Financial lessons from millionaire athletes

Professional athletes have it made. They're paid millions of dollars over a short career and have the money to put away for a comfortable retirement.

Or do they? A Sports Illustrated article about how and why athletes go broke details how some pro athletes, instead of putting some of their high salaries in safe investments, instead find the riskiest investments around and end up bankrupt.

While the average person might not think that they'd make such poor decisions if they were in the same boat, the story does provide some financial lessons that may apply too anyone's life. Granted, they're more likely to apply if you win millions in the lottery or find yourself with a contract to sign with a pro sports team, but they are lessons worth remembering. Here are a few:

1. Don't invest in anything an adviser tells you is "fail-proof, with no downsides," as former NFL player Raghib Ismail did when investing $300,000 into the Rock N' Roll Cafe, a theme restaurant like the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood franchises. Restaurants often fail.

2. Stay away from private investment deals, such as Ismail did with framed calligraphy being sold to tourists. The SI story quotes experts who estimate that only one in 30 of the highest-caliber private investment deals works out as advertised.

3. Stick with investments such as the stock market, public securities, gold and other things that while you can't see them, are relatively safe. Athletes often prefer the thrill of something tangible, the story reports, such as inventions, nightclubs and car dealerships that go bankrupt. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter invested almost $70,000 in an inflatable raft invention that would sit under furniture. Owners could pump it up during heavy rain and float away on their sofa during a flood. Hunter never saw his money again.

4. Check where your money goes. Trusting your accounting to one person is a mistake, as a former teammate of Hunter's found out when he was paying $5,000 a month for insuring two cars.

5. Get a prenuptial agreement. Most divorces by athletes' spouses happened after a career was over.

6. Don't let friends or family deal with your finances. While they may have good intentions, they might not be trained in financial services and are probably looking to sponge off your massive income.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at

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