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Risk Management for Professional Athletes
There have been a number of articles lately about professional athletes who have lost millions of dollars due to bad financial decisions. Athletes range from golfers to boxers to professional baseball players, and their bad decisions range from buying cars, women and tigers to battling gambling addictions and bad business investments. There are also those who were cheated by their agent, accountant or their ex-wives. Most of these problems are due to lack of education and some due to lack of maturity. Whatever the case may be, these issues have opened the door for entrepreneurs in the financial and risk management business.
One startling statistic says that 78% of NFL players are bankrupt or in financial distress within two years of retirement, and 60% of NBA players are bankrupt within five years of retirement. These athletes know they have plenty of money and they don’t think about what will happen when they stop receiving those multi-million dollar checks. Many of them do not understand business and/or finance. Some of them may never have even taken a single class in college. Some professional athletes may not have the time to focus their finances. The stress of having to produce on the field doesn’t leave much time to focus on off-field issues like investments or retirement plans. Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, a former professional footballer who signed the highest salary of his time in 1991 at $18.5 million over four years, once said: “I once had a meeting with JP Morgan and it was literally like listening Charlie Brown’s teacher”. Not that he isn’t an intelligent person, but without focusing on the details, many professional athletes are left out in the rain when their money runs out.
Of the athletes who went bankrupt, not all of them necessarily lost money because of their extravagant lifestyles. Some tried to invest and plan for their future but didn’t have people they could trust to manage their money or tried to manage it themselves but didn’t have the time or knowledge to do it right. Some of them invested in high-risk businesses that failed, and some invested in businesses that had no chance. A gamer once invested in an invention that consisted of an inflatable raft attached to the bottom of a couch so that people living in high rainfall areas could inflate the raft and float on their couch when their area flooded. If this player had someone in finance/risk management that he could trust and was reputable, then he wouldn’t have lost his money on such a stupid investment.
The finance/risk management companies that athletes should use are those that have a good reputation with all of their customers, not Uncle Joe’s accountants at the local mall. These companies should try to educate their customers on things they don’t understand by offering consultations and possibly workshops on financial management and personal finance. If they’re trying to keep the athlete in the dark, then they’re probably trying to switch them in some way. Every investment does not have to be a “homerun”. These companies should try to keep the athlete’s risk within reason.
Financial/risk management is critical to everyone’s financial stability regardless of how much money they make. If every investment a person makes is going to be risky and rewarding, then they might as well go to a casino because all they do is gamble. Although it is bad that so many athletes have this problem, it opens the door for those entrepreneurs in the business of risk management. Athletes must understand that even sports are businesses and view themselves as independent contractors who must run and manage their own business.
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