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Ex-NBA Star, Set for Life, Advises the Newly Wealthy for No Pay

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Former NBA power forward/center Troy Murphy.

It takes a big man to work for free, and that’s what Troy Murphy is and is doing. Murphy, founder of Sweven Wealth, is a former National Basketball Association power forward/center who stands at 6 feet, 11 inches. He recently launched a new advisory firm to help those who come into sudden wealth — like many of the young athletes he met during his 12-year career with the NBA.

But here’s the twist: Murphy is plowing any profits from his firm back into selected nonprofit financial literacy organizations in an effort to educate people early on in the mysteries of finances. He does not take a salary.

Murphy made more than $60 million during his basketball career, manages his own portfolio, and says he’s “all set” when it comes to his own finances. Therefore, he has a different view than many financial advisors, stating, “I’m not interested in making money. I’m interested in making a difference.”

His thinking is colored by his own journey, he admits. He left Notre Dame after his junior year to pursue a career in the NBA. He says in preparing for the draft, he worked with about six other young athletes, some who right away bought expensive cars.

“I found that interesting because the draft hadn’t even happened yet and no one really knew where they were going,” says Murphy, who was selected 14th overall in the 2001 draft by the Golden State Warriors. “Then after the draft I would see guys come in and make impulsive purchases and risk money. They wouldn’t put together any kind of plan … and it was a continuous theme every year.”

Sweven, which means “dream” or “vision” in Old English, was Murphy’s own goal, having seen so many young athletes waste their riches. Early on in his career he was involved with his own finances, often questioning his financial advisor on investments. Toward the end of his basketball career he handled his own portfolio. And playing in the NBA helped that discipline, he says.

“Through my own journey I’ve had to manage the financial expectations of many people close to me. I’ve received good advice, bad advice and witnessed a number of cautionary tales,” he says. “The ‘off the court’ aspect of playing basketball has prepared me to be successful in this area.”

After Murphy left basketball, he worked for a year with the NBA, and then went back to college at Columbia University to get his degree in sociology. But he always wanted to manage money, so afterward studied to become an RIA. And after seeing so much impulsive spending in the NBA, he decided to focus on an area with which he was very familiar: sudden wealth. That definitely means his target clients are athletes, but also those who inherit money, go through a divorce and have to learn how to handle their finances, and even those who win lawsuit settlements. He charges $275 an hour, which is billed in six-minute increments.

“The key concepts that I try to implement are acclimation and education,” he explains. “There is an emotional aspect associated with financial windfalls that recipients need to acknowledge and take time to sort through. They also need to be proactive in their role and educate themselves as to the potential investments under consideration. It’s important to acquire an understanding of how assets might perform so you can limit emotional reactions. This should be a collaborative process between client and advisor.”

He says he’s a proponent of a passive investment strategy that is based on diversification, low costs and tax efficiency. How it’s distributed, he says, is based on the client profile. “In the early stages, I try to determine [the client’s] need and willingness to take on risk. Finding someone’s willingness is an integral part of the process. You want to be consistent with your chosen allocation and resist the urge to vary it greatly. Then, rebalance when necessary.”

Paying It Forward

It took time for Murphy to find the right financial literacy organizations to donate his profits to, as he says he looked for groups that were responsible and had good leadership. This includes having commitment to improving financial literacy or consumer awareness; being independent, that is, not funded by a business trying to influence messaging; and offering free service to all. Currently, the nonprofits are The Giving Project and The Philly Financial Cooperative.

A modern day Renaissance man — he enjoys English literature, the Wife of Bath a favorite of his from the Canterbury Tales — Murphy’s vision is a model of helping those who need it, as well as helping today’s youth learn about finances early in life. Basketball showed him many things, especially seeing how sudden wealth can be wasted. But it also prepared him for his new profession.

“Success doesn’t happen overnight in basketball. It’s the result of creating a plan and having deliberate actions that enable you to reach your goals,” he explains. “If I wanted to be a great shooter, I put together a plan of how I was going to accomplish that and then I went out and did it. The same principles apply here: you have to set a goal, create a plan to get there, and then focus your actions to make that plan a reality.”

This theme plays out in his choice in this year’s Final Four. “I kind of like Virginia because they lost to a 16th seed last year, and then came back to get to the Final Four this year,” he says. “I think that to win [it all] would be a pretty special story.”

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