What the Super Bowl Can Teach You About Money

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By Kimberly Palmer

For football players, managing money is easy to fumble. Unlike most people, they often earn huge paychecks early in their careers, when they have the least experience handling money, and then those paychecks can abruptly drop off when they retire from the game. HBO even created an entire television series, "Ballers," starring Dwayne Johnson, around the concept. Former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, former quarterback Dan Marino and former quarterback Vince Young have filed for bankruptcy, lost millions in bad investments and defaulted on loans, respectively.

Last year, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 16 percent of players drafted by NFL teams between 1996 to 2003 filed for bankruptcy within 12 years of leaving the NFL. Those public troubles are part of the reason one former star, Phillip Buchanon, turned himself into something of a financial superhero last year, penning a guide to money, "New Money: Staying Rich," after his football retirement. The NFL's Player Engagement Department also runs financial boot camps for players and the NFL Players Association, a union, invests in financial literacy education, too.

All those efforts might be paying off: Recent coverage of the Redskins players' lifestyle choices have centered around their frugality. A widely-shared January Wall Street Journal article revealed that some players are biking to work, driving beat-up vans and living in low-rent apartments. Their penny-pinching habits were attributed partly to their personalities, life experience and the availability of cheap housing near their training facility.

At this year's Super Bowl on Feb. 7, the money-football connection will break new ground: SunTrust Bank will sponsor the first Super Bowl ad to promote financial wellness, with the goal of getting Americans thinking and talking about managing their money. We're used to seeing promotions for beer, snack food and cars, but for personal finance? Not so much.

"We thought having an ad in the Super Bowl would help start a movement. This is an attempt to start a conversation around what needs to be done," says Brad Dinsmore, head of consumer banking for SunTrust. "It became really clear that one of the biggest issues facing Americans is financial stress – the stress associated with managing money ... It's not only impacting clients' financials, but their health and happiness."

That's true for people of all ages, says Brian Ford, ​SunTrust's financial well-being executive. According to research from the American Psychological Association, almost three-quarters of Americans feel stressed about money. "If you look at millennials, it's that much worse. Most run out of money between paychecks," Ford says. That's why developing financial confidence through sound money management is so important, he adds. "We see people are stuck, and they need to be inspired."

SunTrust hopes that after seeing the 30-second ad, which will air during the break before the last two-minute warning​ in the fourth quarter of the game, will drive people to the SunTrust website onUp.com, which offers financial tools and quizzes to encourage people to manage their money. The company also hopes that viewers take to social media to share their thoughts using the hashtag #onUp.

The ad was created by director Dante Ariola​ and revolves around the concept of holding one's breath. "You're not really enjoying moments in life if you are stressed about your finances," Ford explains, just as you're not fully present when you're holding your breath.

The visual impact of holding your breath is powerful and relevant to money worries, Dinsmore adds. "If you're spending your time worried about money, you won't have time to spend on the people you love and the moments that matter in life," he says.

Over on the SunTrust website behind the campaign, onUp.com, visitors are encouraged to take a quiz on their "mental wealth" level and read articles about money management, from how to save more to how to plan and budget. Visitors can also sign up by email to "join the movement" and receive updates. Ford says the goal of the campaign is not to promote products or services but to address the country'sfinancial stress and get people talking about what they can do.

"We find a lot of Americans are not comfortable talking about the issue, are embarrassed or aren't sure what to do. It seems overwhelming. The biggest thing is to take the first step," Dinsmore says, by committing to taking control over your money management.

If they succeed in getting the millions of people watching the Super Bowl to do that, that would be reason for a touchdown celebration.
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