Most professional athletes suffer from young person’s disease invincibility. They feel as though short-lived careers will happen to the other “guy” or the other “girl”, not him or her, and consequently fail to adequately manage their finances during their often, very short-lived, prime-earning years. Of course, there are always exceptions, such as New York Giant’s running back Tiki Barber. Mr. Barber decided to walk away from the game during the prime of his career to preserve his health and pursue other professional interests such as broadcasting.
There are others that also take an active interest in the management of their money, stay involved every step of the way, and retire in a great position for the rest of their lives. However, the opposite side of these stories are far too common stories of star athletes whose careers are cut short by injury, stories of star college athletes that never make it professionally (think 1986 Big East college basketball Player of the Year Walter Berry, a highly touted player who lasted less than 3 seasons in the NBA), and the most widespread of them all, stories of athletes bilked by their trusted advisors.
So let’s examine the 10 reasons why a professional athlete needs to spend as much time searching for the proper financial advisor as he or she would spend searching for the right person to the rest of his or her life with.
(1)Most professional athletes believe that their careers will be much longer than the probabilities dictate.
The average professional athlete’s career lasts only 4 years. According to the National Football League Player’s Association, in the NFL, the average career is 4 years. In Major League Baseball, for pitchers, it is 4.8 years; for hitters, 5.6 year. In the NBA, it is 4.7 years.
(2)While average salaries are high, $1.4MM in 2005 in the NFL, and $2.7MM in 2006 in major league baseball, many players believe that their careers will last much longer than 4 years.
They figure that it will always be the other guy that is out of the profession soon and not him, so they fail to not only preserve wealth, but also they fail to grow what they already have.
(3)Major injuries often cut a professional athlete’s career short
When this happens, athletes that have depended on their bodies their entire lives for earning potential often find themselves without an adequate alternative skill to earn money after their professional sports careers end. Therefore, building wealth during their prime earning years is critical to a happy retirement.
(4)Many athletes live above their means, blowing huge percentages of their salaries on expensive cribs and rides (anybody that has seen an episode of MTV Cribs is familiar with the excesses of professional athletes in these two areas.)
Just because an athlete’s cash flow at the time seems limitless does not mean that it is. A good financial advisor will ensure that an athlete has a plan “B” to deal with unforeseeable circumstances.
(5)Many athletes spend more time searching for the perfect ride than they do finding the perfect financial advisor.
Given that this decision will impact the athlete’s life more than any other decision he will ever make, the process of finding a financial advisor should be rigorous.
(6)Many athletes give their financial advisors too much control.
An inordinate amount of professional athletes don’t take a personal interest in the management of their assets, leaving management of their assets to a “trusted” advisor that more likely wants to bilk the athlete than help him. A great financial advisor will insist that the athlete understand why he or she is making certain investments on behalf of the athlete. A bad financial advisor will tell the athlete, “Trust me. This is the best thing for you to do,” thereby securing liberty to invest the athlete’s money into products that will make their wallets fat.
(7)Fairytales like Jerry Maguire don’t happen very often in real life.
Though they do happen, the opposite case scenario of being the number one receiver to being out of the NFL the next year scenarios happen far more often.
The last three reasons center around the hazardous world that is the one of professional financial advisors and consultants. Think of the agent from Spike Lee’s movie “He Got Game” that was trying to lure Ray Allen as a client, and you have a fairly accurate picture of the level of deception and greed that is common in the world of investment advisors.
(8)Since so many professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, and MLB are minorities, advisors play the race card all the time to gain the trust of clients.
Many athletes fall victim to this pep talk of “we got to stick together”, fail to adequately screen a financial consultant, and place their trust in incompetent advisors. Case in point. When rapper mogul Master P’s No Limit sports agency was able to convince University of Texas star running back Ricky Williams to be a client, they negotiated, on Ricky’s behalf, an eight year contract that had very little guaranteed money and was instead dependent upon numerous incentive clauses that had very low probabilities of achievability.
Consequently, Ricky never was able to earn money that should have been guaranteed in the first place given his status coming out of college. In fact, the negotiated contract was so bad that other agents called Ricky’s employer and congratulated them for getting a top NFL prospect for close to nothing.
(9)Many minority financial advisors again play the race card to gain enough trust to bilk their clients.
Calvin Darden Jr., a 31-year-old stockbroker, gained the trust of New York Knick Latrell Sprewell, and then proceeded to steal $300,000 from him. Sprewell, compared to the great number of athletes also robbed by their financial advisors, actually got off light. William Black, stole more than $11,000,000 from New York Giants star Ike Hilliard and other athletes whose money he handled.
(10)Situations # 8 and # 9 happen because most professional athletes have no idea what questions they need to ask a financial advisor to understand if he or she is competent or incompetent.
Many instead, focus on irrelevant things like the type of car the advisor drives, what kind of suits he or she wears, and what kind of watch he/she wears. I’ve had several meetings with professional athletes regarding management of their assets and most of them did not ask any questions that would remotely help them gather enough information to make an informed, intelligent decision about whether or not I would be the right financial advisor for them.
If athletes let financial consultants control the information exchange in meetings, they will get burned because financial consultants are experts in making sales to clients. They can pick the proper strategy to use for each unique situation, pandering to the race card, fear of losing money and ending up broke, or greed. Some professional athletes decline advisors for ridiculous reasons like the car driven by the advisor was not the “right” kind of car or the suit worn by the advisor was not the “right” brand. I have seen advisors mortgage their financial future and liquidate their retirement accounts to buy expensive cars. I have seen other financial advisors lease expensive cars they couldn’t afford to impress clients.
Yet some athletes would decide to place their money in the hands of these advisors versus much more competent advisors that would manage their money infinitely better. Athletes need to learn what questions they must ask financial consultants during meetings so that they can determine the level of competence of the advisor. Often, athletes will meet with an advisor for two hours and at the end of the meeting, still know nothing more than they knew at the beginning of the meeting that will enable them to make an informed decision about who to select as their financial advisor. One must ask good questions to receive good answers.