Over the next three days, approximately 250 young men will realize their athletic dream and hear their name called at the NFL draft. Some of them will never play a down. The majority of them will make a team and earn around $400,000.00 on the low end to many millions guaranteed to the top picks. And they can earn even more money from endorsements. It’s more money than most people will ever make in one year in their entire life and for the top guys they will earn more from a signing bonus than 95% of workers make in 40 years combined.
And within two years of whenever their career ends, no matter how much money they have earned, 78% of them will be bankrupt. That’s not a made-up number, but a fact from a Sports Illustrated report. Can you imagine thinking that you are set for life and then find yourself scraping by for the rest of your life. It’s like having a lottery ticket and throwing it in to the fire. You go from steak dinners to living hand to mouth.
Clearly these talented athletes need some life advice. Hopefully I can help with some legal advice:
- Spend money like you are still in college. Chicagoan Antoine Walker made over $100 million in the NBA and lost it all. He did it by essentially giving his money away on things he didn’t need and to people that were hangers on. If he can lose $100 million, you can lose whatever you are about to make. You don’t need a mansion. You don’t need fancy jewelry. If you want to spend, spend 10% of your bonus on yourself and put the rest away. Get a good financial planner and let them keep you on a budget. **Note, a good financial planner isn’t your cousin that barely graduated high school.
- Don’t get anyone pregnant. There are NFL players who literally give every penny they earn to their baby mamas. In Illinois, if you have one child then you are looking at giving up to 20% of what you make for child support. If you have a second kid with a different lady then you are going to give a similar amount to her too. Women are going to be throwing themselves at you. I’m jealous. It sounds awesome. But they like you the way I thought that I really connected with that stripper when I was 21. Date. Hookup. Use protection or that one night of pleasure can cost you hundreds of thousands. I only had to give the stripper a $20.
- Realize that you aren’t an ATM. How many of the 78% that go bankrupt do you think gave money to family and friends with no expectation of re-payment? I’d be willing to be that they all did. If you get a $10 million dollar signing bonus, after taxes and agent fees you’ll probably pocket around $5 million. If you buy your parents a $1 million home then you are a great son. You’ve also just given away 20% of what you earned.
- You aren’t an entrepreneur. I bet you’d make a good one. Whether it’s a record label or restaurant, you’ve probably got some amazing ideas. Even forgetting that most of these businesses fail, do you have the time to actually run this venture? I can’t imagine having my full time job and then having to train to be a NFL player. Being the best NFL player you can be is the most entrepreneurial thing you can do, especially as a rookie. And if you are the money man and your buddy is running this can’t fail business then you are the ATM I told you not to be.
- If you have one goal, it should be to stay in the NFL long enough to qualify for a pension. If you last three seasons you become vested for a pension that you start to receive at age 55. It’s around $500 per season that you play. If you can make it for five years you’ll get around $2,500 a month. Not millions, but it can be a real boon for you at some point. If you make it for four years you’ll be eligible for an annuity at age 35 for around $95,000. And you can participate in a 401(k) like program that will see your employer match $2 for every $1 you donate up to a $24,000 match. So instead of spending $12,000 to soup up your car, do the much less exciting and much smarter thing and put away $12,000 in order to get $24,000 more.
- Don’t stay out past midnight. Nothing good happens after midnight.
- Don’t punch that a-hole at the bar that’s talking trash to you. You punch him and you get arrested and/or sued. If you get convicted of a crime you’ll likely get suspended by the NFL. If you are lucky enough to stay in the league, you’ll still lose a bunch of game checks. And if you are sued you are going to pay a lot of money to a lawyer to defend you or have to pay off some jerk. And once you pay off the first one, you become a target for everyone else.
- Take advantage of the resources the NFL has for you. They can connect you with reputable financial advisers. They can help with emotional problems or substance abuse. They can help you prepare for a post NFL career. They’ll tell you what’s available. It’s up to you to make the most of it.
- Don’t drive drunk. Whether it’s a cab friendly city like Chicago or a place like Green Bay, if you drive drunk, you not only risk your career and other people’s lives, but you are a real idiot. Most teams have security personnel that will pick you up. A DUI is reprehensible. A DUI from a rich guy who has tons of options and shouldn’t be getting that drunk anyway is ridiculous.
This isn’t really earth shattering advice. Most of it seems like common sense. But there are almost 4 out of 5 guys that will not heed any of this advice so it’s not obvious to everyone.
Enough preaching. Go Bears!
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