Not many of us will ever earn a 7-figure salary, and it’s hard to imagine that someone who earns millions of dollars per year would need financial counseling. But the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) says financial education is important for its members, because most NFL players earn the majority of their lifetime income in their early 20s and encounter pressure to live a lavish lifestyle.
The NFLPA (www.nflplayers.com) partnered with Financial Finesse (www.financialfinesse.com) in 2009 to design and deliver a customized online financial education platform for current players, former players, and their families, as well as workshops and webcasts aimed at building awareness of the importance of financial responsibility. The financial education program leverages social media and multimedia through video, podcasts, personalized assessments, and contests designed to appeal to the Millennial generation and engage players.
The NFLPA and Financial Finesse describe the results of the program as "groundbreaking," saying that more than 1,000 players participate and that the majority do so on an ongoing basis. Nearly half of the participants—48 percent—saved at least 20 percent of their annual earnings in preparation for a potential lockout in 2011. "The preparation paid off, enabling players to stand united in negotiations with the NFL, knowing they had the savings to withstand a prolonged lockout," the organizations explain.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, credits the program with being one of the key reasons the NFLPA was able to successfully negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that he says protected players’ best interests. He also praises players for applying what they learned in preparation for a possible lockout to other areas of their finances. "What we’ve realized is that players have competitive personalities and when they set their mind to something, whether it’s winning a game or building their wealth, they become very focused individuals."
The NFLPA financial education program, which received a Signature Award from the Plan Sponsor Council of America and a Superstars and Innovator Award from The Institute for HealthCare Consumerism, was recently expanded to provide a helpline service to assist players in making "more informed financial decisions" and providing "a second opinion on investment strategies and recommendations from their financial advisors."
Dana Hammonds, director of Player Affairs and Development, says the NFLPA is dedicated to helping players achieve long-term financial security. "We want players to have the ongoing support they need to make solid financial decisions for themselves and their families," she says. "The Financial Helpline is our next step in this ongoing mission to reach players by providing them with direct access to an expert they know they can trust in a convenient way to get answers to tough financial questions and make more informed decisions that impact their futures."
"There are still far too many players who fall victim to predatory lending, fraud, and, of course, over-spending," she adds. "It’s easy to dismiss how much players need education, since they do make very high salaries. But that misses the mark.
"Imagine the challenges we’d face as a society if most Americans made the majority of their income from ages 22 to 25, without the proper financial guidance or education to know how to manage that income, and with massive temptations all around to ’live the dream.’ The challenges are immense, and will take significant time and resources to combat. That’s why we are so committed to this issue, and why we are actively expanding our efforts in this area."