Playing Professional Basketball Didn’t Work Out, But Working as an Actuary Did

Adam is 30 years old and earns $170,000 (not including bonuses) working in an actuary-type role. “Have you seen Along Came Polly?” he asked. “I basically have Ben Stiller’s job.”

Mike: I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you didn’t know that you were going to have the job you have now when you were in college.

Adam: Correct. I played basketball in high school and was all-county and all-state. I’m 6’8″, and I wanted to be a basketball player. I went to a four-year college where I played Division I basketball. I wasn’t good enough for the NBA, but I was good enough to play overseas, and that’s what my aspirations were.

Mike: Can you make a good living playing basketball overseas?

Adam: The thing about playing overseas is that for some of the big-time college guys who didn’t make it into the NBA, you can get paid $25,000 a month if you’re good. And you only play eight months out of the year. It’s good money, but the lifespan of an overseas basketball player is about 11 years, and you’re living in places like Budapest and Israel. Sometimes you’re living in places with political strife. It can be really tough.

Mike: But you didn’t end up playing basketball in a foreign country. What happened?

Adam: I got a stress fracture my freshman year, and then during my sophomore year, I tore my ACL. I played until I was too injured to play.

Mike: How did you figure out what you were going to do next? What were you studying in college?

Adam: I ended up getting into finance and risk management.

Mike: Did you have trouble balancing academics and playing D1 basketball?

Adam: I studied to the extent you can while playing a college sport and not get into trouble. I actually wanted to be a doctor first and was premed and taking organic chemistry, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it to medical school, so I switched majors. I landed an internship during my junior year and discovered the career I have now.

Mike: And what is it that you actually do?

Adam: It’s kind of like what an actuary does and involves analyses of accounts and looking at the abilities of large corporations.

Mike: How were you able to land your first internship?

Adam: It’s funny, I just happened to meet the CEO of a company on campus who remembered me from playing basketball. We got to talking and eventually he opened a pathway for me that got me an internship.

Mike: Did you have a credit card in college?

Adam: I got my first credit card my freshman year and was so excited about my $300 limit. I bought three pairs of Jordans and like the financial guru I am, I never paid anything back. It eventually went into collections, and then dropped off after seven years. My credit score is much better now—high 700s.

Mike: Tell me about your first job after college.

Adam: My first entry-level job paid $42,500, and I was in a program that put you in touch with an established person who mentored you and helped you along in your career. Soon they said, “Hey Adam, you’re doing a great job, can you move to Chicago?” What happened was some higher ups left the Chicago firm and they needed a replacement. They doubled my salary to $80,000, and I moved to Chicago. I was given corporate housing and $45 a day for meals. I lived in Downtown Chicago. This was all happenstance.

Mike: So you essentially were in a position where your salary doubled, and your meals and housing was free?

Adam: Correct. I worked for the same company for two years, and then a competitor came and offered me $125,000, plus bonuses. I had full health care, full dental, a retirement plan with a 3 percent match.

Mike: What were you doing with the money?

Adam: Initially, the money was just going to foolishness. I was 27 and going out to nightclubs and ordering bottle service. I was in a bad relationship and I realized that I had to change the people I kept around me and surround myself with positive influences.

Mike: And you’re in a better financial state now?

Adam: Yes, I started a Google ads business, which is basically where you research keywords and pay writers on Craigslist to write articles with those keywords in them and you populate a site with the articles. I have a rental property. I scalped tickets on sites like Stubhub. I figured out ways to make passive income. I definitely think I have an entrepreneurial work ethic. I recently got another promotion and am making $170,000 now. The Google ads business makes me about $200 a month without me really doing anything. I make about $550 a month on the rental property.

Mike: Wait, go back to that Google ads thing. This is, what, a content farm? Can you explain that to me?

Adam: Yeah, so anybody can do this. You can use a site like and make a page there. And you come up with keywords on a topic that people are searching for, like, yoga. Then you pay people you find on Craigslist to write articles about the topic using specific keywords, and when people visit the site and click on a Google ad, you get money from that. You’re using SEO.

Mike: Wow, okay. I’ve heard about these sites, but never actually talked to anyone who had created one. Anyway, how much do you have in retirement assets?

Adam: I have about $100,000 in my 401(k), and $25,000 cash in hand. I own a condo and am in my last year of paying for it.

Mike: What are your current goals?

Adam: I’m trying to save 50 percent of everything I make. I don’t own a car, I have no debt. I want to use my money to buy a commercial space and commission art. I’m looking for 1,500 square feet of space. I think I’ll be able to do this in six or seven months. I love music and art, and this will be my chance to own something.

Mike: So the goal is to be self-employed and be an entrepreneur?

Adam: Absolutely. I don’t want to be confined to a desk.

Mike: What about having a family?

Adam: I do want to get married and have children. That’s in my future goals. I want to donate to charities more. That’s another one of my goals: tithing 10 percent of what I earn. I’m nowhere near that yet.



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