In 2016, Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman said, “The NCAA is considering allowing student athletes to accept endorsements,” as if it was happening fairly soon. So I thought, “Well, that would be great for them.” But as time passed, nothing happened.
That is, until July 1, 2021, when it became a reality. The National Collegiate Athletic Association voted unanimously to allow college athletes to earn money off of their name, image and likeness. It was a breakthrough decision because athletes can build out their personal platforms with their continual use of social media. And they already have.
We Work With What’s Real
You should know the universities do not pay the athletes. That’s important. It might not have even been legal in 2016 when Ackerman was talking about it. I think the reason it took so long is because there are definite plusses and minuses to this decision. At the true heart of financial planning, for me, I know that I only work with what’s real.
Take tax law, for example. Until it’s real, meaning until it passes, I go with the laws that are real right now. What the NCAA did on July 1 is definitely real. It’s a financial windfall for some athletes.
Financial Literacy Plays a Huge Role
Many athletes do not come from money, so a young person rewarded a bunch of money comes with a high potential of relational, personal and societal risk. The problem is the lack of financial literacy. Many people don’t care that much about money until they have it. When they have it, it becomes very real. However, at that point, it might be too late.
In my practice, I try to build relationships, and to coach athletes to save and invest. With pro athletes, the goal is to spend little, save and invest a lot, so that when their playing days are over, they have a nice income from dividends and interest.
Good news, however, is I think the players today are learning more about money and investing than in the past. They have seen many things break apart in their worlds so a lot more players are doing it right. The tide has turned – and with a lot of them, it probably comes down to having financial education.
It’s Not as Easy as it Looks
I had one player, eight years in the league and still playing today, who wanted to learn about the stock market and investing. He had no debt and one day said to me, “Listen. I want you to teach me how to ‘fish’ so that I can do it myself.” Not only did I admire that, but I also felt it was a big mistake for an athlete to want to become a financial expert on his own.
I think all young athletes need mentors, helpers and partners. The ones that don’t are at risk. I’m happy for them, and I think they deserve it, but I also wish they would align themselves with a couple of people that care for them, which isn’t always the case.
What I Would Do to Help Them
Every athlete is different. I would learn his life story and see who, if anybody, is in his corner. It could be a family member, coach or friend. It is really important for young athletes to surround themselves with the right people.
Money does weird things to people. Parents are not always a good help because they, themselves, might not be financially literate. This is real money we’re talking about. If I earned a million dollars at 22, I don’t know how I would have handled it.
If somebody in your family is one of these athletes, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to meet in person. If outside the area, a Zoom meeting would be fine. Just be real. And don’t let the money get into your eyes.