? It depends on where you live in the country or in the world for that matter. The average Cost of Living Index in Virginia is currently calculated roughly $65k a year for 2 working adults and 2 children. If you drill deeper, in Arlington County (NoVA) the average lifestyle is $70k (Does this sound right NoVa friends?). In the Hampton Roads area, average lifestyle is about $65k. It would be reasonable to say an NFL retiree can live off two times that sort of income and lifestyle with all of the resources they would have at their disposal, right?
According to Taboo News and Sportster, their anecdotes confirm more on former successful and broke NFL football players. Hopefully the players portrayed as the straw men in this article are doing better since it was last written. Many of them have a second career after retiring from the NFL. You see them on the infomercials endorsing anything from shaving blades to fitness, or being an analyst for a sports network. To be fair and clear, some retired football professionals aren’t in debt. They’ve made wise and educated financial decisions using financial guidance- not to support an overly lavish, debt-ridden lifestyle. Another timely article on WorldLifestyle about very successful NFL players made my jaw drop. I hope they are still making intelligent financial decisions. Questions we might need to ask as an advisor to an NFL player would be: Do you have a spending budget? Are you disciplined in staying in that budget, or not? Is your budget realistic and sustainable for the next 5, 15, 30+ years of your life? Unfortunately, a large percentage of successful NFL football players aren’t educated in personal finance or ready to manage millions of dollars. So we might ask: How much education in finance, investing, and economics do you have or need? How often do you regret not making a more educated decision? Do you have people you can trust that can give you basic, common financial sense? Comedian Kevin Hart in one of his satirical bits shares his struggle about staying in his financial lane with friends who happen to be very wealthy professional athletes- are you staying in your lane, or hanging with a bunch of ‘high-rollers’ who are in a totally different financial league?
Let’s jump back and talk about an ‘average’ lifestyle- this time for an NFL player. Looking at the chart below we ran a calculation for the average NFL Career and income created for 3 years. This is before any pensions, royalties, or any other opportunities at present if the player retires early. Mind you, the intent here isn’t to make NFL players look foolish. It’s a learning lesson for us to consider and understand the potential risk and opportunity cost to make the best decisions. Our role is to help investors make better decisions with their money for the long term.
In regards to the topic of risk and opportunity from high school and into college. Football players are taught to take risk almost to an extreme because of the potential return on investment that comes with making it in the NFL. It’s almost as if they’re conditioned that way for years if they make it to the big show. A prudent advisor should ask based on knowing how NFL players have bet big on taking risk: How can you balance out the adrenaline-driven environment in football that conditions you to take risk? How do you psychologically balance the desire to take on more risk to protect yourself financially for the long-term? What are you doing to set yourself on a successful financial path?
So how do many NFL players go bankrupt? Overspending is one obvious culprit, especially in such a small window of time similar to those who win the lottery and go on a spending spree. But what about saving and investing? We’ve all made a bad investment decision whether small or large where we invested some time, energy, and financial capital, which unfortunately led to a loss. That’s part of investment risk right? That’s part of learning. Yes, and some of these former NFL players made investments with the intent to grow their money. Yet only to lose their initial investment due to divorce or familial issues, a bad business model, mismanagement of funds, being taken advantage of due to their generosity or lack of investment education, or a good investment idea poorly executed.
When a successful NFL player has hundreds of times more than the average person’s savings in America you should be able to make ends meet for the long-term, right? You would hope. These life stories show how we can sometimes believe the whisper in our ear to have more money or stay in a certain income level. Sometimes, with wrong motives, we want a bigger paycheck each month to help us get to our financial goals, or spending goals, or fill-in-the-blank. Making more money won’t ultimately solve our personal finance issues when the paper cash is actually still fueling the fire. We have to create good boundaries. We have to give, save, invest, and consume more wisely. We have to keep the end in mind, and not just the thrill of the present. This all starts with a strong financial plan.
As a financial consultant, I would review things in this scenario if I knew or sensed something was wrong. Other questions to consider:
-Are you taking too much risk in whatever you’re investing in- whether in stocks, real estate, oil, or Legos for that matter? What’s driving that behavior?
-Of your overall investments, does the investment equal 5% or more in your portfolio or total net worth? How does the boundary of diversification come into play in your overall portfolio?
– Does your need for growth push you to an uncomfortable risk level? Are you staying in your financial lane?
-Do you understand your own tolerance for the amount of risk you’re taking? And, how can that affect your short, medium, and long-term spending goals?
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