NFL players often drop the ball when managing their money; but punter, Jeff Locke, is trying to change this.
Punting in the NFL is not for the faint of heart; Jeff knows what it’s like to have 250 lb. linebackers trying to remove his head from his body. He has also seen the financial beheadings of many of his teammates and he wants to change this. He knows the deal and wants to spread the word.
Take a look at his MarketWatch piece. Jeff also interned at Dimensional Funds.
He reached out to learn how to teach financial literacy to quarterbacks, lineman, and their like. We spoke several times before I suggested he write a guest blog post pertaining to the unique challenges that NFL players face regarding money management.
Not surprisingly, the locker room is dominated by conflicted financial salespeople and is plagued by the same financial illiteracy that we see on Main Street.
Take a minute to read Jeff’s post concerning rookies and emergency funds. I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.
Whenever I talk to NFL rookies and teammates about personal finance and vetting financial advisors, I always ask them what they will do with the first paycheck.
Usually, it involves buying something they have always wanted or helping out family. The best answer would be to pay down almost any type of debt, and then build an emergency fund. This answer is really no different from what most legitimate financial planners would tell any of their clients.
How large should an emergency fund be?
The general rule of thumb is to save three to six months’ worth of expenses, but for players, I would go above this because they have unexpected costs. A player may need to move and/or support himself while spending an entire season trying to get back into the league. These expenses can quickly mount up:
– Basic living expenses (such as rent, cable, utilities) for six to nine months;
– Food for four months;
– Packing and moving costs;
– Shipping a car;
– Training and gym expenses;
– Body maintenance and rehab; and
Let’s dig into the basic numbers a bit. The minimum salary for a 2018 NFL rookie is $480,000. Conservatively, let’s take away 50% for taxes. When divided by 17 weeks of the season (yes, the bye week counts), it comes to $14,000 per game. A player that is drafted and receives a signing bonus should immediately put part of that money aside for the emergency fund. Even a first round pick can be released before the first game. This happens fairly regularly with late round picks that have decent signing bonuses.
My number has always been around $40,000. This will vary player to player.
Rent constitutes a large chunk of the emergency fund, especially since it is contingent upon the city’s rental market and where a player trains when (not if) he is released. Essentially, a player can be forced to pay two rents for a while. Staying with friends and family is an option, but it is not one to rely on. A player should choose to stay wherever his training will give him the best chance to get back in the league, not just what is cheapest and most convenient.
Players are extremely fortunate that it takes a month to build an emergency fund. It takes most Americans years to fully fund this, if they are able to at all. Even so, it is vital that a professional athlete, who has 0% job security, treats this as a priority because stressing about money can make trying out and performing more difficult.
I’ve been there. My emergency fund has been key for me this year and most of last year.
Some may say this line of thinking goes against the “unbeatable” mentality that helps so many players do what others cannot on the field. Those players that can separate their mentality on the field from their financial mentality will be much better off in the end and hopefully will avoid becoming the next “broke athlete” headline.
The emergency fund is the first line of defense. Once that is squared away then true wealth building can begin.