Football Players Are Terrible With Money

Even though the average NFL career lasts roughly three years — and the league doesn’t offer guaranteed contracts — there is ample evidence that the longer a player plays, the more likely he is to ignore the financial realities of his world. Some don’t fully grasp that eligible retirees can’t touch their pensions until they’re 45 years old. They can’t cash in their 401(k) plans until they’re 59½. For a player whose career ends in his early 30s, that’s a long time to be hurting for cash.

Some have a hard time comprehending other aspects of money management. When the recession hit in 2008, one league source said former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis actually walked into the locker room and complained about having to curtail his spending. “Nobody told me this recession affects everybody,” he famously said that day.

There was a story on ESPN this weekend about how most NFL players find themselves in financial ruin after they retire from football. One study from Sports Illustrated found that 78 percent of NFL retirees have “gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.” It just goes to show you that earning a bunch of money doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing with it. Also, it’d help if these players actually listened to their financial advisors instead of firing them whenever they hear some advice that they don’t want. For example, maybe you shouldn’t be spending $39,000 a month if you have $2.5 million in the bank, because that sort of spending isn’t going to last you very long.

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

MuffyStJohn (#280)

Someone who understands HTML should post a picture of the world’s tiniest violin for these poor, poor millionaires.

jfruh (#161)

@MuffyStJohn @MuffyStJohn Many of the millionaires make the league’s (high, of course) minimum of half a million or so for the two or three years they stay in the league, which sounds like a lot, but then they’re done with their careers at age 25 and also have no back up plan because everyone in their lives has been telling them since they were 12 that they’d be an NFL star, and even getting to the NFL washout level takes an intense singulariy of focus. So, yes, there are numerous choices they could or should make that would avoid these situations, but they are also victims of America’s love of bloodsport.

City_Dater (#565)

@jfruh

And the ones who turn pro after college frequently didn’t make any use of that educational opportunity, nor were they encouraged to do so — they were essentially paid employees of the university, helping bring in alumni football fan dollars.
Our values make me cringe…not that professional sports in other countries are considerably better.

dotcommie (#662)

Before we pass too much judgment on them, remember that pro athletes are generally much less educated than people with comparable assets. They’re vulnerable to get-richer-quick schemes and keeping up with their higher-paid colleagues. And if they’ve risen from poverty to riches, that means they have lots of needy people back home who may suddenly appear in their lives asking for help. Yeah, it seems like a crazy amount of money to spend that fast, but becoming rich overnight doesn’t make you financially savvy.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@dotcommie See to me that just sounds like making excuses for their bad decisions. Which, considering the amount of judgment that was hurled on someone who qualified for food stamps last week because she was “privileged,” seems kind of fucked up to me. (Not that you personally were attacking Food Stamp Girl, just the general disparity in attitude among commenters). Why the willingness to give this group of extraordinary privileged people a pass while judging those far lower on the economic ladder?

dotcommie (#662)

@MuffyStJohn And there was a surprising amount of empathy for the girl who spent her $66,000 inheritance on basically nothing. I’m not making excuses for them, I’m saying: look at the context. Many of them grew up in poverty with likely few role models of money management (especially not management of millions of dollars), little education, are very young, and live in a high-pressure culture that promotes wanton spending. I think many people in that situation would make poor financial decisions.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@dotcommie I see your point, but I guess my context has more to do with knowing a ton of people barely getting by let alone getting ahead. It makes it hard to have sympathy for a tight end who had to file for bankruptcy because, at the ripe old age of 30, he had managed to squander more money than many will earn in a lifetime.

selenana (#673)

They’re also usually pretty young. Pro athletes often get drafted out of high school.

I’ll give them a much bigger violin, because a lot of them have severe brain damage, beginning in their teens. I’m assuming this would contribute to impulsive spending as well…

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/19/091019fa_fact_gladwell

cryptolect (#1,135)

@Jake Reinhardt Yes! I was going to bring this up. On a macabre note, football players have begun donating their brains to science to study the effects that hundreds of concussions can have on the brain. That’s not that macabre, but I think it’s macabre that football players who commit suicide have started shooting themselves in the chest rather than the head, so that the brain is still intact.

e (#734)

I do think it is tragic what happens to atheletes- especially the really big names. They get paid a lot of money, but they’re being paid for the way the job they do uses up their bodies very quickly, and the whole time the fame machine is encouraging them to go out clubbing and live extravagantly, and I do think that is sad.

A lot of atheletes are basically college aged kids. This site definitely showcases the way that even smart kids do stupid stupid things with their money.

@e No they’re not, they’re being paid for their entertainment value.

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