Five money lessons from athletes who lost millions

by Super Millennial

Americans love sports... Most children want to be a professional athlete at some point in their childhood and dream of the money and fame that comes with it. With the NFL back last weekend I had to write how athletes are managing (or not managing) their money. ​But as the average American family made $53,000 in 2014 it's hard to feel bad for someone who loses millions throwing or catching a ball. Look at how much these players have earned during their careers:

Estimated Career Earnings
Tiger Woods (best golfer ever): $1.3 Billion
Alex Rodriguez: $480 Million
Lebron James: $450 Million
Peyton Manning: $400 Million
Kevin Garnett: $327 Million

These examples are also players who have dominated their sport AND been good with their money. Unfortunately there are other athletes who've made similar amounts and blown it all.

Estimated Career Earnings
Mike Tyson: $400 Million
Evander Holyfield: $250 Million
Curt Schilling: $115 Million
Terrell Owens: $80 million
And so many others.....

It's unreal to think of having hundreds of millions of dollars and ending up broke. But according to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, "78% of former NFL players face bankruptcy or financial stress within two years of retirement. That same article reported that the rate of NBA retirees going broke within five years of leaving the court was as high as 60%."

Sometimes it's clear why they lost so much so quickly. Usually because they buy jets or exotic pets, houses with 20+ bathrooms, and make high risk investments others would think of making. Other times it can be a shady financial advisor or simply not understanding what to do with that all that money. As I've always said, money management is not emphasized at all in our current education system. Imagine adding in hundreds of millions of dollars, a few to many sports injuries (hint hint Concussion...great film btw), and greedy family or friends to the equation, it's easy to see how end up broke.

Here are the top five ways athletes go broke and how you can apply to your own financial situation, even if you're not a millionaire.

Living Beyond Their Means
What Athletes Do: They buy any and everything they want. I can't blame them, if I just inked a 40 million dollar deal I'd probably be tempted to buy a few houses, helicopters or in Mike Tyson's case a tiger. Do they need to own the jet? No, just lease it whenever you fly. Do you need an 8 bed/10 bath house? No, buy a smaller one that will cost less in upkeep when you retire.

What You Do: Everyday people do the same thing just on a smaller scale. Credit cards make it way too easy to buy things you can't afford. If you can't buy something with a credit card and pay it off in full each month don't buy it. Most credit card interest rates will be between 10-20% making your purchase much more than anticipated.

  • Pay Your Credit Card: Pay your card off in full every month, credit card debt is one of the worst types of debt. Avoid it like the plague.
  • Set up a spending plan (because I hate the word budget): Sign up for Personal Capital or Mint to understand where you spend your money and find ways to cut excess to save more.
  • Automate: Set up automatic investments to your 401K, IRA, and/or savings account to you're not tempted to spend it and it goes directly towards your saving goals.

Not Planning Ahead
What Athletes Do: For some reason professional athletes spend money like they are going to make that salary forever. Instead of setting up college funds for their kids, investing in the stock market or simply putting money in a savings account for the future.

The average career length for an NFL player is under six years according to a recent Wall St. Journal article. And I think it's safe to say not many of us feel bad for them when they'll make thousands of times over what the everyday American will make in their lifetime in a matter of years.

What You Do: It can be hard to save for your retirement when you're young, it seems so far away! You always think you'll make more in your 30's and 40's (which you likely will), want the cash in a savings account in case you need it, or simply don't want to think about your future. But no matter what age you are the sooner you start saving and investing you'll be rewarded greatly because of compound interest. Use these three easy steps to get started:

  • Start your emergency fund (read more here)
  • Contribute Towards Your Retirement With a 401K or Roth IRA (or if you want to be an overachiever do both)
  • Save up for big events such as a home, car or wedding in an Ally high interest savings account

Making Poor Investments
What Athletes Do: They make horrible investment decisions. If you've debated on buying a few shares of a hot stock and maybe lost $500 or a $1,000 dollars you can learn from your mistake and move on. But athletes tend to make ridiculous investments like the ones below:

  • Inflatable Furniture Rafts - $70,000: Do I need to say more than inflatable furniture rafts? What was MLB Player Torii Hunter thinking on this one?
  • Rock N Roll Cafe - $300,000: Rocket Ismail claimed he invested in a knock off Hard Rock Cafe and never saw a dime of it and the restaurant was never built.
  • Nissan Car Dealership - $930,000: Super Bowl Champion Duce McCallister thought a car dealership was the way to go after retiring. Unfortunately he lost it all and faced several other lawsuits for five million.

