Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why do so many NFL players go bankrupt?

In the September 18, 2009 article "Why do so many NFL players go bankrupt?," Chris Chase reports that Rocket Ismail is one of many NFL players who earn large salaries, but do not manage to stay rich:
Within two years of retirement, 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or in severe financial distress. Unlike Rocket Ismail, most of those players can't blame it on the negative karma associated with getting a bear hug from Michael Irvin.

How is this possible? The minimum salary for rookies in 2009 is $310,000. That jumps to $460,000 for two year veterans. How can men who earn so much have so little after retirement?

The Business Insider looked at that question today and listed 10 ways that sports stars destroy their finances.

Most of the reasons fall under the umbrella of one of the ways, "Act Dumb". (These include "Do Drugs", "Fight Dogs" and "Have Too Many Children". Two outta three ain't bad, Michael Vick(notes).)

Other paths to financial ruin like "Put Money in a Ponzi Scheme" or "Invest Too Much In Real Estate" can be more about bad luck than anything, but never underestimate the power of habitually poor judgment. (Or stupidity. Tomato/Tomahto.) Case in point, here's a blurb from the "Making Bad Investments" entry:

Rocket Ismail also squandered a fortune funding an inspirational movie; the music label COZ Records; a cosmetics procedure whereby oxygen was absorbed into the skin; a plan to create nationwide phone-card dispensers; a Rock N' Roll Café, a theme restaurant in New England; and recently, three shops dubbed It's in the Name, where tourists could buy framed calligraphy of names or proverbs of their choice.

That sounds like the business plan of Kramerica Industries. Any one (or two) of those things by themselves would qualify as bad investments. Put them all together and you can understand how Ismail blew through $20 million in salary. (Of the calligraphy store, Ismail says its failure can be blamed on Hurricane Katrina. The cosmetics procedure: "sharks in the beauty industry". The Rock N' Roll Cafe: It being a Rock N' Roll Cafe.)

Ismail's case is more the exception than the rule though. The 78 percent number is buoyed by the fact that the average NFL career lasts just three years. So, figure a player gets drafted in 2009, signs for the minimum and lasts three years in the league: He will have earned about $1.2 million in salary. Factor in taxes, cost of living and the misguided belief that there will be more years and bigger paydays down the road, and it becomes a lot easier to see how so many players struggle with money after their careers end. Nobody plans on playing just three years in the NFL, you know?

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