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Archive for Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Commentary: Money lessons learned the hard way

Millions made, millions lost is the sad story of some professional athletes

June 4, 2008

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Lesson to the wise: Even rich people can be broke.

If you don't believe me, then ask retired NBA star Latrell Sprewell or the Dallas Cowboys' newest addition, Adam "Pacman" Jones.

Both athletes had homes go into foreclosure recently.

Sprewell's situation is more sad when you consider he had multiple contract offers worth more than $20 million and a shoe endorsement.

The notion of poor millionaire athletes sounds ridiculous to the average person, but it is estimated over half of all NBA and NFL athletes are living paycheck to paycheck.

Ask Craig Jones. He is a principal in the wealth management firm Jones Barclay Boston & Co., which has a large clientele of professional athletes.

"It's a tough situation athletes are in," Jones said. "Too many people think, 'How can someone run out of money?' They will run out of the money without guidance; I don't care what background, family or profession they're from."

Let's substitute "tough" for "ignorant." Just like it's ignorant when lottery winners buy million-dollar homes and can't afford the electric bill.

Jones said the three main causes for athletes going broke are overspending, bad private investments and too many family and friends leeching on their earnings.

Add to the fact younger athletes often are unaware that over a third of their income (38 percent, to be exact) is extracted for taxes - unless they are smart enough to beat the system with the myriad of tax breaks only the wealthy can afford.

After a player buys his mother a house and himself a house, pays the agent, buys a new car, buys the girlfriend a six-carat diamond ring, gives the friend a loan and pays taxes, he'll be looking for the next contract.

The unfortunate reality is that any person who comes into a large sum of money without guidance could be irresponsible. There are many middle-class Americans living outside their means. How many of us are unable to save for the future because our lifestyle is dependent on a weekly or bi-weekly check?

The NFL Players Association estimates at least 60 percent of athletes go broke within their first five years after retirement.

Buffalo Bills lineman Derrick Dockery, 27, is going to make sure that does not happen to him.

There was a time when he wasted money on jewelry and big-boy toys as he waited for his next paycheck. But he credits his wife Emma, 26, for putting a stop to that.

His wife, whom he met in college at the University of Texas, majored in investment banking.

With Emma's help, he was able to make wiser financial investments instead of squandering their future.

The only real protection an athlete has from financial ruin is to surround him or herself with wise counsel, then listen and respond.

Or they can listen to the sound of their home being auctioned.

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