Save Like a Pro: Financial Advice From Famous Athletes

by Jorge Santiago

What do you think happens to the millions of dollars paid to today’s professional athletes? Do you assume that all of them have fat bank accounts? If so, you’d be wrong. Unfortunately, many of these heroes of the gridiron and diamond squander their earnings. In fact, 78 percent of former NFL stars go broke within two years of their retirement, and 60 percent of NBA stars also find themselves in financial ruin once their stars have faded, according to a historic 2009 Sports Illustrated article.

As the Sports Illustrated article reported, the main causes behind these massive financial losses include bad investments, excessive spending, divorce, and mismanagement of funds by trusted advisors.

But then there are the sports figures who manage to keep their accounts in the black, such as Shaquille O’Neal, Phillip Buchanon and Derek Jeter.

How do these athletes manage to accomplish what their peers have failed to do? For Shaquille O’Neal, it’s simply a matter of doing his homework before investing, appearing in movies and television programs, endorsing a variety of products, and maintaining his own fashion lines in major department stores such as Macy’s and J.C. Penny. Despite spending $1 million in less than an hour after signing his first professional contract, O’Neal’s ability to invest intelligently and stay out of major debt came from simply saving his money. As O’Neal himself advises, “Let’s just say you got $100, you break it in half—smart people put $50 away and don’t touch it. Now you still got $50 left. But the really smart people, the people that know that one day you’re never gonna play again, they save $75 …”

Former NFL star Phillip Buchanon learned his lesson about finances the hard way. After signing his contract, Buchanon’s mother demanded that he pay her $1 million for everything she’d done for him. Instead of giving her the money, Buchanon bought her a house, which ultimately caused him “financial strain.” In his book “New Money: Staying Rich,” Buchanon advises new millionaires to do the following:

  1. “Draw a line between wants and needs.” Setting limits is imperative to avoiding the common financial pitfalls, such as giving away money and buying family members expensive things.
  2. “Watch out for takers.” Similar to setting limits, Buchanon advises new professional athletes not to give money to people just because they think you have it to spare. Setting up boundaries is fundamental to ensuring that people don’t take advantage of you.
  3. Surround yourself with people you can trust. Differentiate between true pals and fair-weather friends, as the real ones will want to ensure your well-being.

Another example of an athlete who has secured his financial future is 20-years baseball veteran Derek Jeter. This Yankee utilized a method similar to O’Neal’s, using his personal brand to start a business. He partnered with Simon & Schuster to publish books, and become a brand development officer and partner at the company Luvo. Jeter’s publication and business, “The Players’ Tribute,” is a way for Jeter to combine his own interests and experiences while providing professional athletes with an outlet for the release of information about their own careers or personal lives. By diversifying his sources of income and creating a new publication that filled a gap in the reporting industry, Jeter was able to maintain his financial position following his retirement.

If it is starting to look like your professional sports career isn’t going to pan out, fear not—by taking the financial advice of these former athletes, you can still save money with the best of them. Be sure to stop by any office of The Milford Bank to get more advice about achieving your financial goals.