Somewhere near 98 percent of NCAA student-athletes will go pro in something other than sports, or so we’re told. But what about the small percentage of college students who do end up making hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in the NFL, NBA or MLB within a few years of finishing school?
On the one hand, heck yeah – money, fame, success at the highest level. On the other hand, an alarming percentage of professional athletes are broke within a few years of the end of their careers, and the majority of their careers last no more than a few years anyway. The average NFL career, for example, is 3.5 years, and that’s if you make an active roster.
Going from a broke or at the very least not-particularly-wealthy college student to a professional athlete with access to large sums of money over the course of a few weeks is exciting, but also exceedingly dangerous. Money goes quickly when lifestyles change so dramatically, and the number of people asking for that money – agents, runners, lawyers and investment seekers, to say nothing of friends and family – adds up in a hurry.
Being prepared for the relative insanity of becoming a professional athlete is an important thing for that small percentage of college students to do, but it’s not one they’ll often think about or even know what to do about. This week, Mississippi State had its draft-eligible players from the baseball and football teams (the basketball team had a game that night) meet with a man named Eric Smith to prepare for exactly those situations.
Smith is what’s called a financial literacy coach working with The EKS Group, an LLC helping college student-athletes and NFL and NBA and MLB rookies who are making or about to make that transition. A 28-year former banker, Smith has met with over 20,000 student-athletes in his present line of work and is well-versed in the potential pitfalls as well as the financial possibilities of such a change in lifestyle and income.
“You better be ready when the money gets here,” he told the room on Monday night. “We’re here to talk about the reality of the next step, not to give you a glossed-over picture … People have this incredible opportunity, and when it’s over, they don’t have anything to show for it.”
Smith had the potential millionaires in the room go through a number of exercises, including asking them to makes lists of the first things they want to buy, their financial goals and what they see as potential threats to their financial success. He shared 10 tips for how the wealthy become wealthy, and 10 more for how the wealthy become poor.
He offered advice on selecting agents, financial advisers, insurance plans, banks and the like. He advised on how best to prevent identify threat, low credit scores and being taken advantage of.
Without giving away his entire presentation, Smith had MSU’s future pros prepared for long-term financial success in a little under an hour-and-a-half.
Mississippi State has been in the business of putting a great many players into the pros lately. With programs like this, MSU is also making sure their young men are prepared for success beyond just their fields of play. As Smith’s presentation so eloquently puts it, “broke ain’t sexy.”