How Athletes Get Into Financial Trouble

The Need to Fit In

How many people can say they made it to the professional level in a sport? It’s the best of the best, and you want to show that you belong both on and off whatever court or field you play on. So, how do you show you’re part of the group? How do you figure out how to act? You observe what the other guys in the locker room are doing, and follow their lead. Every year, a wide-eyed rookie would come in and emulate one of the older players. Before long, the young guy would get the same car or begin to dress in a similar way. The problem is that the rookie was spending like he’s established while being paid like the newcomer that he is. Not the ideal financial beginning…

Confusion with When You’ve “made it”

There are two significant dates for athletes in regard to money. The first is when you become a professional and get paid to do what you would do for free. The next is when you can live without worrying about money. What many athletes fail to realize is that these two things don’t happen on the same day. The prevailing thought is that once you become a professional, you’ve “made it,” and financial concerns are a thing of the past. The truth is that once you become a professional, you’ve only just begun the journey. You have to take responsibility to respect, preserve, manage, and grow your money. Unfortunately, this process often gets lost, and the second date of living without worrying about money never comes to fruition.


When athletes become sudden-wealth recipients, they often have no prior experience managing their finances. Beyond a lack of financial experience, many have limited life experiences as well. They’ve spent the majority of their lives working to perfect a skill. They arrive professionally in their late teens or early twenties and are thrust into an environment for which they are not ready – on multiple levels. Although they have no prior experience, they’re suddenly flush with opportunities to go into business with others. The compliments and attention are intoxicating. These people seem to make a lot of sense, and their persistence makes them difficult to resist; however, all too often, the old adage proves true, “When a man with money meets a man with experience, the man with experience ends up with the money and the man with the money ends up with the experience.”


The overconfidence that gets athletes into financial trouble manifests itself with the idea that it’s common to experience a series of financial windfalls that extends beyond a playing career. Instead of using athletic earnings to set up a sustainable lifestyle, many reach outside their respective sports for ways to make money. The belief that athletic success will naturally carry into other endeavors reveals itself in risky investments that all too often separate athletes from their cash.

Impulse Spending

Every year an article surfaces where new players are asked about the first thing they are going to buy now that they have become a professional. Answers always include big-ticket items such as cars and houses. I get it. If you’ve never had money and now you suddenly do, it’s hard to wait. There’s so much to see, do, and buy. But the reality is that for a lot of these guys, their first contract is all they’re going to receive. Few athletes plan for this possibility, instead giving in to the siren song of impulse spending which ultimately leads to a lot of borrowing down the road.