As you’re driving west on Pennsylvania Route 56 toward my hometown, one of the first things you see as you approach the edge of town is the huge football stadium on your left. That stadium has been a fixture in that small town since 1949. Over the years, thousands of spectators have turned out on frosty autumn nights to watch their sons, brothers and neighbors battle it out on the field in that spectacle called high school football.
To the young men of my generation and the one before it, football was a ticket out of the coal mines and into college. A football scholarship would lead to an education. If you were one of the fortunate few, an outstanding college gridiron career might even lead to a chance to play in the NFL. And if you were lucky enough to go that far, the sky would be the limit. You would make insane amounts of money, own a beautiful home (or two or three) and a fleet of expensive cars. You would be set for life.
But maybe not.
As we see in this month’s installment of InsuranceNewsNet’s annual feature, “Hall Of Fame, Fall Of Shame,” a professional athlete’s life frequently is one in which a few years of massive paychecks are followed by a lifetime of significantly reduced earnings. The problem is that many of these athletes prepared so hard for their brief professional sports careers that they failed to prepare for the long and often lean years that follow.
Some athletes, however, bucked that trend. They made successful investments or they transitioned into second-act careers. We tell the stories of some of these athletes as well.
The difference between those who are members of the financial hall of fame and those whose faces grace the wall of shame often boils down to education. Somewhere along the line, the financially unsuccessful athletes never received life lessons about money. Either they had poor money management role models at home, they received no financial education in school or they failed to seek out professional advice. Suddenly, they were awarded that multimillion-dollar contract and had no idea what to do with all the money — so they spent it.
Reading the stories of those who became financial “haves” and those who ended up as financial “have nots” reminded me of the ways money is so ingrained in our family folklore. Now that the pandemic restrictions have lifted and our family can plan its annual reunion, I’ve been thinking a lot about those stories and worn-out jokes that family members tell over and over.
Most of our family tales relate to one of two topics: food and money. It made me realize how much of my attitude toward saving, spending and money in general is shaped by my family background. I am the granddaughter of immigrants who struggled to raise their children in the midst of the Great Depression. And my parents took that “depression mentality” with them when they left home and started their own family.
Hearing stories about someone who was left permanently disabled in a mining accident or about someone who was widowed at a young age and left to raise several children on her own drove home the fact that life can turn on a dime. Sometimes that proverbial rainy day turns out to be a deluge, and you need to plan for it.
You might never get the opportunity to advise a professional athlete, but you can make sure your client doesn’t end up with a massive “fall of shame.” You are your clients’ financial coach and the guidance you provide will ensure they have a winning season.