They are barely out of their teens and they are heroes. These professional athletes smash homers into the bleachers, make leaping catches in the end zone and sink three-pointers at the buzzer.
But after the cheers fade and the arenas empty out, oftentimes their bank accounts are empty, too.
The statistics are shocking and sad.
According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated report, 78 percent of retired NFL players went bankrupt or experienced financial stress just two years after retirement. And within five years of retiring, 60 percent of former NBA players were broke as well.
For professional athletes, making good financial decisions is critically important for future quality of life and has to start early. But that’s not to say it’s easy.
Great professional athletes often start their careers as 20-year-olds who may have only just opened their first checking accounts. Their families may not have the financial contacts or sophisticated money tips and know-how necessary to guide them.
“The professional athlete’s background is part of it,” said Bob McKee, a private banker to sports professionals at RBC Wealth Management Canada. “You may find yourself dealing with young athletes from modest circumstances who were never exposed to financial complexity or investing.”
Here are four money tips that young professional athletes may want to consider:
City National Bank Senior Vice President Boris Gluzberg, who works with professional athletes, stresses basic prudence and the importance of finding the right financial coaches and team members.“In my view, it’s not how much you make, but how much you keep,” said Gluzberg. “I preach the value of saving and of surrounding yourself with the right advisors and the right talent. I also start talking about ‘post-career’ on day one.”
“I counsel skepticism regarding deals where the athlete is the main or only investor,” McKee said. “The failure rate is very high. Investment caliber is also important. Too many athletes put too much in penny stocks, for instance.”
“One individual can’t know everything,” Gluzberg said. “Professional athletes need to have bankers and advisors right there in the mix. The banker needs to have a relationship with the agent, the business manager, and the family. Everyone needs to be focused on getting into the end zone. That means helping the athlete succeed not only while playing, but after the playing days are over.”
“Our task is to ‘educate, educate, educate,’ as long as it takes. That’s what we’re there for,” McKee said.
Both Gluzberg and McKee advise their clients to keep their finances and lifestyles simple, especially in the beginning, and not try to do too much, too fast.
“A good beginning is having the right agent, a good rookie deal and maybe a good endorsement or two,” Gluzberg said. “At that point, start your life. Start saving money. Buy a house. Pay off the house. Don’t throw money around. That’s how to make a good start and secure a good future.”