A retired educator, I wish I had a penny for every student I have ever heard say, “I want to be a professional athlete.” Not that I would be so wealthy, but the sheer volume would be impressive. That volume struck me profoundly this week as I watched an HBO special sports presentation made by Bryant Gumbel. During the hour long piece, he chronicled the lives of two athletes who had played in the NFL.
The athletes had each played for more than 4 years and each had contracts of over 5 million dollars per year in the 1990’s and early 2000. Over 5 years, they had both made in excess of 20 million dollars. However, both had since lost all of their money and one had filed for bankruptcy. Neither had careers to fall back on and neither had a plan for moving forward. Even more astounding was the frequency this story is repeated across the NFL. Gumbel reported that over 60% of NFL players lose their fortune after retirement and most do not have a plan to recover. Many have not completed their education so an immediate transition to another career is not even an option.
Imagine, 60% of retired NFL players lose their entire fortune. That’s just the NFL. What about the numbers in other sports? How can that happen? How can individuals perform at that level and then lose everything with no means to replace even part of their once highly lucrative earning power?
Students, this is the message I want you to hear loud and clear today. Plan for your future. Live your dreams, set your goals and have a plan for your future. Your education is the key to transitioning throughout your life. It can provide a satisfying and rewarding lifestyle and open doors when otherwise you may have thought them to be closed. If you are a high school or college athlete dreaming and working hard to go professional, enjoy the ride. Just remember, at some point, the ride comes to an end for everyone. Your plan will provide the next opportunity and help to protect you from being an economic casualty. It will provide your next great ride!