How did I find myself in the precarious position of arm-wrestling first-round NFL draft pick Dee Ford in Las Vegas -- and what does this have to do with the meaning of money? Stick with me, and I'll explain.
Every day, there are epic battles waged over your money. People, situations and events conspire to take your hard-earned cash. And in each interaction, the person who understands why they do what they do, and most clearly understands what money means to them, will win every time.
This is what I tell the 50 NFL professional athletes sitting before me. I was invited to keynote the Sports Entertainment Group 2014 retreat by attorney and sports agent Adisa Bakari, partner at Kelley Drye & Warren and chair of the group, because of my expertise in turning sudden wealth into lasting wealth. The theme of the retreat was "Ensuring Today's Athletes Remain Tomorrow's Millionaires."
It was a successful event, and the sort of thing that not enough agents do for their players. "Ensuring that our athlete clients remain successful beyond their playing days is essential to our representation of them," Bakari said. "As agents, we work tirelessly to ensure we maximize a player's money. Once that contract is negotiated and signed, we work even harder to ensure our clients keep their money."
A Taunt to a Room Full of Athletes
I decide to taunt my audience a bit. "Who thinks they can beat me at arm-wrestling?" Hands shoot up. Several players laugh. A few of the larger players -– heck, they are all larger players –- don't even bother to raise their hand. They think I'm joking. I'm not.
"Who thinks that if we put our elbows on the table right now and clasped hands, that they could beat me?" I continue undaunted, but also hoping nobody takes me up on the challenge. The group is unfazed by my rhetoric or arm-wrestling confidence.
"Why do you think you could beat me?" I ask. Few want to state the obvious -- that they are professional athletes who could easily bench press me. I ask again, "Why do you think you could beat me?" They can tell I'm really looking for an answer.
Someone yells out, "I just know I can."
Dee Ford Takes the Bait
"Who said that?" I ask as I look around, searching for my vocal participant. Then I see Dee Ford smiling like only a 23-year-old first-round NFL draft pick can when asked by a 165-pound, 42-year-old guy about arm-wrestling. He's trying to avoid stating the obvious and desperately trying not to hurt my feelings.
"I just know I can," he smirks.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-"This is the kind of confidence you need when it comes to your money."%"Yes! Of course you can beat me. You'd destroy me, just like everyone else in the room would destroy me," I continue. "This is the kind of confidence you need when it comes to your money. You must know without a shadow of a doubt what this thing called money means to you. You have to be just as mentally strong and self-assured in your beliefs about money as you are that you can beat me at arm wrestling. Is it just good for buying things? Providing temporary happiness? Or does it mean more? Can it do more?
"I don't know what money means to you, but here's what money means to me. Money is freedom. Look back at any point in history, and the people with money were the people who were free. Money provides opportunity. Money can provide experiences and options. Money can give you the opportunity to live in a better neighborhood and provide better education for your children. Money can provide better health care for you and your family. Money can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Money is power.
"This is what money means to me. Money can give me the life that I want. The question is 'What does money mean to you?' Think about it. Come up with a reason for why you do what you do. Get confident about what money means to you and the value that it has for you. I guarantee that once you start thinking about money differently and once you start thinking about what it means to you, you will look at spending it differently. Money will go from being something that can buy stuff to something that creates options and provides freedom. Because if you just have a shallow meaning of what money is to you, it will flow through your hands and you will lose it. But if you have a deep understanding and belief about what money is and what it can provide, you will win the battle for your wealth every single time -- and you'll start to make different and smarter financial choices when it comes to how you're going to spend it."
This is a lesson for all of us. Get specific about the true meaning of money for you. Think about what it has the power to do for you and you'll have a much deeper respect for earning it and saving it.
I only hope this is one Vegas story that doesn't stay in Vegas.
Robert Pagliarini is a best-selling author and wealth manager who focuses on sudden wealth recipients. Connect with him on Twitter at@rpagliarini.
15 Easy Ways to Cut Your Health Care Costs Without Cutting Quality
I Arm-Wrestled NFL Rookie Dee Ford to Teach Athletes About Money
From general practitioners to dentists to acupuncturists, many health care providers offer discounts when you send them a word-of-mouth referral. It may only be $50 or so, but money is money.