What You Do: While you may be smarter than starting an inflatable raft company people still make poor investments all the time. Here are a few ways to make sure you don't make poor investment choices:

  • Choosing Low Cost Funds: When you're investing always look for low cost index funds instead of high cost mutual funds. Simple, the higher fees you pay the less money you end up with.
  • Buying New Cars: If you spend $20,000 on a new car as soon as you drive off the lot you just lost $6,000. So your $20,000 "investment" that you're paying off for the next five years is now worth $14,000. Instead buy a pre-owned car for a much lower price and understand that a car is a depreciating asset, not an investment.

Keeping Up With Their Peers
What Athletes Do: Athletes in general don't like to be outdone by their peers, whether it's on the field or in the spending category. Athletes tend to buy obnoxiously expensive cars, buy countless pairs of shoes & clothes, and whatever else will look good for them on social media. While they may be able to spend like that for a while, it's unlikely they'll be able to keep that up over the long run.

What You Do: Even if you're an everyday person it's easy to do this in your own personal life, usually with friends and co-workers. I remember reading "Millionaire Next Door" and learning about doctors and lawyers were the people who are usually the worst money managers. Why? Because they were trying to keep up with their peers. Society perceives doctors and lawyers to be some of the top earners so we expect them to act like it by buying big houses, sports cars & fancy clothes. But instead of saving or investing they're spending it all and simply raising their lifestyle with any new raise or bonus. Here's how you can avoid it:

  • Stop Caring! Do you think you'll be happier if you buy a new car because your coworker, friend or neighbor did? Or do you think you'll be stressed out thinking about the high interest payment. Quit trying to impress people!
  • Save Your Raises: If you get a raise or bonus don't increase your lifestyle to match it! Instead treat yourself to something you've been wanting to buy and save or invest the rest.

Trusting The Wrong People
What Athletes Do: When you're making millions most people just want to spend it and have someone else manage their money. Sadly these players are vulnerable to shady investment advisors who aren't looking out for them. I read about so many players being involved in Ponzi Schemes and bad real estate deals it almost made me feel bad. Instead they should have spent some time learning a little bit about their options and researched the individuals they were investing with.

What You Do: The financial industry isn't much better for the everyday American either. While we may not be involved in Ponzi schemes everyday people are getting screwed by financial advisors. Why? Because a majority of financial advisors aren't looking out for the client and instead pushing products onto consumers in which they're compensated. Don't believe me?Watch the full clip here...

I personally think if you're net worth is under $200,000 you should manage your own money. But if you do insist on getting a financial advisor make sure to get a FIDUCIARY, fee only advisor. If you see broker in the title literally run out of the office. Fiduciaries are the small percentage of advisors who are legally obligated to look out for your best interest. (HOW IS THIS NOT REQUIRED FOR EVERY ADVISOR?). They charge a flat fee (usually 1%) and don't push products that they don't think is right for the client (like a broker does for whole life insurance or annuities). To locate a fiduciary financial advisor use the FINRA site here.

Hopefully everyone can learn a thing or two from our athletes and make solid financial decisions that will benefit you and your loved ones. Remember to always understand what your investment options are, don't rush on big purchases or investments, and do your research! Sound off in the comments with any other thoughts on how athletes can lose so many millions of dollars.

The post Five Money Lessons From Athletes Who Lost Millions appeared first on Super Millennial.

RELATED: Athletes who got rich after winning the Olympics

Athletes who got rich after winning the Olympics
See Gallery
Athletes who got rich after winning the Olympics
20. Sanya Richards-Ross Net Worth: $1.5 Million

Five-time Olympic medalist Sanya Richards-Ross retired just ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics after suffering a hamstring strain during the Olympic trials, ESPN reported. The 31-year-old walked the final portion of her 400-meter sprint, waving to the cheering fans in the crowd.

