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September 2018

Money and Athletes - Training for the Win
September 27, 2018

Fall football is in the air! Montana State's Homecoming is around the corner, and the season has turned our thoughts to the relationship between athletes and finance.

Many athletes aspire to make it big as professionals, with the accouterments of fame and fortune that go along with success. Players know they may have a short career in sports, while having the opportunity to earn the equivalent of the average person’s lifetime of wages. In football, for example, the average length of playing career is 3.3 years. Finding a school that balances education and athletics is an excellent start.

But even in the best circumstances, between classes and studying, there is not much time left in the day. Imagine on top of that, the hours of practice, games, and travel involved. Focused on getting through school excelling in their sport, college athletes are ill-prepared for the lottery-winner excitement of having access to millions of dollars at a young age when they leave school. Bankruptcy among football players is over 15% within 12 years of retirement; among NBA players 6.1% will declare bankruptcy within 15 years of retirement. Compare this to Montana residents, where just 0.12% of the population filed for bankruptcy in 2017.

So how do we, as parents, coaches, and community business leaders, help support the athletes who give us so much enjoyment when we watch them compete? It starts by providing the tools early—laying a foundation of knowledge when the windfall is still a faraway dream. Basic budgeting, saving, and business skills can start at any age.

Encouraging adolescents to use mobile and online banking with their first checking account may help them understand the importance of personally reviewing account status and maintaining dual-control access later in life. In fact, learning to pay attention to their money while they are juggling school and sports teaches young athletes another important skill—not to take their eyes off the (money) ball despite having to multi task. This is critical to avoiding a common pitfall for newly-wealthy athletes: fraud related to business opportunities or investment schemes.

Learning the financial basics, for busy student athletes and those of us cheering in the stands, does not need to take much time. Log on to and check out a a 10-15 minute module on budgeting, retirement planning, entrepreneurship and more. With each session, making the dream windfall last is closer to reality--whether the athlete in your life makes it to the pros or not.