They might be bigger, stronger and faster than many of us, but when it comes to money questions, professional football players are just like us.
True, their paychecks are likely substantially higher, but their financial worries probably sound familiar: Is this a good investment? How much should I save for retirement?
The Great Recession is one reason football players started paying more attention to their finances, according to Liz Davidson, founder of workplace financial wellness program Financial Finesse.
“All of a sudden their confidence of ‘I am making all this money and I’m set for life,’ eroded a little bit.”
Financial Finesse works with companies to provide financial guidance to employees, and was hired by the National Football League Players Association in 2009 in anticipation of the 2011 lockout.
“They wanted to make sure [players] had money in the bank so there wouldn’t be pressure on players to compromise.”
Her team of certified financial planners provides financial coaching to current and former players. They don’t manage money or give specific investment advice, like which stocks to buy or sell, but act more like a sounding board for players to call if they have any financial questions or want a second opinion.
And players are asking a lot of questions, here are some of them:
How much should I be saving?
Players’ paychecks are hefty, but tend to be short-lived. And keeping up with the spending habits of teammates is a huge temptation.
Financial Finesse encourages players to automate their savings by having a set amount of each paycheck go directly into savings and investment accounts.
For instance, a rookie making an annual salary of $450,000 — about $13,500 a week after taxes and 401(k) contributions — should aim to save about 40% of that to cover offseason expenses and another 40% should go into investment accounts, according to Financial Finesse.
Is this a good investment?
Around a quarter of the calls Linda Robertson from Financial Finesse fields involves players seeking a second opinion on investment advice.
“We teach them about asset allocation, risk over time and that there is no magic investment, to help them be appropriately diversified,” added Davidson.
Sometimes players turn to financial planners to help manage their finances, but not every professional can handle the needs of a pro athlete, and players often don’t know what to look for in an adviser.
“Many players come from humble beginnings and have no financial literacy and some are preyed on by financial advisers who might not have their best interest at hearts,” said Davidson.
Can I afford to buy a home?
Like most people, housing costs tend to be one of a player’s largest expenses. Plus, it’s not uncommon for an NFLer to own more than one property — maybe one in their home state and another in their team’s city.
And while they might have a bigger housing budget, they need to think about long-term affordability.
“Don’t just think about it with today’s paycheck … what does it look like when you transition out of football, can you still afford to carry two or three homes?” said Robertson.
Will I have enough to retire?
Football players tend to work the retirement savings system backward: Many of us accumulate our nest egg slowly over a long career, but they usually earn the bulk of their money within a few years, and then have to make it last decades longer than the average retiree.
That means it’s even more important for players to live below their means, and save and invest for the long term.
What’s my next career move?
A professional football career tends to last only a few years, the experts said, which makes planning for an encore career prudent.
And the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in the NFL, with many players seeking advice on launching their own business after leaving the gridiron.
Robertson recently worked with a former player considering opening a juice bar who was asking about financing the venture, salary expectations and financial projections.
How do I handle loan requests?
When players start making considerable money, people start coming out of the woodwork looking for loans and handouts.
To help players deal with loan requests and avoid ruining relationships, Financial Finesse advises them to have pre-determined requirements when lending or giving away money.
“We look at getting a written contract [detailing] what the money is for, the parameters and that it’s a one-time gift,” said Robertson.