Most National Football League (NFL) players make a lot of money during the course of their professional football careers — but many go on to make financial decisions that leave them with less money than they started with. Consider Vince Young, who made almost $30 million in 2011 and then declared bankruptcy in 2014.
On the other end of the spectrum are players that have decided to finish their college education, and end up working for this industry. Case in point: Steven Kreider, former wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, who was named CIO at Western & Southern Financial Group Inc. last May.
While we sing praises to those that have invested their assets well and have been smart about leaving a solid legacy to their loved ones, we also want to learn from the mistakes others have made that are now wreaking havoc on their retirement dreams. These examples can be good anecdotes to use when explaining retirement strategies to clients.
1. Unexpected medical bills
Just like Beyoncé’s “Bills” song, some retired NFL players keep seeing medical bills pop up, either for ongoing treatment or for new health complications related to previous injuries. According to an article published last year in The Washington Post as part of their “Do no harm” series, “the NFL’s health insurance lasts five years after retirement” and players who lasted “fewer than three seasons don’t qualify for it at all.”
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the ongoing health and disability battles that these players suffer after being productive in the football field. In the meantime, NFL retirees are still footing the bills.
The lesson: For the non-NFL players out there: no one knows what your future health is going to look like. You can take care to maintain a healthy lifestyle and body, but your genes might have other plans. There should always be a health fund in your retirement piggy bank, for all those unexpected aches and pains. Make that clear to your clients.
Former Dartmouth linebacker, Reggie Williams, speaks after being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Foundation’s awards dinner in New York, Dec. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)
2. Difficulty adjusting to life as a retiree
After the fanfare and the lights at the stadium fade and everything goes quiet, many former football players fill their days with volunteering, starting their own non-profits, helping local teams achieve greatness, or broadcasting and game analysis. Others simply watch TV on their couches. Some of them, like Tiki Barber former player of the New York Giants, find it hard to adjust to a new and quieter life.
An article that we published late in July discusses the difficulty of tranisitioning to retirement, which can lead to depression and even suicide. Although it has not been confirmed, many suspect that the suicide of former linebacker Junior Seau in 2013 was due to concussion-related problems, which can make a difficult transition even more challenging.
The lesson: Take care to really listen to your clients and advise them to seek help should you feel they’re in a “funk” for too long. All stages in life need a readjustment period, particularly when the change is extreme.
3. A short accumulation period
The span of a footballer’s productive career is just four seasons, on average. Some estimates show that rookie players can start earing almost half a million dollars, a sum which will increase exponentially if they have a successful career. However, this leaves footballers with a short amount of productive years, which is why it’s very important for them to plan their whole life financially.