Just after announcing her retirement, the American sprinter announced that she would join NBC as a member of the network's Olympics broadcasting team in Rio de Janeiro.

Via GOBankingRates

19. Nastia Liukin Net Worth: $2 Million

Retired Russian-American gymnast Nastia Liukin won five medals at the 2008 Olympics, tying the U.S. gymnastics record for most medals won at one Olympics set in 1984 and later matched in 1992. The daughter of two champion gymnasts, Liukin was born in Moscow, and grew up in Parker, Texas, according to

After her 2008 Olympics success, Liukin appeared in several television shows, including "Gossip Girl" and "The Biggest Loser," according to

Via GOBankingRates

18. Gabby Douglas Net Worth: $3 Million

This year, Gabby Douglas will compete in the Olympics for a second time. She made her first Olympics appearance at the 2012 games, where she was crowned the all-around champion as a member of the gold-medal-winning U.S. team, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In Rio, Douglas will become the first reigning Olympic all-around champion to return to a second Olympics since 1980. Since her 2012 win, Douglas has made a name for herself outside the gym, recently unveiling her own Barbie doll, reported.

Via GOBankingRates

17. Lindsey Vonn Net Worth: $3 Million

Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn made her team U.S.A. debut at the 2002 Winter Olympics, competing through the 2010 games where she won two medals, including a gold, the Huffington Post reported.

Following her 2010 success, Vonn suffered a few injuries and did not compete in the 2014 games. She's currently training for the 2018 games in South Korea and will soon release her first book, “Strong Is the New Beautiful.”

Via GOBankingRates

16. Dorothy Hamill Net Worth: $5 Million

Figure skater Dorothy Hamill won a gold medal at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She earned her $5 million net worth thanks to starring roles in “Ice Capades” and television shows, along with countless endorsement deals.

Hamill was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and has been cancer-free for the past six years. She launched a national campaign, “Be WisER+ About Breast Cancer” to empower other women battling the disease, People reported.

Via GOBankingRates

15. Tara Lipinski Net Worth: $6 Million

Figure skater Tara Lipinski took home the gold medal at the 1998 Olympics at the age of 15, becoming the youngest winner of an individual event in the history of the Winter Olympics, according to

These days, Lipinski is traveling to Rio as an NBC Olympics correspondent alongside friend and fellow figure skater Johnny Weir. The duo steals the spotlight at many public events year after year, including the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl and even the National Dog Show, NBCOlympics reported.

Via GOBankingRates

14. Asafa Powell Net Worth: $6.5 Million

Jamaican Olympian Asafa Powell set the world record in the 100 meters in 2005, becoming the first Jamaican to hold the title since the 1970s, The New York Times reported. At the 2008 Olympics with the Jamaican team, he won a gold medal and set the world and Olympic record in the 4×100 meter relay, according to

Puma announced an endorsement deal with Powell in September 2015.

Via GOBankingRates

13. Kristi Yamaguchi Net Worth: $8 Million

Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi took home a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, but her career didn't stop there. Yamaguchi has published two children's books, made fitness videos, won “Dancing with the Stars” and founded the Always Dream Foundation.

Via GOBankingRates

12. Shawn Johnson Net Worth: $9 Million

American gymnast Shawn Johnson won four medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing: one gold and three silver. She went on to dance into Americans' hearts as the winner of reality competition show “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009.

Johnson hoped to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics but announced her early retirement due to complications with a knee injury, according to She is married to professional football player Andrew East.

Via GOBankingRates

11. Katarina Witt Net Worth: $9 Million

East German figure skater Katarina Witt has two Olympic gold medals to her name, having competed at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.

Two years after her last Olympic games, Witt appeared in HBO's Emmy-Award-winning “Carmen on Ice,” going on to earn mainstream acting gigs in films, including “Jerry Maguire,” and television shows “Frasier” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” In 2013, Witt was the subject of the documentary “The Diplomat,” Biography reported.

Via GOBankingRates

10. Apolo Ohno Net Worth: $10 Million

American speed skater Apolo Ohno won two medals, a silver and a gold, at the 2002 Winter Olympics, returning to the games in 2006 and 2010 and taking home eight medals — a record for a U.S. Winter Olympian. In 2007, Ohno competed in and won “Dancing with the Stars,” beating out celebrities like Billy Ray Cyrus and Joey Fatone.

