Professional athletes are celebrated for their exceptional talent and dedication to their sport. They often earn substantial incomes during their careers, making them financially comfortable while they're in the game.
However, the same traits that drive their success on the field or court, such as discipline and strategic thinking, can also serve them well when it comes to planning for retirement income.
Pro athletes, like anyone else, need a solid game plan for their financial future, and this plan should extend far beyond their playing days.
Here's how I set myself up for a comfortable retirement after my years in the NFL:
Surround Yourself with a Trustworthy Financial Team Early
Just as in sports, your financial teammates are crucial to your overall success. Take meetings with multiple advisors and CPAs that come referred to you, then choose the people who provide you with the best feeling of trustworthiness, security and competency. Then, don’t delay. Timing is everything in sports and finance - the earlier you start planning for retirement income, the better. Understanding tax implications, how compound interest works, and being privy to opportunities your financial team has the expertise to identify can turn small investments and adjustments in the early years into substantial earnings down the road.
Live Below Your Means
Professional athletes can surely afford to spend, but that doesn't mean they should spend lavishly. Living below your means and budgeting wisely can help ensure there's enough money to save and invest for retirement. People read headlines about a former athlete going broke and wonder, How did they manage that? The answer is: it’s a lot easier than you might think.
Athletes get a bad rap for being frivolous with their money and many assume that playing in the NFL will set you up for life, but that’s not really true. Very few players get paid like Tom Brady. Most guys only make the league minimum and play for about two years.
In 2021, the minimum was $660,000 per season, which is undeniably a good deal of money. But after it’s been cut up by taxes and agents and others, a million-ish dollars will not last forever.
Plan Your Transition into Post-Career Opportunities
Even if you’re set like Tom Brady, retiring in your 20s or 30s is not normal. People retiring in their 60s and 70s have trouble adjusting, let alone people who’d only just started their careers. To be so young and have nothing to do would seriously impact your mental health. You need to find a new purpose. Otherwise, you feel useless and obsolete.
Many pro athletes find success in business, broadcasting, coaching, or other fields after retiring from their sport. These opportunities can provide additional income during retirement and help athletes stay engaged and fulfilled. Make sure you’re considering what comes next and making connections along the way.
Diversify Your Investments & Protect Your Assets
While some athletes may be tempted to invest solely in areas they're familiar with, like real estate or businesses related to their sport, it's crucial to diversify investments. A diverse portfolio can help spread risk and maximize returns. For example, holding Insurance, including health, disability, and liability insurance is crucial for protecting the assets pro athletes accumulate during their careers but also creates investing opportunities.
This comes back to my point about working with trustworthy professionals. That goes for everyone, not just athletes. Seek those who work with you like a mentor would, sharing knowledge and insight to help you achieve your best results.
Just as in their athletic careers, pro athletes can achieve financial success with careful planning and disciplined execution. With the right teammates and strategy in place, the “broke athlete” stereotype can finally disappear.