It’s a sure bet that Super Bowl great Tom Brady, who just announced his retirement from the NFL at 44, has done plenty of smart retirement planning over the years.
The same can’t be said for many current and former NFL players, who “don’t know left from right when it comes to their finances,” according to Jake Stoneburner, financial advisor with Stoneburner Wealth Management, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
A former NFL player himself, he retired in 2017, then fulfilled a long-standing plan to become a financial advisor.
Now he’s helping athletes “navigate the post-football life,” as he puts it.
“You get great money in football; but when you retire,” he says, “it’s like, ‘Where’s my next paycheck coming from?’”
In the interview, Stoneburner, 32, managing $250 million in assets and whose BD is Commonwealth Financial Network, reveals how he specifically helps two NFL clients.
One is a current player, Garrett Griffin, 27, with the New Orleans Saints, a free agent who hasn’t a clue which team he’ll be playing for next season. The other, Jake Ballard, 34, retired after five years in the NFL and is now a real estate agent. He played for the New York Giants, among other teams.
Though both men are set to be recipients of robust proceeds from their 401(k) plans and pensions, thanks to new NFL benefit programs, what they need is liquidity now as well as to build up a few other accounts to help offset taxes that will be due down the road.
Stoneburner has helped each build wealth in various tax buckets and set up accounts to provide liquidity so they’re “not just sitting in cash but are earning a little bit more in an investment account,” he says.
He also made sure they bought insurance policies, which “put a moat around” the money they’ve earned in the NFL, he points out.
The advisor’s client niche is millennials, many of whom are current and former NFL players.
“[They] get real loosey-goosey with the money they have in their bank account,” he says.
Stoneburner played tight end with a handful of teams, including the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins, from 2013 to 2017.
Seeking a more stable lifestyle, he joined his father’s nearly 30-year-old advisory the year he retired. He was a financial planning major at Ohio State University.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Stoneburner, speaking from Dublin, Ohio, near Columbus, where his firm is based.
He often tells his football clients badly in need of financial and retirement planning: “You’re wealthy today, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be wealthy tomorrow.
“Long-term investing isn’t sexy. It just takes patience.”
Here are excerpts from our interview:
THINKADVISOR: Why are NFL players so in need of expert financial advice?
JAKE STONEBURNER: Football is really weird: You’re one of the highest earners in any field — you may be making $2 million one year — but the next, you could get cut and make zero.
The challenge is: Do we want to invest, and how much should we invest? How much should we keep in cash?
How aggressive should we be, knowing that you could get cut and lose your job at any moment?
What makes you more qualified than most FAs to serve these pro athletes?
I’m able to help NFL current and retired players with their finances because I’ve lived it.
We’re in this brotherhood that not a lot of people understand or have been through.
Just how knowledgeable are players about financial matters?
Guys in the NFL, seven-figure earners, don’t know left from right when it comes to their finances.
I hate to use the term “financially illiterate,” but that seems to be the case. A lot of them should have been doing things with their money that we’re helping them do now.
I preach to players: “You’re wealthy today, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be wealthy tomorrow.”
I’m trying to help them navigate the post-football life. You make great money in football; but when you retire, it’s like, “Where’s my next paycheck coming from?”
A number of pro athletes have had big financial problems after they retired, haven’t they?
Fifteen or 20 years ago, the NFL got a bad rap because players were going broke or bankrupt after football.
But I think the NFL reversed the ship by making sure to take care of the guys in their retirement once they get vested, which is after four years.
Also, the NFL provides a pension: Every year after your fourth year of playing, a certain amount gets added to it.
And after your second year, they’ll match what you put in your 401(k) up to 200%.
They also fund some annuities, which the guys get the longer they play: a fixed income annuity, to which 4% is added each year, I believe; and the other is an equity fixed indexed annuity, which grows with the market.
All that’s a big help, no doubt?
Players can get real loosey-goosey with the money they have in their bank account. So this allows them to save money that they can’t touch for [years].
The 401(k)s are great. But they don’t have liquidity now for, say, buying a house.
I can’t touch or roll over my 401(k) from the NFL till I’m 45.
Please tell me how you’re helping a current NFL player.
Garrett Griffin is 27 and a tight end playing with the New Orleans Saints. He’s in his seventh year [with them] and plans to play as long as he can.
Garrett is a free agent this year. After March, he can talk to other teams and potentially sign a new contract and potentially get a signing bonus.
But until then, he’s in a gray area. And it’s even grayer because his head coach just retired. That doesn’t help.
What sort of financial planning do you do for Garrett?
It’s planning around his income each year — but not knowing what the next year could bring.
So we need to build cash outside his portfolio because we don’t know what the future will be.