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10 Financial Do’s and Don’ts for Professional Athletes


Tips for Achieving Long-Term Financial Success

Professional athletes face unique challenges when it comes to planning for the future. At Creative Planning Sports and Entertainment, our goal is to help athletes navigate these challenges and provide comprehensive, customized financial advice that is optimized based on the unique needs of professional athletes. Following are 10 financial do’s and don’ts for professional athletes.

Tip #1 – DO surround yourself with a team of competent, fiduciary advisors.

Let’s get this one out of the way right up front. I believe the most important “Do” is to surround yourself with a team of experienced, qualified, fiduciary advisors. A fiduciary advisor is held to a fiduciary standard, which means that he or she is legally obligated to act in clients’ best interests, at all times and in all situations. Fiduciary advisors are typically fee-based, which means they are paid a percentage fee based on the assets they manage. This helps align the advisor’s interest with those of the client because the advisor’s fee grows in proportion with the client’s assets.

As a professional athlete, you’ll likely need the guidance of several professionals, including a financial advisor/wealth manager, a CPA and an estate planning attorney. These individuals should be willing to collaborate to help ensure all aspects of your financial, tax and estate planning are working together to help you achieve your goals.

Tip #2 – DON’T fall for get-rich-quick schemes.

Professional athletes are often flooded with calls and emails from all kinds of people claiming to provide access to the next big investment opportunity. Unfortunately, many (if not most) of these “opportunities” are designed to make others rich, at your expense. To protect yourself, ensure any potential investments are fully vetted and recommended by your team of fiduciary advisors (see #1 above).

Tip #3 – DO implement appropriate insurance.

It’s especially important for professional athletes to plan for the unexpected. As part of the planning process with our professional athlete clients, we often consider and implement the following types of insurance policies:

  • Life insurance – Provides financial security to your loved ones should you die unexpectedly
  • Permanent total disability (PTD) – Provides coverage should you become permanently injured and unable to continue with your sport
  • Temporary total disability (TTD) – Provides coverage should you be unable to compete for a short period of time
  • Loss of value – Provides compensation in case an injury or illness causes you to miss out on an opportunity

Tip #4 – DON’T take on too much debt.

One mistake frequently made by professional athletes is taking on a level of debt that is unsustainable over the long term. While a strong current salary may allow you to easily meet your monthly debt obligations, what happens if your career is unexpectedly cut short due to injury or another unanticipated event? Will you be able to continue making those payments over the next five, 10, 30 years? We usually recommend paying down as much debt as possible, as early in your career as possible, in order to protect your wealth and bolster your long-term financial security.

Tip #5 – DO live comfortably within your means.

You’ve worked incredibly hard to achieve success as a professional athlete, and you’re finally being well-compensated for all your efforts. Congratulations! You’re able to afford a comfortable lifestyle, and you should enjoy it. Keep in mind, however, that most professional sports careers are short, and you will likely not maintain this level of income your entire life. Continue to focus on achieving financial goals, and choose to live a comfortable lifestyle that is within your means and in line with your long-term financial goals. Don’t sacrifice your long-term financial well-being by overspending in the short term.

Tip #6 – DON’T try to keep up with the Joneses, beware of ‘lifestyle creep.’

Once you sign that big contract, you’ll likely face all kinds of external pressure to live a certain lifestyle. You may feel pressured to compete with your teammates and other successful individuals in showing off your wealth. Don’t let this pressure to keep up with the Joneses derail your long-term goals. Instead, establish a reasonable budget and learn to live a comfortable, sustainable lifestyle that is within your means, not anyone else’s.

Tip #7 – DO build a solid financial foundation before taking unnecessary risk.

While it may be tempting to immediately invest your new wealth in a business venture or other exciting (but risky) investment, it’s wise to first establish a solid base from which to pursue such opportunities. Taking unnecessary risks before building a solid foundation can cause irreparable damage to your long-term financial goals. Your wealth manager can help optimize your finances so you’re in a place to take appropriate risk based on your situation and pursue “fun” investment opportunities.

Tip #8 – DON’T think your current income is sustainable.

Sports Illustrated once estimated that 78% of NFL players become bankrupt or are under financial stress within two years of retiring from the game, and 60% of NBA players run out of money within five years of retirement.1 One main reason for this is because athletes sometimes have a tendency to overspend during their prime earning years, thinking that their current income will last a lifetime.

In reality, professional athletes can typically only sustain peak income for a few years. Players have, on average, 3.3 years in the NFL, 4.6 years in the NBA and 5.6 years in the MLB.2 Even with a multi-million-dollar salary, that’s not a lot of time to save enough to last for the rest of your life.

Tip #9 – DO pay it forward in the right way.

Professional athletes are typically very generous when it comes to helping their loved ones. However, it’s important to choose ways to pay it forward that don’t threaten your own long-term financial well-being. Remember the saying, “If you give a man a fish…”? Instead of buying material items that make others dependent on your income and generosity, consider paying for something your loved ones’ can use to help them develop skills and become more successful in their own lives, such as college tuition or job training.

Tip #10 – DON’T go on a spending spree.

When you encounter sudden wealth, it can be tempting to go on a spending spree for all the items you’ve always dreamed of owning. However, regardless of your salary, be it $30,000 or $30 million, if you spend more than you make, you’ll end up with nothing. Even the wealthiest individuals must live within their means and plan for the future. An important key to long-term financial well-being is to avoid the temptation to overspend, live on a portion of your salary and invest wisely for the future.

Are you interested in learning more about how to achieve long-term financial goals as a professional athlete? We are here to help.

Creative Planning Sports and Entertainment is a specialty practice of Creative Planning. Our teams specialize in helping sports and entertainment professionals and include attorneys, CPAs and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioners. They are further supported by Creative Planning’s dedicated insurance professionals. We serve as your partner in navigating the unique challenges of your profession while remaining on track toward achieving your long-term financial goals. For more information about how we can help you with the do’s and don’ts of planning for your future, or for any other financial matter, please schedule a call.


  1. https://theundefeated.com/features/why-do-so-many-pros-go-broke/
  2. https://theundefeated.com/features/why-do-so-many-pros-go-broke/

This commentary is provided for general information purposes only, should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney/client relationship. Past performance of any market results is no assurance of future performance. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed.


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