The Growing Effort to Keep Athletes out of Bankruptcy Court
By Right About Money Staff Report
November 30, 2016
The financial future of student athletes is as uncertain as the touchdowns, home runs and slam dunks they hope to rack up as professionals. Even those who end up earning millions of dollars are vulnerable to peculiar forces, such as short careers and often big spending on friends and family that have supported them in the past. Many squander their fortunes and go broke.
NBA players that declare bankruptcy do so, on average, 7.3 years after retiring, according to the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University. Some 6.1% of NBA players wind up bankrupt within 16 years of retiring even though the median career earnings of NBA players is $12.7 million. Some 16% of NFL players declare bankruptcy within 12 years of retirement. One out of six NFL players ends up filing for bankruptcy.
Athletes have special needs when it comes to financial planning, and a number of financial literacy programs have emerged just for them. Two years ago, Morgan Stanley launched its global sports and entertainment division and now has 82 advisers with $35 billion under management. This division is focused on reaching college athletes and young pros with the message that because of their high expenses and short careers they are not as rich as they believe.
Over the summer, the Baron Jay Foundation teamed with Wells Fargo and One West Bank on “Riches to Wealth,” a financial education program to provide student athletes with the tools and knowledge they will need to make sound decisions once they start earning big money. Besides the basics such as saving, investing and managing money, the course offers tutorials on budget breakdowns that focus on how athletes should spend and invest their first $2 million.
These programs use case studies and bring in current and former athletes and coaches to make their point. At Riches to Wealth students hear the cautionary tale of boxer Mike Tyson, who burned through $300 million before declaring bankruptcy. But they also hear the success story of former NBA star Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman, who has amassed a fortune estimated at more than $400 million and ranks among the wealthiest former athletes.
Colleges and universities are also jumping on the bandwagon. Earlier this year Arizona State University introduced a hybrid personal finance/business/law class to teach student athletes financial and business issues. And governing bodies like the NCAA offer financial awareness best practices along with lists of financial resources, all with the hope that promising student athletes go on to be great professional athletes–and later retire with financial security.