Michael James (nominated by the Globe and Mail as one of Canada’s top Financial Bloggers) and I were having a discussion on Friday night about an interesting article written by Jon Chevreau at the National Post: Even Young Millionaires Need to Worry About Financial Planning.
The article outlines how young athletes who suddenly come into large amounts of money tend to expand their lifestyle and spending to reflect their new riches and many times don’t learn the importance of Personal Financial Planning until much too late in their lives. I quote:
Within two years of retirement, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress, while an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement, according to the March 23, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.
Michael James did not believe the number and questioned whether it was as bad as all that (he agreed that there is a problem, he just couldn’t believe it was as bad as all that). My view is this is very possible and I would not be surprised if it was worse than the numbers quoted by Sports Illustrated or by Mr. Chevreau.
The allure of a “rich” lifestyle and the fact that you have worked very hard to receive this monetary level does tend to throw off a lot of people’s Financial Gyroscopes (as it were). I have seen this at a smaller scale with folks that have got University degrees have lived a frugal lifestyle to get through the studies and when they graduate and get a good paying job, at first they remain frugal but then some folks just decide, “Heck, I deserve it!”, and start to lose their financial minds (I will plead guilty to this once or twice as well).
My guess is this is what happens with Professional Athletes, but they have the added problem of an entire species (for lack of a better term) of humans that seem to exist to prey on them, the hangers on (much like lampreys or other parasites). These people raison d’etre seems to be to leech off these walking banks, and this does not help these young people who suddenly get more money than they could ever dream of having. They get very odd financial advise from alleged professionals, and maybe trust people they shouldn’t trust (or worse trust people who then betray that trust). The players unions are trying to fix this, we shall see how well they might do (see the Sports Illustrated article for an eye opening statement by Raghib Ismail).
I remember when I was growing up and pro athletes did not make a lot of money (they made more than most working folks), but I remember a scout leader I had telling us about Dick Duff, because he played for the Canadiens (and the Leafs), but he had gone back to school to become a teacher, so he had a job after he finished with hockey. Do today’s athletes need to do this? Depends on the sport, and their pay level, but if they don’t plan their finances and plan for their ENTIRE life they are doomed to fall into the Rich Lifestyle trap.
Would I fall prey to this trap? We’ll never know, since my athletic talents were never a danger of putting me in this predicament.