It doesn't hurt to ask for a discount: The worst your doctor can say is "no." Many practitioners offer lower rates when you pay with cash or check instead of a card. (They also offer payment plan options if you can't afford to pay all at once.)
Bring up as many concerns with your primary-care physician during an office visit as possible, advises Adam Beck, assistant professor of health insurance at The American College, which trains people in the finance industry. "Your doctor will be able to test and treat you for a variety of potential ailments or conditions while paying one co-pay, as opposed to returning each time you think something is awry."
Always review your medical bills the same way you would a restaurant bill. If you feel like a billing mistake was made -- or that you've been overcharged -- speak up. "The Medical Billing Advocates of America estimates that roughly eight out of 10 medical bills contain errors," says Allen Erenbaum of the Consumer Health Alliance, a national association for non-insurance discount health care programs. "All prescription drugs and medical procedures have codes, and sometimes there could be a costly mistake." If you need help, you can find patient and billing advocates through MedicalBillMediation.com and Medical Billing Advocates of America.
"Establish a relationship with a primary-care physician and have all the routine screening done that is recommended for someone of your age and gender," advises John Garner, author of the "Health Insurance Answer Book." "Catching problems early is not only less expensive, but it could save your life." (Of course, you are exercising daily and eating nutritiously.)
Make a habit of requesting the generic alternatives for prescriptions. Your doctors may write their prescriptions this way automatically, but it never hurts to remind them. Additionally, ask if there's a different form of the same medication. "For example, if you are prescribed tablets, ask if you may take capsules or lozenges. Sometimes the difference in cost with your insurance can mean a difference in half the tablet price. I've saved lots of customers this way just by calling their doctor for them personally," says pharmacist Steve Levin, owner of Woodland Hills Pharmacy in California. The wisdom of buying cheaper generics also applies to over-the-counter medications. For example, Target sells a 100-tablet bottle of Tylenol for $6.99, while its store brand of acetaminophen costs $5.29 for 250 tablets.
The emergency room may seem like your best bet when you don't have time to wait for an appointment, but it should only be used in life-threatening situations. The ER is much more expensive than a visit to your family doctor, sometimes by hundreds of dollars -- and that's before you even get to your actual treatment. If you can't wait to see a physician, or you're out of town, your best option is an urgent care center. They are often a little more expensive than visiting a general practitioner, but definitely less costly than the ER.
Medical bills can add up quickly, especially when a doctor starts doing test after test. Garner says to always ask questions such as, "Is this test or procedure necessary?" and don't settle for vague answers.
Get the insurance coverage that works best for your family's needs. If you're a relatively healthy person who goes to the doctor once a year and the dentist every six months, but usually nothing more, skip the ultra-expensive premium with a low deductible. Contrarily, if you find yourself visiting the doctor more often, an insurance plan with a low deductible could save you much more even though your premium is higher. To better understand your choices, consult a licensed health insurance agent.
"Non-insurance discount health plans can save you money on ancillary services your insurance typically does not cover, like dental care, vision, prescriptions, alternative medicine and more," explains Erenbaum. According to the Consumer Health Alliance, you can save 20 percent to 60 percent on services with a non-insurance discount plan. Check out America's Premier Benefits, New Benefits, Careington and DentalPlans.
"If you require a medication that isn't available as a generic yet, joining a discount club could reduce what you pay for prescription drugs dramatically," notes Beck. These discount cards are often free. Also ask if your pharmacy has any prescription reward programs. These provide the incentive for pharmacy loyalty, saving you money and ensuring repeat business for the pharmacy.
Your annual vision exam may require an updated prescription, but buying glasses or contacts from your doctor may mean paying up to 50 percent more. Instead, go online to find less expensive -- and sometimes more fashionable -- options.
Receiving medical care from a provider out-of-network can cost you much more than using someone who's in-network. Before booking an appointment, call to confirm the office's network status with your insurance company. Ensuring you only see in-network providers can become difficult in a hospital, but make sure the hospital staff knows you have a strong preference for in-network physicians.
"Be aware and take advantage of treatment at free clinics when available," advises Beck. "Particularly in urban areas, there are opportunities to treat some conditions for free, namely those that pose a risk to public health. For example, if you are concerned about a sexually transmitted infection, a visit to the city health center may involve a depressing waiting room, but the screening and treatments will be free."