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Expert Insights for Smart Financial Planning

A Financial Planner's Playbook for NFL Draft's Rookie Millionaires

Pro football players make a lot of money that has to last a lifetime. Here's what I'd tell them about sudden wealth.


What do professional football players do in the off-season? This year, some tackled their personal finances. More than two dozen National Football League players were among a group who attended the NFL's Personal Finance Academy, a four-day seminar in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in early April.

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For a financial adviser, this is a dream team of clients—individuals fortunate enough to make large amounts of money in a relatively short career span, knowing that they must put their hard-earned gains to work to last a lifetime for themselves and their families. As a partner with PlanningCore Wealth Advisors, here's what I would have told them. Perhaps these insights will help you as well.

My NFL financial boot camp would start with a discussion of risk management. From there, we'd go to the chalkboard, to draw up a few insurance plays to consider. Finally, I'd give a pep talk on tackling spending and proper cash flow management. These are fundamentals crucial to anybody who acquires sudden wealth.

Investments are usually the first area that my clients want to address—and that pose the biggest risks. Athletes who are used to being top players in their profession need to understand risk tolerance and not assume they can always outperform the markets. Learning to play the long game and not chase the latest investment scheme can be difficult for players who work in 17-week competitive seasons.


Many players would like to leave a legacy for family and community. This planning starts with basic legal documents such as a will and powers of attorney that all players should have. Next, planning with trusts should be addressed, to avoid probate and potential negative publicity, and for estate tax planning.

Insurance is the least sexy part of financial planning. But huddle up, team. At my camp, we would start with a primer on the various types of insurance that players should consider when they start their pro careers. This is a rough, tough sport. Injuries abound. For younger, healthy players on the lower end of the pay scale, term insurance is an inexpensive way to protect family and provide an immediate legacy to heirs if a career is tragically cut short.

Older players or the superstars earning multi-millions may decide to self-insure, but, again, since a career can be cut short, term insurance or whole life insurance (that builds cash value inside the policy) can be a tool for legacy planning and estate tax considerations.

The right amount of property and casualty insurance supplemented with an umbrella policy can provide needed protection from potential lawsuits. An umbrella policy helps protect players in two ways:


1) Providing additional liability coverage above the limits of your homeowners, auto and boat insurance policies. This protection is designed to kick in when the liability on these other policies has been exhausted.

2) Providing coverage for claims that may be excluded by other liability policies, including false arrest, libel, slander and liability coverage on rental units you own.

Anyone who comes into sudden wealth needs a budget. A field-goal kicker right out of college who tries to spend like a franchise quarterback making many millions in a season will soon realize how easy it is to blow through hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Creating a financial plan that details assets, liabilities and cash flow can help players understand how much money they can spend and still provide for a cash reserve as well as an adequate amount of saving for retirement.


Most cases I have read of players becoming destitute after having millions of dollars in earnings stem from bad or fraudulent investment schemes. Finding the right investment products and a trustworthy management team is paramount.

At this point in boot camp, I would bring in mock investment professionals. We would play out the risky investment schemes that are typically encountered when someone comes into sudden wealth.

The players could see up close how slick operators peddle deed-of-trust investment scams in real estate, private-equity investments in businesses with conflicts of interest and other illegitimate schemes. Watch out for fast talkers with fancy suits and expensive watches.

Low-cost options? Reasonable rates of return? Too conservative. The bright, shiny objects usually garner all the attention.


Then, I'd have a real registered investment adviser or other financial professional who is under a fiduciary duty enter the scene. This person would be able to show the players exchange-traded funds, mutual funds and individual stocks to create a diversified portfolio.

We would continue the investment discussion with some exercises to illustrate risk tolerance. As with many type-A professionals, athletes can have strong personalities and an abundance of confidence. This confidence in one's ability to excel in their chosen profession or sport can carry over into a skewed sense of risk assessment and cause someone to chase over-performance in investments.

Most people incorrectly believe that you must take high risk in order to gain return. Actually, taking more risk in your investment portfolio increases the range of returns, both positive and negative. If taking risk would guarantee greater return, then the investment wouldn't be risky at all.

For players who are used to fast-paced action and a short work life, long-term focus can be difficult to maintain. This is the time to revisit the financial planning models that were prepared in connection with cash-flow budgeting to demonstrate how much income can be generated from an investment portfolio before principal is tapped and ultimately exhausted. An appreciation of life expectancy and the cost of health care in later life would be featured in this module.

Finally, a fourth-quarter discussion of estate planning. Accepting the fact that nobody stays on the field of life forever is a tough subject for athletes who are in the prime of life and in top physical form. However, most players have a strong sense of family and appreciate that without the countless hours spent by parents and sacrifices by spouses and children, they would not be in the position to take the field in front of thousands of cheering fans. A will and powers of attorney (both financial and healthcare) should be basic requirements for all players.

For superstar players, understanding proper use of trusts is important, to make sure that assets are passed to family as intended. A revocable or family trust is an important next step in the planning process. The family trust will allow a player to designate a trustee to administer the trust upon death. Unlike a will, the trust won't be subject to probate (probate is a court process to ascertain who the heirs of an estate are in absence of a trust). Life insurance trusts and other sophisticated irrevocable trusts can be used to help mitigate estate taxes.

We would reach the two-minute warning with a discussion of the non-monetary aspects of estate planning and leaving a positive legacy for family and community. With great wealth comes extra responsibility. Finding meaningful charitable causes and creating a positive legacy requires constant attention to being the best you can be on a daily basis.

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Robert Altshuler, JD CLU CHFC, founder of PlanningCore Wealth Advisors, LLC, provides investment and estate strategies to entrepreneurs, executives and affluent families in Phoenix, Arizona.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing expert, not the Kiplinger editorial staff.