He returned to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but this time as an NBC correspondent — not an official member of team U.S.A. He's had endorsement deals with several brands, including Coca-Cola and Nabisco.

Via GOBankingRates

9. Tyson Gay Net Worth: $12 Million

Two-time U.S. Olympian Tyson Gay is returning to the track this year in Rio after years of setbacks and injuries, WPXI News reported. In 2013, a positive doping test cost Gay the silver medal he won at the 2012 Olympics. The test results also cost Gay one year out of the sport, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Via GOBankingRates

8. Michelle Kwan Net Worth: $16 Million

American figure skater Michelle Kwan won a silver medal at the 1998 Olympics and a bronze in 2002. After retiring, Kwan went back to school and later returned to the games in 2010 as an ABC correspondent, according to Biography.

She recently campaigned for Hillary Clinton as a paid staffer, working on outreach efforts from the campaign's Brooklyn headquarters, The New York Times reported.

Via GOBankingRates

7. Carl Lewis Net Worth: $20 Million

Track and field athlete Carl Lewis has a staggering nine Olympic gold medals to his name. He competed in four Olympic games: 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996.

Even though he never played college football, Lewis' athleticism led the Dallas Cowboys to select him in the 12th round of the 1984 NFL Draft, and two months later the Chicago Bulls drafted him in the 10th round of the NBA draft, according to Biography.

Via GOBankingRates

6. Scott Hamilton Net Worth: $30 Million

Figure skater Scott Hamilton took home a gold medal for team U.S.A. at the 1984 Winter Olympics. From there, he used his skating skills to tour with “Stars on Ice,” and he later became a figure skating television commentator, according to Biography.

Now, Hamilton oversees the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation and the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy in Nashville. He has four children, two who were adopted from Haiti in 2014, People reported.

Via GOBankingRates

5. Shaun White Net Worth: $40 Million

Snowboarder Shaun White competed in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics for team U.S.A., winning a gold medal for men's halfpipe in 2006 and 2010. White is also a professional skateboarder and became the first athlete to compete in both the Winter and Summer X Games in two different sports.

He is also the lead guitarist in an L.A.-based band and the CEO of his own company. On top of that, White works with several other companies, including Burton, Oakley and Air +Style.

Via GOBankingRates

4. Michael Phelps Net Worth: $55 Million

American swimmer Michael Phelps is heading to his fifth Olympic games this summer in Rio as the most decorated athlete in Olympics history. He's the first U.S. male swimmer to earn a spot in five Olympics.

Although he gained fame for his Olympic success, Phelp's personal life has captured the spotlight over the years, most recently for the birth of his son, Boomer, who watched his father compete in this year's Olympic trials, ESPN reported.

Via GOBankingRates

3. Usain Bolt Net Worth: $60 Million

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt ran into the spotlight when he won three gold medals and broke three world records in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He took home another three Olympic titles at the 2012 London games, setting another new world record in the 4x100m.

Bolt initially withdrew from the 2016 Olympic trials due to an injury but was added to the Jamaican national team on a medical exemption, according to Sports Illustrated. Bolt has an endorsement contract with Puma.

Via GOBankingRates

2. Caitlyn Jenner Net Worth: $100 Million

Olympic gold medalist and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, gained fame for taking home the gold for the United States in the decathlon event at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Since then, Jenner has stayed in the spotlight as a part of popular reality television series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “I am Cait,” a docuseries documenting the athlete's transition from male to female. She was named Glamour Magazine's Woman of the Year and received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs.

Via GOBankingRates

1. Serena Williams: $150 Million

Tennis star Serena Williams won an Olympic gold medal in Sydney 2000, a gold medal in Beijing in 2008 and two gold medals in London in 2012, according to

With career prize money totaling $77.6 million and more than a dozen endorsement deals, she recently took the top spot as the highest-paid female athlete, Forbes reported. Williams also has equity deals with the Home Shopping Network and Mission Athletecare.

Via GOBankingRates


More from Super Millennial
Five reasons real estate is the best investment
10 personal finance websites for everyone
Four ways you are hurting your credit score

Read Full Story